Bereavement is the state of loss when someone close to you has died. The death of someone you love is one of the greatest sorrows that can occur. However, feelings of bereavement can also accompany other losses, such as the decline of your health or the health of someone you care about, or the end of an important relationship, through divorce, for example. Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss.
People cope with the loss of a loved one in many different ways. For some, the experience may lead to personal growth, even though it is a difficult and trying time. There is no right or wrong way to cope with the passing of a loved one. The way a person grieves depends on their personality and the relationship they had with the person who has died. How a person copes with grief is affected by many factors: the person’s experience with the illness, the way the disease progressed, the person’s cultural and religious background, his or her coping skills and mental health history, existing support systems and the person’s social and financial status.
Grief may be experienced as a mental, physical, social, or emotional reaction. Mental reactions can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. Physical reactions can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness. Social reactions can include feelings about seeing family or friends or returning to work.
If the person died of a chronic illness, for example, the death may have been expected. The end of the person's suffering might even come as a relief. If the death was accidental or violent, coming to a stage of acceptance could take longer.
A wide and confusing range of emotions may be experienced after a loss. These may include, denial, disbelief, numbness, anger or blame. Once the initial shock has worn off, denial of the loss is often replaced by feelings of anger. The anger may be directed toward doctors and nurses, God, other loved ones, yourself, or even the person who has died. You may experience feelings of guilt, with sentiments such as "I should have… ", "I could have… ", or "I wish I had…. " Such thoughts are common. Your emotions may be very intense, and you may have mood swings. These are all normal reactions to loss.
I have worked with male and female clients who have presented with difficulties in coming to terms with a bereavement. This journey has included helping them to acknowledge and feel their feelings of grief and loss, and gradually move to a place of readjusting to a world without that person, and in time forming new relationships in their lives. Through this process of separation from the person who died, they gradually begin to invest their emotional energy once again in the world around them. This does not mean the person was not loved or should be forgotten, but that they begin to find a sense of stepping back into their lives. This however, can be challenging, as the client’s sense of identity and the role they saw themselves having may need to change to readjust to living in a world without the person who died.
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