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Grief is our response to loss. Grief is not an illness

There are 5 key stages of grief

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Sometimes, a life that is peaceful, calm and uneventful can unexpectedly end up feeling upside-down. You might feel a void because you’ve suddenly lost a person close to you, which shakes up your life

Grief & Bereavement Help

What is grief?

Grief is our response to loss. Grief is not an illness.

Grief can bring with it great change, it can be sudden and it can be quite profound, especially if it mandates the need to learn new things that your loved one once did for you.

It may be necessary to find meaning again through the grieving process, and learn to live with your loss, adapt to a changed environment.

Whilst it’s a normal and natural response to loss, it is nevertheless felt in many ways by different people and can affect every part of our life.

The experience is inevitably one of intense sadness that can lead to feelings of disbelief, depression, regret, extreme anxiety or even panic. Some people may even show anger and in some instances there may even be a sense of relief. At other times we may feel a sense of resentment, find it hard to concentrate and withdraw from social activities.

Whichever the situation, grief entails an adjustment process that may require us learning to do new things from the disruption to our normal routine, and this phase can affect our thinking and behaviour with those around us.

Often this will extend to physical side-affects such as insomnia and ailments if you become run-down: consider getting professional advice if these become pervasive or give rise for concern. Staying healthy in mind and body is important to dealing as best you can with grief.

How do we deal with grief?

Grief is a personal experience and we all do it in different ways. It can be a complex process.

Some deal with it privately and shelter others from the inner turmoil. If you handle it in this way, be mindful that others may not be aware of how deep the trouble sits within you, and so may not appear to be giving you the level of support you need. If you are reluctant to discuss your emotions with other and prefer to preoccupy yourself whilst you deal with the loss, consider talking as an option to deal with particularly difficult aspects of your loss.

Others, on the other hand, may outwardly express their grief by crying and a strong desire to open-up to others about their loss. Show respect for this and provide a welcome ear or shoulder to lean on.

These different styles reflect the personality, circumstances, past experiences and other such things of each person and may vary widely within a family group. You may also experience unusual dreams or absurd feelings that make you feel disjointed with the immediate world, but should pass as time continues.

Many people will go back to their core beliefs when coping with loss – something bigger than themselves, for a degree of comfort or to make better sense of death. Sometimes it will help to break-down the issues or a peculiar problem in your mind you need to resolve as a means to coming to terms with the loss.

How long will grief last?

Grief can extend over long periods so don’t feel that this continuum is unusual to you alone. It may seem like a roller-coaster and the pendulum will swing through a course of good days and bad, some steps forward and some steps back.

Keep moving forward: grief will rarely follow a lineal direction but if you keep your moods pointing forwards as best you can you will find it easier to navigate your course through the pain and learn to live and deal with your emotions. Try to break-down your thoughts into manageable parts and find order in the often chaotic thoughts that may cloud your progress.

Feelings of disorientation that come with unfamiliar feelings may be associated with the reality of sudden change, feelings of remorse, sometimes guilt and even anger. The disorder that it creates for family & friends can impact the length of time it takes you to grieve, as well as the differing effects on each one of you.

Like stress, grief is felt and expressed in many ways. This may also impede the level of comfort and support you draw from others around you as they too express their feelings in various ways. Sometimes this will cause misunderstandings or dissociative behaviour to develop and require some measure of patience and tolerance.

However long and pervasive your grief, the stronger your bonds with others around you and support extended with one another, the better you will survive to find positives through your collective experience.

How do you help others deal with grief?

Firstly, listen without judgement, but there are many other suggestions and the list is not exhaustive, but here are a few pointers:

  • Listening. Above all, show compassion and comfort by hearing what someone has to say and if you feel it necessary ask open questions that allow the person to express their feelings
  • Avoid cliché’s! They tend to create a sense of being blasé and can prompt anger or angst that may offend or trouble the person
  • Allow for moments of silence & reflection
  • Create a mood of condolence, warmth & strength
  • Use the actual name of the deceased
  • Confine your discussion to the subject rather than clutter the bereaved person with outside issues
  • Provide other support in the form of helping with chores, preparation of meals or assistance with arrangements
  • Help give the bereaved space and time on their own by taking over some of their regular activities such as grocery shopping, child minding or attending to household bills
  • Show compassion and respect – don’t recount private thoughts which they tell you in trust
  • Accept that part of the grieving process is showing emotion, often tears in public
  • Understand that the grief process may extend over a long period of time and may not be expressed openly, which you may need to consider if the person is acting out of character
  • Try not to be judgemental or criticise
  • Offer practical advice if you are asked, and carefully consider your answers if the solution is less than straight forward or needs to be considered before you provide it
  • Speak calmly and don’t be aggressive or critical
  • Create a list of highlights including special anniversaries or events that help celebrate the deceased’s life and memory
  • Be precise when discussing important or noteworthy issues that are significant to the bereaved persons memories
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