Written by: Shani Fowler
Death is the one thing that that unites to us all, rich or poor, man or woman. Death is part of the life cycle, the final part, so it is surprising then in some ways how uncomfortable most of us feel discussing it. We brush it under the carpet, talk of any other topic instead and deal with it as it happens. Is that why we react the way we do when someone we love dies? Is it that we are totally unprepared? Or is it just hard for the human to come to terms with losing someone they love? It is undoubtedly an awful time, but there are simple things can we do to ease the pain of bereavement.
Four stages of bereavement
No one likes to hear that someone has died and you can feel sorry and sad, but the death of someone you love can hit you like a ton of bricks. Whether the person was young or old and whether it was expected or not, losing a loved one is traumatic beyond belief. Whilst everyone deals with such a loss in their own way and there is no right or wrong, experts do generally agree that there are four stages to bereavement: accepting the loss, feeling the pain of loss, adjusting to life without them and then putting less emotion into the loss and focussing on the future, essentially moving on.
The pain of loss
Accepting the loss and feeling the pain can seem unbearable. It can feel constant or it may hit in waves, almost taking your breath away. It can leave you feeling that it’s almost impossible to carry on yourself, but you have to. Avoid bottling up how you feel, seek support and talk to people. Talk to the others who are also experiencing the loss of the same person, it can be a comfort to talk and discuss how you feel.
Have a good cry and then a little smile as you remember your loved one together. You can talk to friends or someone who isn’t directly connected with the person, or a professional bereavement counsellor who can help guide you through this awful time. Talking can help so much, hearing yourself say how you feel can be such a release, and can help unravel the tension and sadness you feel.
Talk to them
Talk to the person you have lost. This isn’t you going crazy, it often helps. If you are round the house or in the garden, tell them what you are doing, that you love them and miss them – it can help you still feel connected. It doesn’t mean you are in denial, you can accept they have gone, it’s just communication on a different level, still remembering and including them.
Whatever gets you through
You might want to have more photos around of them around helping you feel you can continue your bond. Or alternatively it may help if you don’t see so many pictures and temporarily remove them. Again, there is no right or wrong way – it’s purely what helps you get through it.
Let people help
If someone wants to be with you, let them. Even if no one is talking, the presence of another person can be comforting when you feel so sad and lonely. If you feel difficulties coping with day to day tasks such as shopping or picking kids up from school, ask for help with some things and accept any help that people offer.
Do something in their honour
Remember something close to your loved one’s heart and maybe do an event or donate something in their memory. Maybe raise money by doing a run or a walk. This can divert the focus from the pain and channel it to positive energy and help move on without thinking you are forgetting them.
Let go of guilt
Don’t feel guilty that you are living without them. Of course you would rather they were there with you, but remind yourself that this isn’t possible and the person you have lost would want you to live your life to the full. Living without them is part of the moving on process.
Draw on your religion or scientific beliefs
It may be that your religious values instil belief of reuniting one day, that this is not the end. Believing the parting may not permanent and that we all will meet again, can lift the heart’s sadness. Although more tenuous, recent scientific studies have been undertaken on people who have “clinically died” and then been brought back to life. A high percentage were able to give accounts of what happened to them during the time they “died”; lending evidence to suggest that when the life of the body is extinct, consciousness appears to still exist. Perhaps indicating that the soul goes on? But what someone believes happens after death is very personal to the bereaved.
Time does help
It’s a clichéd saying but a real one nevertheless and it is that time is a healer. Time won’t make you forget the person, it won’t stop you loving them intensely, but time will heal the rawness of the loss. Time will present you with the opportunity to call your loved one to mind without the shock and sadness. Instead, the passing of time will allow you will carry them with you in your heart for the rest of your life with the ability to smile when you think of them.