Grief & Grieving

Nothing and no one can prepare us for a close bereavement.  The resulting grief is both natural and normal and nothing can make it is just go away.  It is hoped that this will help you to understand your experience.

Our lives are full of losses and changes, some great some small, some welcoming (like getting married), but some are forced upon us against our wishes.  These losses and changes can create within each of us a very wide range of powerful feelings, some pleasant, but some equally painful and unpleasant.

The death of someone close to us is one of the most difficult losses that we all face at some time in our lives and we will each react to it in our own individual way.  It is an event that is usually beyond our control and it can have a devastating impact upon our physical well-being, our emotions our relationships with family friends and work colleagues.  Our performance at work, our social life, our finances, our daily routine and our having to face new responsibilities at a time when we often lose some of self-confidence.

It is impossible within this leaflet to list all the feelings that may be experienced after bereavement and very important to recognise that each of us will have our own personal feelings. Some feelings can be so powerful and confusing that they make us truly believe we are going mad.  Others may be unexpected, unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

Some feelings you may experience

FEAR

· Of damage to yourself and those you love

· Of being left alone, or having to leave loved ones

· Of breaking down or losing control

· Of a similar event happening again

SADNESS

· For death, injuries and loses of every kind

LONGING

· For all that has gone

GUILT

· For being better off than others i.e. being alive, not injured or ill

SHAME

· For having been exposed as helpless, emotional and needing others

· For not having reacted as you would have wished

ANGER

· At what has happened, at whoever caused it or allowed it to happen

· At the injustice and senselessness of it all

· At the shame and the indignities

· At other people’s lack of understanding and inefficiencies “why me”

MEMORIES

· Of all the feelings, of loss or of love for other people in your life who have died.

LET DOWN

· Disappointment for all the plans that cannot be fulfilled

HOPE

· For future, for better times

NUMBNESS

· Your mind may allow misfortune to be felt only slowly. At first you may feel numb. The event may seem unreal, like a dream, something that has not really happened. People often see this mistakenly as being “strong” or “uncaring”

DREAMS

· You may find yourself repeatedly dreaming about what has happened or of the person whom you have lost

Close Bereavement

Close bereavement can re awaken memories and feelings associated with other difficult or distressing times in our lives, for example problem associated with childhood, previous bereavement, times of war or other traumatic incidents.  This can make it more difficult to cope with the present bereavement which on it’s own can take many people to greater depths of anguish and distress than ever previously experienced.

“ I still miss him/her terribly after 3 years.  No one, not even the family want me to talk about him/her anymore. It seems as if to them she’s dead and gone, but to me she’s still very much alive.  I find it really hard to go and mix with other people because they can’t understand me”

“I suddenly realised my mum would never see me to get married or see my children.  I was terrified I would lose my dad too, as then I’d have no-one“.

The above statements convey something of chaos and variety of experience faced by bereaved people.

For many people, grief does not automatically get easier with time after a death.  To many testify to the pain and anguish deepening initially sometimes several months. It takes time to fully recognise and absorb all that a person has been to us.  Regrettably when many bereaved people are reaching their lowest ebb, others around them think that you should be getting back to normal now.  This lack of understanding frequently results in a decline of interest, sympathy and support when you are most needy.

At first Grieving may occupy every hour of the day and night.  As the days pass by you may slowly experience times of increasing length when you do not think about the dead person.  Remembering and reminiscing consumes a lot of our time and energy and it can be very tiring and painful.  Remembering the good times and memories you can gain much comfort from.  We don’t “get over” people who have died, nor do we “let go of them”.  We have to learn to live without their physical presence.  Our memories of them and the love shared with them go on with us until the end of our own lives.

The stresses of bereavement affect our health and we may experience a wide range of normal but unpleasant, physical reactions and minor illnesses.  These can create anxiety within us.  If you experience such difficulties a few minutes of your GP‘s time or contacting Employee Support may prevent days or weeks of fretting unnecessarily about some complaint.

