At some point in our lives we all experience bereavement. It may be due to a major life event such redundancy or divorce, but more commonly is caused by the death of someone significant in our lives.
Grief is the intense mix of emotions, feelings and physical effects experienced after a major loss. It’s a time of sorrow and yearning, missing the person you cared about and their place in your life. Bereavement refers to the period of mourning and grief, and can be thought of as passing through several tasks or stages.
- accepting the reality of your loss
- experiencing the physical and emotional effects of grief
- adjusting to life without the person you’ve lost
- Re-connecting with happier memories of the deceased, and starting to re-invest in life and relationships.
No two people grieve in the same way. The unique relationship you have had with the person who has recently died was known and felt by only you two. The pattern of grief you experience will be made up of many things: your relationship with the person, any previous losses you may have experienced, your own personality and background. There’s not really a right or wrong way to grieve.
At first, you may find you feel numb, or that things feel a little surreal. You may find you’re working on ‘automatic pilot’ - managing life normally. You may even feel relief mixed in with the sadness, initially, particularly if the person you cared about was very weak and ill before they died. Other people find they’re overwhelmed with grief from the beginning. Sometimes you can feel agitated and on edge, although this often settles to a feeling of sadness and calm over time.
Grief seems to hit in waves. You may feel sad, anxious, angry, guilty, yearning and an ache inside which feels physical. Other physical effects can include crying, loss of appetite, poor sleep, aches and pains, tiredness, and loss of concentration. There may be triggers for an intensity of grief feelings - seeing an old friend, a birthday or anniversary, familiar scents or sounds that remind you of your loss.
There seems to be no particular period of time for bereavement to be less painful. Some experts suggest 18 months to two years as the time when grief begins to ease, and become less intrusive - but everyone’s grief is different.