For most of us, bereavement will be the most distressing experience we will ever face. Grief is what we feel when somebody we are close to dies. Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no `normal` or `right` way to grieve. This section explains how you may feel when you lose someone close to you. Choose from the menu on the left.
This section is part of about grief, which also includes information on supporting yourself, supporting others, children, young people, and schools, and military and traumatic bereavement.
Our booklet Restoring Hope gives more detail on how you may feel following bereavement. Other publications are available from our online shop.
Grief is a natural process, and most people will cope with help and support from family and friends. For those who need additional specialist help, Cruse offers free confidential support for adults and children, and this can be by telephone, email or face-to-face.
You may feel a number of things immediately after a death.
Shock: It may take you a long time to grasp what has happened. The shock can make you numb, and some people at first carry on as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. Many people feel disorientated - as if they have lost their place and purpose in life or are living in a different world.
Pain: Feelings of pain and distress following bereavement can be overwhelming and very frightening.
Anger: Sometimes bereaved people can feel angry. This anger is a completely natural emotion, typical of the grieving process. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together. We may also feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.
Guilt: Guilt is another common reaction. People who have been bereaved of someone close often say they feel directly or indirectly to blame for the person’s death. You may also feel guilt if you had a difficult or confusing relationship with the person who has died, or if you feel you didn’t do enough to help them when they were alive.
Depression: Many bereaved people experience feelings of depression following the death of someone close. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning and some people say they too want to die.
Longing: Thinking you are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when you least expect it. You may find that you can`t stop thinking about the events leading up to the death. "Seeing" the person who has died and hearing their voice can happen because the brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it.
Other people`s reactions: One of the hardest things to face when we are bereaved is the way other people react to us. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to our loss. Because they don`t know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing, people can avoid those who have lost someone. This is hard for us because we may well want to talk about the person who has died. It can become especially hard as time goes on and other people`s memories of the person who has died fade.
For many children and young people the death of a parent, caregiver, sibling or grandparent is an experience they are faced with early in life. Sometimes people think a child or young person who is bereaved at a young age will not be greatly affected, as they are too young to understand the full implications of death. This is untrue and unhelpful. Even babies are able to experience loss. A baby cannot cognitively process the implications of the bereavement but that does not mean that they do not feel the loss.
Children and young people need to be given the opportunity to grieve as any adult would. Trying to ignore or avert the child’s grief is not protective and can be damaging. Children and young people regardless of their age need to be encouraged to talk about how they are feeling and supported to understand their emotions.
When someone close to us dies we have to cope and adjust to living in a world that is irreversibly changed. We may have to let go of some dreams built up and shared with the person who has died.
The length of time it will take a person to accept the death of someone close and move forward is varied and will be unique to the mourner. How we react will be influenced by many different things, including:
previous experiences of bereavement
No one can tell you how or when the intensity of your grief will lessen; only you will know when this happens. It is not unusual for bereaved people to think they are finally moving towards acceptance only to experience again the strong and often unwelcome emotions they experienced shortly after the death.
Life will never be the same again after bereavement, but the grief and pain should lessen. There should come a time when you are able to adapt and adjust and cope with life without the person who has died. The pain of bereavement has been compared to that of losing a limb. We may adapt to life without the limb but we continue to feel its absence. When a person we are close to dies we can find meaning in life again, but without forgetting their meaning for us
Many people worry that they will forget the person who has died; how they looked, their voice, or the good times they had together. There are, however, many ways you can keep their memory alive.
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