When we experience the loss of someone dear in our lives it will dramatically affect our day to day life. Sometime these shifts are forever.
Loss that leads to bereavement
Along with loss comes bereavement – a range of feelings over time that arise from that loss. Its our ability to deal with these stages that impact us.
If you are facing a significant loss yourself, or are seeking to support someone who is going through a major loss, you may notice a pattern of bereavement that is common for many people.
The four stages of bereavement
There are four common stages of bereavement:
- Shock & Numbness
- Unable to accept
Grief is individual, and the way and order in which we grieve will vary.
Stage 1: Immediate reaction of shock
As soon as the death occurs, and over the following hours and days, you may be in a state of shocked disbelief.
Alternatively, instead of immediate shock, you may be rather calm and detached.
Either reaction is natural and understandable.
This phase immediately follows a loss to death. The grieving person feels numb, which is a self-defense mechanism that allows him or her to survive emotionally in the immediate aftermath of loss.
Stage 2: Yearning and Searching – Unable to accept
At this stage, you may think that the person you have lost is still physically with you.
You are unable to accept the loss, and at some level are denying that the death has occurred.
Also referred to as pining, this stage is characterised by the grieving person longing or yearning for the deceased to return to fill the void created by his or her death. Many emotions are experienced and expressed during this time, such as weeping, anger, anxiety, preoccupation, and confusion
You may make mistakes that may confuse or frighten you. Examples include:
- waking up and expecting them to be lying next to you.
- going downstairs in the morning and expecting them to be in the kitchen as usual, lovingly preparing breakfast for you.
- laying a place for them at the dinner table.
- calling the family down for dinner and calling their name out too.
This might freak you out a bit, but it is all normal. Daily habits are so deeply ingrained that they will continue to be part of your day.
Stage 3: Dispair – Depressed and Lonliness
No matter how many people are around you, or how much support you receive, you will have small moments or even long periods of time when you feel lost, alone and confused.
This could span across many many months.
The grieving person often desires to withdraw and disengage from others and the activities he or she regularly enjoyed during this phase. Having accepted the reality of the loss, the bereaved’s feelings of searching and yearning become less intense while feelings of apathy, anger, despair hopelessness and questioning increase.
- You may :
- Question your own faith, your faith in God, faith in other people, and even faith in yourself.
- Lose interest in everything and may want to shut yourself off from the world.
- Ask yourself whether even your own life is worth living.
This may be a very heavy and lonely time. Even this phase passes.
Stage 4: Renewed strength and focus Recovery
Eventually, as the pain eases, you find yourself being able to think about the person you have lost, without feeling sad.
This is a chance to recommence life with a renewed sense of strength and focus.
n the final phase, the grieving person begins to return to a new state of “normal.” Weight loss experienced during intense grieving might reverse, energy levels increase, and an interest in returning to former or new enjoyable activities returns. Grief never ends but thoughts of sadness and despair diminish while positive memories of the deceased take over.
Because everyone grieves in his or her own way and own pace, there is no specific or “usual” amount of time in which people experience/complete these phases. In some cases, receiving bereavement counseling and/or joining a bereavement support group can help a grieving individual move through the phases more fluidly.
You could continue with old interests, or you could take up new pursuits.
Do you feel disloyal to the person who has died?
Remember that they are always a part of you, and you can allow yourself to enjoy the present.
There was a man whose wife had died. They had been married over 25 years. 18 months after she died, he took up salsa classes and started dating. He had discovered how to have fun again and his spirit was renewed.
From shock to strength: it does get better
From the moment the death occurs, you may feel grief and sadness, but you may also experience feelings of anger, fear, self-pity or even panic.
You don’t need to hide them – they are a part of your bereavement.
Share these feelings with a sympathetic listener – it does help.
Some of your friends may avoid you – this happens. its likely your friends feel embarrassed because they don’t feel sure and don’t know what to say. Be understanding. Take the first step and let them know you need their support.
Grief is a very isolating process – we feel as if no-one could possibly experience what we are going through. But millions of people around the world have been through it, and they are doing fine now.
Whatever stage of bereavement you are at, remember that the pain will pass and life will again be full of strength, focus and joy.