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Stages of bereavement

On this page, we explore the four stages of bereavement.

1. Accepting that your loss really happened

Nothing prepares us for the loss of a loved one. Even when a person is ill and we see their death coming for a long time.

Most people experience severe shock when they're told a loved one has died. It takes time to really believe that that person, who only recently seemed so real and tangible, no longer exists.

For a while after a loss, you might find yourself looking out for that person in crowds. You might wake up in the morning and forget momentarily that they have gone. A part of you might hope that everyone was wrong, and the person will return to you somehow.

Accepting that your loss really happened is an essential part of the bereavement process. Without acceptance, you may find it hard to really grieve for your loved one.

Man and woman holding each other

2. Experiencing the pain that comes with grief

Grief is the pain you feel inside when you realise that you have lost somebody. Grief is complex. It comes in a million different forms - some people cry for days, some people get angry and lash out, others withdraw from the world and grieve in their own private way. The different emotions associated with grief include:

  • sorrow
  • longing (to see them again)
  • guilt
  • numbness
  • anger
  • hopelessness
  • loneliness
  • despair

What you feel after a person has died will depend on the relationship you had with that person and the nature of their death. Of course, there is no telling what form your grief will take, and everyone's experience is unique.

As painful as it feels, it is important to let yourself grieve for your loss. Some people lock their emotions inside and try to get on with life as usual. Denying yourself the time to grieve properly could result in complications that prevent you from getting on with life.

3. Trying to adjust to life without them

Once you have accepted your loss and spent time understanding and releasing your emotions, you may eventually find yourself adjusting to a new kind of life. How you cope with this stage will again depend on what kind of relationship you had with the person who died. If you shared your daily life with them, then the changes to your life are likely to be bigger than if you only saw that person once in a while.

When a big gap opens up in your life very suddenly, it can throw everything into complete turmoil. Suddenly, everything can seem different. You may even feel like you've shifted into a different dimension, where nothing is real. The realisation that everyday life goes on even though your own life has been ripped apart can feel like a massive blow. With time however, your feet will hit solid ground again and you will start to adjust to life without them.

4. Moving on

One day you will probably get to a point where life begins to take you on a new route. You will always remember the person who died, and you may continue to grieve their loss forever - but naturally you will begin to 'move on'. This is not a bad thing. It does not mean you are heartless, or that you are somehow being a traitor to your loved one. It simply means you have found a way to channel your emotions into new things. In other words - you have found a way to cope.

bereavement quote

Kelly lost her daughter Abi when she was just 12 years old. Read Kelly's story to hear how she turned to blogging to help her some with her grief.

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