Grief and well-being
When someone you love dies, it can be a painful and difficult time. To start with, you may be in shock or denial for a while. Then there are practical things to sort out, like the funeral and your loved one’s belongings. It is important to remember to take one day at a time and to look after yourself.
Some cultures or religions may have certain traditions or practices which take place after a person has died. At a place of worship or in the family home, there can be a period of mourning which can be a safe haven for some individuals. This can be a chance to meet others who knew your loved one and a place to mourn together. Some family members and friends may be on hand to help out with chores and cooking meals, which can be a godsend. Some may prefer to grieve alone. However, if you are distressed, please ask for help. It is okay to speak about how you are coping with the loss of your loved one, and crying is not a sign of weakness as some may believe. Sharing your vulnerability is being brave, especially when your loved one has died.
Whatever the cause of death, there may be some unresolved issues to deal with, and it can feel unbearable. Emotions may be overwhelming during this period and uncomfortable to deal with alone. Therefore, it is important to speak to someone close to you. You may also want to talk to someone outside of your circle of family and friends. You can contact your GP, a healthcare professional, a counsellor, a psychotherapist, or the Samaritans to ask for support. Everyone manages grief differently, and it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way of grieving. However, communication can help you to understand yourself and others better.
Finding a way to express what is going on for you and releasing your thoughts and feelings safely is vital. When you acknowledge your feelings, this may be painful at the time, however, those feelings can dissipate in time, or they may come and go. You may find writing or getting involved with the arts helpful in releasing some of your thoughts and feelings. Doing some physical exercise can also increase those feel-good hormones which can improve your well-being. Meeting up with family and friends, or expanding your support network, may be of benefit to you too.
Sometimes you may think about what happened before your loved one died and reflect on times you had together. Special occasions may trigger good memories, but also sad or angry ones too. The first year is often the hardest to get through, and after the third year, there may be some shift in your process. This can take longer with some individuals. You can find yourself processing everything that happened and getting caught up in it all. Other past experiences that you may have not worked through can come up too. This may trigger anxious thoughts. You can become aware of your own mortality and the mortality of the ones close to you fearing the worst.
Some people may find it too painful and look for ways to block out, numb or self-soothe using a ‘drug’ such as alcohol or sex. This is a coping mechanism, and is the body’s way of protecting you until you are in a better place to face your grief.
Grieving can be draining; therefore, it is important to take regular breaks to rest and do things that make you feel good. Some individuals may feel guilty when they are not grieving. It is important to be kind to yourself. There may come a time when you feel you have accepted or come to terms with the death of your loved one. It can be a relief when you start sleeping better and do not feel as tired as you used to. The grieving process can vary from individual to individual; some people never get over it, and just learn to live with it.
Where there is an ending there is also a new beginning. During times like this, you may feel inspired to do something you have never done before, establish new routines and begin a new family tradition. Be careful however, as bereavement counsellors often say to wait a while before making any major life changes.
You can only do your best and remember that love is the only way. Whether you decide to go down the counselling route or not, look after yourself and believe that all is well. Trust that you will find your way and you will be okay.