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The Grieving Process – Effects of Bereavement

When we do suffer the loss of a loved one, we all go through a process of healing. Every year, just under 10% of the population loses a close family member. Coping with that loss can be difficult and lonely. Whilst everyone experiences grief differently, here is some information on how you can start to understand the emotions you may be feeling.

The grieving process can be broken down into five stages, known as the five stages of grief. Not all stages will apply to everyone, and others will go through them in a different order. 

Shock and Denial

Death is a harsh reality to grasp and after the loss of a loved it is common to go into shock or even denial. You may know that a loved one is very ill or in the process of dying, yet the finality of their death still comes as a shock.  It might take you a long time to fully comprehend what has happened and the shock can last for weeks, months or even years. Many people feel disorientated as if they have lost their raison d’etre or are living in a different world.

Whereas others might find themselves in denial, carrying on as if nothing has happened. If you are in denial, you may refuse to believe that your loved one has died by speaking to them in the present tense, pretending they are away on a trip or pretending nothing has happened.      

Pain and Guilt

Guilt can be the most painful companion after death.  After you get over the entail shock of someone dying, a common reaction can be to start asking yourself  “why?”, “what ifs” and “should haves”. 

There are many reasons for feeling guilty; from not saying what needed to be said, to regretting what was actually said, to not visiting enough, to having feelings of relief or light moments of happiness. Guilt comes in all shapes and sizes and is not always logical.

It is amazing how readily we can beat ourselves up about the death of a loved one.  In reality, you cannot change the past, therefore need to try and remember the good times.      

Bargaining

The bargaining stage of the grief process may occur prior to loss as well as after loss.  You might find yourself trying to make deals like “I will be the best husband ever, if my wife recovers from cancer” or you might find yourself focussed on what you or others could have done differently “I promise to visit my father everyday if you bring him back” or you could be making negotiations  to take away the pain.

It is also quite common to start asking for a sign from your beloved, for them to confirm that they are in a safe and happy place.

Depression

People react in different ways to loss, with some individuals feeling sad, whereas others might feel angry at someone who has died for “leaving them behind”. 

Everyone goes through their individual journey, with some people taking longer than others to recover.  In some cases, the loss you have suffered can be overwhelming and have a significant impact on your mental state that can manifest itself as insomnia, fatigue, anxiety or depression. If you are finding it difficult to cope, a good place to start is to speak to your GP or seek help in the form a counsellor or therapist.  

Acceptance

Grief is a natural response to death and gives individuals the opportunity to mourn and heal. Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process, where you are able to accept the reality of the loss in your life. You are at peace with what has happened and although are still sad with the situation, you are able to start looking forward to the future.

The grieving process is uncomfortable and mourning the loss of a loved one is a difficult journey. There are a host of bereavement support charities available to help you cope with the effects of grief, along with financial support available from the government. But it is important to remember, that you can hold onto the memories of your loved ones, but you do not need to grieve their absence forever.

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