What’s normal following the death of a loved one?
SHOCK - Numbness, disbelief, feeling ‘cocooned’. Reality has not penetrated, bereaved people can be quite accepting and be bearing up, whilst inside they can be feeling ‘alone’ lonely’ ‘fearful’’ helpless’. You may find believing what has happened difficult and feel as if you are living in a dream world which is not real, this is all part of ‘normal’ grief reactions. This can take some time to work though before you begin ‘feeling’ again especially when death was sudden and unexpected. We may feel helpless and powerless in the beginning and when our feelings do start to come back we may feel angry, intense pain, guilt, uncertain, insecure or disconnected from others and self.
SEPARATION AND PAIN - Grief breaks over in wave of distress. Intense yearning, pining, feelings of emptiness. Searching behaviour – dreaming, may think we see our dead loved one in the home, street or when visiting familiar places. Feelings of ‘there’s been a mistake’ and there may be a feeling of ‘I should be grieving but I’m not’ is absent grief due to not wanting to let the pain of grief in; because if you do then you will have to acknowledge ‘death has happened’. Separation and pain can immobilise us into doing nothing whilst at the same time hoping this is not true!
DESPAIR - Can be characterised by depression, anxiety, panic, fear, worry, mood swings, difficulty with concentrating, anger, guilt, irritability, restless and extreme sadness. There might be yearning for the lost opportunities, things left unsaid, regret these things won’t change because the one you loved died before you had the chance to do, work through or make happen. You didn’t have the chance to prepared for their death, you were not allowed to say goodbye if your loved one died suddenly and this affects our understanding in the immediacy of the trauma unfolding. Guilt can be an intense experience following a sudden death you may think or feel you could have or should have done something differently, but remember you didn’t choose this, you couldn’t have known death was going to happen so your guilt is not rational and is detrimental to your well-being and healing.
ACCEPTANCE - Intellectual acceptance arrives long before emotional acceptance. We may continue to be depressed, irritable, and moody. We may need to concentrate on our emotional acceptance whilst accepting a tangled, complex ball of grief reactions that will take time to resolve
RESOLUTION AND REORGANISATION - New patterns of life are established. Eventually we are able to recall memories of our dead loved one without being overwhelmed by extreme emotions. We become to reinvest in our daily living in a more constructive and meaningful way.
All these ‘phases’ overlap with each other. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. We all grieve at our own pace in our own times. The main thing is to recognise you are grieving, you’ve not grieved for this person before and so your grief is a journey of discovery and an opportunity for you to find out who you are, what your deeper values and strengths are and to change anything you find which does not work for you!
This process is not linear and will take time and effort on your part to find your balance and reorganise your living following the death of someone you loved dearly.
Remember you are vulnerable, a major change has taken place, one you had no control over, one you did not wish to come about or plan for and it is this major change you are dealing with so be patient, kind and gentle with yourself, until the day comes when you get up and can say to yourself, this is painful, this is very sad I didn’t want it …. I have survived and will continue to survive.
You recognise your feelings are no longer overwhelming you and you are managing them they are not managing you.
Grief is a turbulent voyage until you find your calm, until you find your peace
Your grief will ebb and flow and if you feel your emotions are waving over you and come and go in intensity throughout your day this is normal and part of you processing your feelings.
If you find your emotions are overwhelming you or you seem stuck for more then 2 weeks it will be productive to your well-being to speak with your doctor or contact a professional & experienced counsellor who will be able to navigate you through your grief. If you do feel you are struggling with your grief contact me to gain compassion & caring support in partnership we can make a difference to your well-being.