Many bereaved people both young and old become anti-social and withdrawn.   Rarely this is because they want to spend long periods alone.  It is usually more to do with others preventing them from talking about their loss, being judged or misunderstood.

Common Physical Effects

– Fatigue

– Sleeplessness (bad dreams)

– Headaches

– Muscular Aches e.g. neck and shoulder

– Chest Pains

– Breathlessness

– Repeated Deep Sighing/excessive yawning

– Stomach Pains/bowel problems

– Retching and even vomiting are not uncommon when very anxious

– Dry Mouth

– Heart Pounding

– Panic/hyperventilation/giddiness

– Shaking e.g. hands

Common Mental Effects

– Disorganised

– Forgetful

– Confusion

– Loss of interest in things that normally bring pleasure

The above effect normal people who are experiencing high levels of stress.

What can help

REALITY

Attending funerals, returning to the scene, and talking to people who know what happened, are all ways in which a situation, which seems unbelievable may be made more credible and easier to bear.

TALKING

Many people find it helpful to talk about what happened and how they feel, over and over again.  This can be an important part of the healing process.

SUPPORT

Sharing with others who have similar experiences can help.  For some, help with the practicalities of everyday life from caring family and friends is a welcome release and will allow them to focus on the disaster for as long as they need.  For others, it is relief to have ordinary things to concentrate on.  Many people say that they want to be asked, but would like to chose which approach is most helpful.

PRIVACY

Some people want to be left on their own.  You may also find it easier to be with a few select people than with groups of people who don’t know what has happened.

When to seek help

  • If you feel you cannot handle intense feelings or body sensations
  • If you feel that your emotions are not falling into place over a period of time and you feel chronic tension, confusion, emptiness or exhaustion.
  • If, for a long period, you have to keep active in order to avoid painful feelings
  • If you continue having nightmares or poor sleep
  • If you have no person with whom to share your emotions, but you feel the need to do so
  • If your relationship seem to be suffering badly, or sexual problems develop
  • If you have accidents
  • If you have continued to smoke, drink or take drugs in excess since the event
  • If your work performance suffers

How to claim Bereavement Benefits

Claims for the Bereavement Benefit should be made to the local benefits agency where the claimant lives within 3 months of the date of death of the spouse.  Claims can be made later, and can only be backdated 3 months.  Applicants will be required to provide an original full death certificate of their late spouse.

Contact Numbers

THE SAMARITANS

Tel: 116 123

Confidential help/counselling over the telephone

CRUSE BEREAVEMENT CARE

Tel:  084477 9400/0161 236 81034

Young Person Helpline

free phone 0808-808-1677

Confidential help and support for the bereaved

BACUP CANCER  

Free phone 0808 800 1234

Information, practical advice and emotional support

LOCAL HOSPICE

Have a social work team who will offer support and advice

BEREAVEMENT TRUST

Free phone 0800-435-455

6pm –10pm daily

SUPPORTING BEREAVED PARENTS & THEIR FAMILIES

0845 123 2304

10AM – 6PM  & 7PM – 10PM

Telling people about a death can be difficult and also emotionally tiring. But it is important that you tell people who knew your loved one personally or did business with them.

If you don’t feel like doing this yourself, you can ask a friend or another family member to help you. With so much on your mind it is easy to miss someone. This list may help remind you of all those who may need to be told

  • Family and friends
  • Neighbour’s
  • Work colleagues and employer
  • Sporting clubs – cancel any memberships at golf, tennis or bowls club, gym
  • Place of worship
  • Family doctor
  • Bank
  • Credit card companies
  • DVLA – you must return the dead person’s driving license
  • Local library if they were a member (you may need to return books, DVDs etc)
  • Mortgage and insurance companies
  • Council Tax office
  • Utility companies – gas, electricity, telephone, water
  • Landlord
  • Passport office
  • Accountant and solicitors

Cancel any social services that they might have been having such as meals on wheels, transport assistance or home help.