Grief is a normal response to loss. It often brings physical and emotional pain. Shock, anger, guilt, regret, numbness and loneliness are some emotions that most people feel. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to take away the pain. Grief is something you have to work through. There is no set time to say when you will feel better. Sometimes you might find that you take two steps forwards and then three steps backwards.
If you have been expecting someone close to you to die, at first you may feel numb. This is nature’s way of helping you realise and accept the death. If the death is sudden and unexpected, your reaction may be disbelief. It may take time to understand what has happened and you may feel a great deal of pain because you did not have the chance to say goodbye.
You may find yourself expecting your loved one to suddenly arrive and hear familiar sounds like their key in the door, or feel their presence in the room. Accept these things as part of the process of grieving, which will eventually lead you through this difficult time.
Physical signs of grief
Some people are affected physically by the death of their loved one. Some people can’t sit still and become hyperactive others have a lack of energy. Others have headaches, shortness of breath, chest pains, nausea, dizziness, lack of concentration or depression. Some find it difficult to sleep and some experience bad dreams.
It is just important to realise that an emotional shock can produce physical symptoms. You should speak to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms over an extended period of time.
Do not be afraid to cry or show emotion. Tears relieve emotional stress and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Most people have times when they feel angry – angry that they have been left alone or angry at those whom you believe could have prevented the death of the person you lost – the hospital – the car driver.
You may also feel guilt. ‘If only…’ is a very common feeling and is natural after a death. Talking about these feelings with a close friend or member of the family may help you.
The way forward
Many people choose to withdraw from social contact, feeling unable to face the outside world. You may feel like this, but grieving is difficult enough without having to do it all on your own. Allow yourself time to grieve and adjust. Always take time before making any major decisions, such as moving house. The most important healing can come from talking. It may help to go over what happened many times with family and friends.
As time passes there is a need to move on and face the future. You don’t forget. Although the person you loved is not with you physically, they are there with you in other ways – memories, relationships, thoughts and stories. You may find keeping a diary or writing down your thoughts helpful, though you never need to show what you have written to anyone.
It is possible to discover strengths within yourself that you didn’t know existed and it is these which will help you cope with the future.
- Talk to other people about the person who has died, about your memories and your feelings
- Look after yourself. Eat properly and try to get enough rest (even if you can’t sleep)
- Give yourself time and permission to grieve
- Seek help and support if you feel you need it. Tell people what you need.
- Isolate yourself
- Keep your emotions bottled up
- Think you are weak for needing help
- Feel guilty if you are struggling to cope
- Turn to drugs or alcohol – the relief will only be temporary.
Organisations like Cruse Bereavement Care or The Samaritans have trained volunteers who can offer counselling support.
- Cruse Bereavement Care: Tel. 028 2766 6686
- The Samaritans: Tel. 028 7032 0000
Please speak to us if you would like to talk to someone or ask any questions.