Bereavement: functioning is about as good as it gets
Bereavement is a painful and traumatic experience, and often, the person we would depend on to help us through such a time, is the person we are mourning. It is a period of confusion, fragility, sensitivity, anxiety and just plain exhaustion. We may feel pressure to be seen to be 'coping' and we may even put on a brave face and try to keep going as 'normal', but in reality, behind the facade, functioning is about as good as it gets.
From the beginning, where there is shock and a sense of everything being surreal, bereavement can hold us in a peculiar kind of isolation, even with a large family and support network. There can be a strong sense of being alone with our intensely unique pain, and every grief process is unique because it holds the story of a relationship within it. No-one else knows the exact details of our experiences with that person or the story behind a photograph, a T-shirt or piece of music.
There seems to be a general assumption that the first year is the hardest. Once we're through that, it gets easier. That is partly true, but grief abides by no plan or timetable. There will always be difficult days, or certain occasions when an absence is hard to bear.
Bereavement is not an experience to be suppressed, as loss affects us at every level. It can cause physical ill health, poor concentration, anger issues, low confidence and anxiety. It it can also develop into depression and impact other relationships. Those grieving need all their energy just to get through the day and their exhaustion may not always be understood by others.
However, working through the grief process can offer an opportunity. Although intensely painful at times, it can influence our future priorities and choices. Bereavement can force us to look at how we live our lives and what we hold precious. We gain insight, wisdom and maturity when we face up to the fleeting and unpredictable nature of life, as well as contemplating the mystery of life and death itself.
Working through these powerful emotions can also bring a sense of personal empowerment, because we have achieved what we didn't think possible - we have faced and felt our grief and gradually, learned to live with our loss. We will always find times to miss our loved ones, but that does not mean we cannot live fully and be happy again.
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