If you have experienced the death of someone who was important to you, you might be finding it difficult to adjust to the changes happening in your life right now. Grief can shake everything up - your beliefs, your routines, and even your sense of normality.
Bereavement is the time we spend adjusting to loss. There is no right or wrong way to feel during the bereavement period - everyone copes in their own way.
Grief, although normal, can manifest in unexpected ways. Some people get angry, some people withdraw into themselves and some people become completely numb. Sometimes, grief can trigger mental health conditions, like depression.
Talking about the loss often allows a person to adjust to their new life with all its changes - good and bad. Keeping things bottled up or denying the sadness could prolong the pain. Any loss has to be acknowledged for us to move forward. Bereavement counselling tries to help people find a place for their loss so they can carry on with life and eventually find acceptance.
What is bereavement?
When someone you care about suddenly leaves your life, it's not a case of taking time out to recover. 'Recovery' suggests that you will emerge exactly the same as you were before. In reality, all of your experiences shape the person you are, and experiencing the death of someone you care about often has the biggest impact.
Bereavement is about trying to accept what happened, learning to adjust to life without that person and finding a place to keep their memory alive while you try to get along as best you can.
Losing someone close to you brings waves of complicated emotions that may be totally overwhelming. Whatever you are feeling at any one time, it is normal... These feelings will come and go, and perhaps appear when you are least expecting it. You mind and body are processing what is happening to you, and you need to allow yourself time to grieve.
- Counsellor Heather Shipley.
The importance of mourning
Mourning is an important part of bereavement. Mourning involves rituals like funerals, wakes and anniversary celebrations, which help to add structure to an otherwise chaotic and confusing time.
Mourning allows us to say goodbye. Seeing the body, watching the burial, or scattering the ashes is a way of affirming what has happened. As hard as it is, sometimes we need to see evidence that a person really has died before we can truly enter into the grieving process.
Helping a child going through bereavement - please see our page on childhood bereavement which contains free activities and resources.
The stages of bereavement
During bereavement, it is important to find ways to mourn our loss and express our grief.
The bereavement period can be a confusing time involving a lot of powerful emotions. These emotions can grow, fade and shift as we move across the different stages of bereavement. Not everyone experiences the same stages of bereavement at the same time or in the same order, though most people generally go through the following four stages at some point:
- accepting that your loss really happened
- experiencing the pain that comes with grief
- trying to adjust to life without the person who died
- putting less emotional energy into your grief, finding a new place to put it and moving on
Most people go through all of these stages, but not everyone moves between them smoothly. Sometimes, people get stuck on one stage and find it difficult to move on.
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