Grief can affect people in many different ways.
You might experience strong emotions such as sadness, anger or dread, or alternatively feel numb and cut off. Disbelief, guilt, stress, relief, distress, panic and soul-searching are all possible emotions you might experience, or you might feel none of these. Everyone is different, and there is no pattern or right order to the emotions you might feel. Your feelings are usually healthy and appropriate responses, and over time can be made more manageable.
Bereavement can seriously test your body’s defences. You might find yourself more prone to physical ill-health or other physical effects. Stomach pain, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance and loss of energy are all common experiences.
Some people might isolate themselves and find social situations difficult. You may feel that you are the only one going through something which others do not understand. Bereavement can put a strain on family ties and friendships and can feel very lonely.
Bereavement can lead to profound spiritual questioning, a questioning of yourself, your identity and the meaning of life. It is also common to dream about your loved one or feel their presence in some way. Over time, it is possible to find meaning in grief and a new sense of purpose.
Take care of yourself after a bereavement
There are some things you can do to look after yourself when you have been bereaved.
- Accept the feelings you have. The feelings you have are an expression of your loss, and it is important to allow yourself to have these feelings and accept them for what they are. Death is often avoided, ignored or denied, and while it may seem helpful at first to detach yourself from your feelings, burying them can lead to physical and emotional illness, and the pain you feel will need to be expressed at some point.
- Talk to people. If you can, find people you can talk to who can understand your loss, and allow you to express your feelings. It is important not to isolate yourself, and social connections can help you in a time of loss. If it is difficult to find people willing to listen, counselling may help.
- Take care of your physical health. Bereavement can lower your immune system and make you prone to illness and other physical effects. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep can help. Get in touch with your doctor if you are concerned about your physical health. Be aware of the negative effects of alcohol or medication as ways to get through your grief.
- Give yourself time. Recovery can take months or even years after a major loss. Don’t judge yourself, or let others judge you, if you are still feeling grief after a certain length of time has passed. Hold off on making big life decisions, such as moving house or changing jobs, until you have had time to adjust to your loss. Remember, too, that life is for the living, and while it may take time to live again, it is possible.
- Ask for help if you need it. If you are struggling with a grief that feels too much to bear, please contact us or refer yourself to us.
What to do when somebody dies:
This link to the Southwark Carers organisation provides very useful information on practical steps you need to take, and benefits, grants and financial support which may be on offer after somebody dies.
Other organisations which may help:
Cruse Bereavement Care
The Good Grief Trust
The Compassionate Friends (support for when a child dies)
Tommy’s (information on pregnancy or baby loss)