Bereavement

Bereavement is a distressing but common experience. Sooner or later most of us will suffer the death of someone we love. Yet in our everyday life we think and talk about death very little, perhaps because we encounter it less often than our grandparents did. For them, the death of a brother or sister, friend or relative, was a common experience in their childhood or teenage years. For us, these losses usually happen later in life. So we do not have much of a chance either to learn about grieving – how it feels, what are the right things to do, what is ‘normal’ – or to come to terms with it. In spite of this, we have to cope when we are finally faced with the death of someone we love.

We grieve after any sort of loss, but most powerfully after the death of someone we love. It is not just one feeling, but a whole succession of feelings, which take a while to get through and which cannot be hurried. We most often grieve for someone that we have known for some time.

In the few hours or days following the death of a close relative or friend, most people feel simply stunned, as though they cannot believe it has actually happened. They may feel like this even if the death has been expected. This sense of emotional numbness can be a help in getting through all the important practical arrangements that have to be made, such as getting in touch with relatives and organizing the funeral. However, this feeling of unreality may become a problem if it goes on too long. Seeing the body of the dead person may, for some, be an important way of beginning to overcome this.

Similarly, for many people, the funeral or memorial service is an occasion when the reality of what has happened really starts to sink in. It may be distressing to see the body or attend the funeral, but these are ways of saying goodbye to those we love. At the time, these things may seem too painful to go through and so are not done. However, this can lead to a sense of deep regret in future years. Soon though, this numbness disappears and may be replaced by a dreadful sense of agitation, of pining or yearning for the dead person. There is a feeling of wanting somehow to find them, even though this is clearly impossible. This makes it difficult to relax or concentrate and it may be difficult to sleep properly. Dreams can be very upsetting.

Some people feel that they ‘see’ their loved one everywhere they go – in the street, the park, around the house, anywhere they had spent time together. People often feel very angry at this time – towards doctors and nurses who did not prevent the death, towards friends and relatives who did not do enough, or even towards the person who has, by dying, left them.

Another common feeling is guilt. People find themselves going over in their minds all the things they would have liked to have said or done. They may even consider what they could have done differently that might have prevented the death. Of course, death is usually beyond anyone’s control and a bereaved person may need to be reminded of this. Some people may feel guilty if they feel relieved that their loved one has died after a painful or distressing illness. This feeling of relief is natural, understandable and very common.

The state of agitation is usually strongest about two weeks after the death, but is soon followed by times of quiet sadness or depression, withdrawal and silence. These sudden changes of emotion can be confusing to friends or relatives, but are part of the normal process of grief.

Although the agitation lessens, the periods of depression become more frequent and reach their peak between four and six weeks later. Spasms of grief can occur at any time, sparked off by people, places or things that bring back memories of the dead person. Other people may find it difficult to understand or be embarrassed when the bereaved person suddenly bursts into tears for no obvious reason. At this stage it may be tempting to keep away from other people who do not fully understand or share the grief. However, avoiding others can store up trouble for the future, and it is usually best to start to return to one’s normal activities after a couple of weeks or so.

During this time, it may appear to others as though the bereaved person is spending a lot of time just sitting, doing nothing. In fact, they are usually thinking about the person they have lost, going over again and again both the good times and the bad times they had together. This is a quiet, but essential part of coming to terms with the death.

As time passes, the fierce pain of early bereavement begins to fade. The depression lessens and it is possible to think about other things and even to look again to the future. However, the sense of having lost a part of oneself never goes away entirely. For bereaved partners there are constant reminders of their new singleness, in seeing other couples together and from the deluge of media images of happy families. After some time it is possible to feel whole again, even though a part is missing. Even so, years later you may sometimes find yourself talking as though he or she were still here with you.

These various stages of mourning often overlap and show themselves in different ways in different people. Most recover from a major bereavement within one or two years. The final phase of grieving is a letting-go of the person who has died and the start of a new sort of life. The depression clears completely, sleep improves and energy returns to normal. Sexual feelings may have vanished for some time, but now return – this is quite normal and nothing to be ashamed of.

Having said all this, there is no ‘standard’ way of grieving. We are all individuals and have our own particular ways of grieving.

If you have any questions about bereavement or are in need of bereavement support, please contact our office here.

What Our Patients Are Saying

Faith in Angels gave me all the comfort I needed and had a lot of compassion for all my family. I thank them for showing my mother their tenderness and love. They were my savior. I also want to thank Romeo who was by her side. Thanks for helping her receive Jesus Crist as her lord and savior. You guys are truly angels. My mother’s transition going into heaven was honorable and glorified.

Meta

I want to start off by saying I love Faith in Angels. Thank you for having a wonderful staff. They were always very supportive, had a positive attitude, and were always available. I appreciate them for always making the difficult moments we had easier for us, by guiding in every way. Don’t ever change that and keep it up the great work.

Herman

We have been with FIAH since  last October, and the staff is great. They take pride in their nurses, who are consistently punctual and thorough. Nicole is very caring; she comes over and sits with us, almost like family. The supply is always accounted for and any problems or issues are resolved right away. I love the care they give to my loved one, and I would highly recommend FIAH to anyone.”

Karl