The British Psychological Society has produced a detailed guide on grief. Grief incorporates a range of emotions and reactions which vary from person to person. Grief is a normal response and is a way of helping us heal to readjust and cope with life without our loved one. People may experience different feelings and thoughts such as – shock, disbelief, anguish and despair, anger and irritability, blame, restlessness or agitation, loneliness, guilt and worry. Grief may also impact physical health causing feeling of tiredness, disturbance of sleep or appetite and loss of concentration.
Science and evidence:
Grief manifests itself as emotions and reactions which affect how we think and behave. It is personal and will vary from person to person. Grief often continues long after the death that triggers it.
People who have experienced the death of someone close may experience a range of feelings and thoughts. Shock, numbness or disbelief, especially immediately afterwards when people often report difficulty accepting or believing what has happened. Anguish and despair, which can be accompanied by real pain and physical heartache as the reality of the loss sinks in.
Anger and irritability and the associated questioning of ‘Why did this have to happen?’. Anger can result in feeling that someone is to ‘blame’ for the death. Restlessness or agitation, which are some of the typical physical side-effects of grief. For example, trouble sleeping or difficulty concentrating. Longing or yearning for the person who has died. Loneliness, even when surrounded by others.
Guilt, for things they may have/have not said or done. Worry or fear for what lies ahead. There may be ongoing worry about your own health, or for other family members. This may delay the reality of your loss due to being distracted by worries for others. Deep sadness as you miss the one you love.
Grief can also impact physical health. You may notice changes in your sleep and appetite, fatigue, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, loss of enthusiasm for normal activities, and being more prone to colds and minor illnesses. This may cause increased anxiety when you are more vigilant to worries about infection.
Although extremely painful, grief is a normal response to a loss and is a way of helping us heal. While life may never be the same again, grief helps us readjust and cope with life without our loved one. Below are some tips on how to cope with grief:
- Be kind to yourself and understand bereavement
- Bereavement is one of the most painful thing you will ever experience. There is no timetable for recovering from bereavement. There are some common stages to bereavement that everyone experiences. Typically, we will progress through periods of disbelief, shock, anger, depression and eventually acceptance. Different people go through the stages at different rates, and the order of going through the stages is not set.
- The anger stage can be the most difficult to deal with, because often you feel angry with the loved one that you have lost. This will be more complicated if your loved one has died as a result of another person’s action. Realise this is normal.
- Blame is also a psychological component of bereavement. Humans always try to find a reason for things happening, this leads us to blame in bereavement. Often, we blame ourselves. Recognise this is normal.
- There is no escape from going through the pain of bereavement, allow yourself to grieve.
- If you have not had the chance to say goodbye to your loved one, find a way of doing this. Write letters, plant trees, let balloons go into the sky, light candles anything which is meaningful to you and your family.
- Plan a memorial service or meeting for the future. Spend time thinking about what to include while you are waiting for a safe time to do this. Think of ways of celebrating your loved one’s life.
- Talk, talk, talk about how you feel and your loved one.
- Deal with the feelings of blame. Be kind to yourself and others. Try to think about the positive things you have done for your loved one.
- Allow yourself to cry.
- Make sure you eat well, avoid excessive use of alcohol.
- Try to be active, try to have fresh air.
- Try to sleep well, see the helpful hints on improving your sleep.
- Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, see your GP. Go to your GP if you have persistent feelings of depression, self-harm, if you become anxious or your symptoms last longer than 6 months.
- Look up useful but credible information on the internet. If you have children look up Winston’s Wish.