Bereavement is a complex psychological process to accept the loss of a loved one. Everyone needs time to recover from the death of someone important in their life. Sometimes adapting to a new situation proves extremely difficult, however, knowledge of how to experience bereavement and how to deal with grief can help you get through the difficult time after losing a loved one more organically.
What is bereavement? How long does grief last? How to experience grief after losing a loved one in a psychologically healthy way and where to seek support? Let’s address this challenging issue.
What is bereavement?
Everyone experiences the pain of losing a loved one differently. Many behaviours and emotions are similar, but each loss is something very individual and unique. Bereavement is the traditional externalised reflection of what happens to someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one.
One of the most well-known models of bereavement is that by KÜbler-Ross, which captures this time in 5 stages, the order of which can be anything – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
A person who has lost a loved one may notice the following changes:
- In their physical state (sleeping problems, exhaustion, hyperactivity or sluggishness, trembling, nausea, rashes, allergies, hormonal cycle disturbances, susceptibility to illness/low immunity),
- in their emotional states (sadness, guilt, helplessness, feeling overwhelmed, bogged down, loneliness, anger or rage, emptiness, feeling threatened, fear of the future, pressure, compulsion, relief, feeling free, etc.),
- in thinking and cognitive processes (tendency to forget, difficulty drawing conclusions and reasoning logically, confusion, difficulty concentrating, chasing thoughts or struggling with thoughts, states of confusion, ‘switching off’, hearing familiar voices),
- in behaviour (tidying and arranging things, crying, getting upset, worrying, a change in the way you say goodbye, telling others to treat you better, being more compassionate to others, renewing ties with family and friends, or shying away from loved ones and people in general, listening to moody music, or songs with sentimental content, engaging in activities that the deceased person enjoyed, taking on new roles in family and society),
- in spiritual states (faith either strengthens or wavers, a new point of view on many phenomena, concern for the afterlife, anger at God, decreased fear of death, increased concern for health and family well-being, death as a discharge, life as a closed circle).
When to seek specialist support?
If you find that your emotions and physical complaints are overwhelming you, it is worth contacting a psychologist or psychiatrist. When you feel dull, empty and your emotions interfere with your daily functioning over a long time, the support of a specialist may be necessary. Another indication is tormenting nightmares, abuse of alcohol, medication or other psychoactive substances. If suicidal thoughts arise, seek professional psychological support immediately – to do this, you can call special support hotlines or enrol with a nearby psychologist or psychotherapist.
How to grieve your loss healthily?
While grieving a loss is an inevitable part of life, there are ways to cope with the pain, to come to terms with grief in a healthy way. So that in the end, you find a way to pick up the pieces of the lost moments and move on with your life, after losing a mother, father, or close friend.
Acknowledge your pain
Acknowledge your right to suffer and give yourself time to experience all the emotions, both positive and negative. If you need it, rest for a few days alone or with loved ones, or if you prefer, keep yourself busy with something, but do not try to cover up the experience.
Accept that bereavement can bring about many different and unexpected emotions
Remember that you have the right to feel fear, grief, anger or relief. There is no such thing as a bad emotion, we need each one and they are all worth experiencing.
Understand that the grieving process will be unique to you
Everyone copes with the grieving process differently. If you think you will find answers on the internet about how long grief last, we have to worry you. Everyone needs a different amount of time and different activities.
Seek direct support from people who care about you
Don’t be afraid to ask loved ones for their company if you need it, but remember that if they are also grieving, you will need to respect their wishes too.
Support yourself emotionally while taking care of yourself physically
During bereavement, often our psyche occupies all our thoughts and thus we forget about our bodies. This is a big mistake. Even during bereavement, you should remember to have a proper diet and exercise, because a healthy body will allow you to heal your psyche faster.
Losing an elderly loved one – conclusion
Loss is never easy, so be kind to yourself, give yourself time and are not afraid to seek professional help.