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Bereavement and Grief

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The Phases of Grief    How Can You Help Yourself?     Outside Help    

Helping a Friend

disbelief, while the other is experiencing anger over the loss.

All of the feelings we experience during the grieving process have to do with accepting the reality of the loss and saying good-bye. It is the denying of these feelings or not letting go that leads to problems.

How You Can Help Yourself

As well as going through many of the reactions outlined above, you may also experience many other feelings (e.g. panic, relief, fear, self-pity). If you do experience these emotions you may feel you ought to hide them, but they are an important part of your bereavement and it can be valuable to share them with a sympathetic listener. You may find yourself feeling hurt and convinced that some of your friends are avoiding you. Unfortunately, this often happens and can be due to embarrassment, "not knowing what to say". It may be up to you to take the first step to let others know you need them and their support

It is sometimes very tempting to feel that life would he more bearable if you moved house or quickly disposed of possessions or refused to see people. There is a very common urge to avoid painful things. However, this can make things worse and such decisions must he given great thought. Bereavement is a time of very painful emotions, but it is important to experience these to the full in order to build your life again.

It is not uncommon, as well as feeling mentally taxed, to feel physically run down: to find it difficult to eat, sleep and so on, but eventually these symptoms should fade and disappear. It can also be a very isolating process when you may feel as if no one else could possibly experience what you are going through.

Vent Your Feelings - Make a contract with a good friend to get together once a week for a month. Ask your friend if he or she will listen while you talk about your loss. If you need to talk more than once a week, make arrangements with two friends, perhaps one for Monday and the other for Thursday. Make sure that your friends realise that you're not seeking advice. Tell them that their being there and just listening is supporting you. Perhaps you will want to renew the contract after a month.

Join a Group - People usually find it helpful to be with others who are going through a similar loss. People who have lost a child might want to join an organization for Bereaved Families. Those who have lost a spouse will find a number of self-help groups available for widows and widowers.

Learn Something about Grief - All of the different feelings that are experienced during a loss can be frightening. Often times, feelings are less frightening when we realise that they are common and that others also experience similar feelings. It may be helpful to read some books on the subject or discuss grief with a counsellor or your family doctor. This will help you to recognise when your feelings are normal and when you may need help to work through your feelings.

Identify What Coping Strategies Have Worked Before - If writing about your loss in a journal or talking about it with friends helped when you lost your job, the same thing may help when you are coping with the loss of a loved one.

Think About Helping Others - Sometimes getting involved with a specific cause that is working towards prevention of loss for others can help us redefine our loss. Families having lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver have found comfort working with groups that attempt to reduce the incidence of such accidents for other families. When loss of a loved one is due to a particular illness, people have found comfort in volunteering for foundations such as the Heart or Cancer Society.

Take Care of Your Physical Health - Coping with our feelings is always a little easier when we are in good physical health. Try to get adequate rest and eat a balanced diet.

Outside Help

Many people feel, following a close bereavement, that they would like someone outside their immediate circle of family or close friends, to talk with and confide in. Don't hesitate to approach your GP, your local Bereavement Service, or a Counsellor.

How You Can Help a Friend or Relative Who Has Suffered a Major Loss ?

Listen! Listen! Listen! No matter how independent a person is, he or she still needs the support of family and friends.

Provide practical help. Something as simple as a home-cooked casserole or cookies is not only helpful, but it also lets people know that you care about them.

Help a bereaved person to make plans for getting through special occasions such as the first Christmas without his or her spouse. The anniversary of a loss, either a death or a divorce, is also an especially sad time.

There's no question about it, loss is a necessary and painful part of life. But perhaps what matters most is that there are ways in which we can help ourselves and others to say good-bye and deal with loss.

Bereavement and Grief

Saying Good-bye: Dealing With Loss

One of the obvious but often overlooked facts about life is that, at some point, we can likely expect to experience a significant loss. The losses are many and varied. The death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or other love relationship, the loss of a job, all of these are major losses and stressors.

The Holmes-Rahe Scale of stress rating lists the death of a spouse at the top of the stress list with 100 points. Close behind is divorce with a rating of 73 points. Further down the list are being fired from work and retirement, with ratings of 47 and 45 points respectively.

Even those of us who have never experienced a major loss in our lives have experienced minor losses. Loss is the loneliness you felt when you left the security of home for that first day of school. And loss is the disappointment you feel when you reach forty and realize that you're never going to attain those lofty goals to which you aspired in your twenties.

However, grief expresses itself in many different ways, often with powerful, frightening and confusing feelings. It is common for these feelings to ebb and flow over a very long period of time, whilst those around us may say "you should be over this by now". Although no two people's experience will be the same, below are listed some of the common feelings which you may experience at different times in your grief:

The Phases of Grief

The experts tell us that the mourning process is similar for all losses. The difference is degree not kind. The five phases of grief that most people experience when a loved one dies are similar for the ending of a relationship or the loss of a job.

Shocked disbelief

You may find yourself being very calm and rather detached. Conversely you may feel completely at sea. Both are perfectly usual reactions.

Being unable to accept the loss

This often involves what has been called searching behaviour, which means that at some level you are trying to deny that the death has occurred, and in so doing you might find yourself making mistakes, which can he worrying. For example thinking that you have seen or heard the dead person, or laying his/her place at the table. You may even find yourself at odd moments of the day actually looking for him or her. Again this is perfectly usual.

Anger and guilt

You may be wanting to ask the question, Why has this happened? and why has this happened to me? It is common to wish to find blame for it, either in yourself, in others, or even with the person who has died, and this can lead to powerful feelings of anger and guilt (or sometimes both).

Despair and depression

There may be times when you lose all interest in living and feel that there is no point going on. You may even question your own sanity and think that you are going mad. This, though painful, is a common experience.


Usually this occurs with the passage of time and, when the pain has eased somewhat, you may find yourself being able to remember without feeling so overwhelmed. This can be a time for you to begin life again, maybe to renew old interests and take up new pursuits. This might seem disloyal to the person who has died, but what has happened in the past is always a part of you and is not affected by your enjoying the present, or planning for the future.

Long after the loss has occurred, individuals may suddenly react to the loss they felt they had accepted. For example, when a former spouse becomes involved with another person, remarries, or has a child, they may find themselves experiencing any or all of the feelings associated with loss all over again. This  can be very confusing and unsettling for the individual. It's important to understand the far-reaching effects of a loss to understand where these feelings are coming from..

Although the phases of grief are predictable, the feelings may not be in this exact sequence, and the duration of each can vary from person to person. It's important to realize that everyone in a family may not be experiencing the same feelings at the same time. In other words, grief is an individual process. A couple grieving the death of a child,  for instance, may not be in the best position to help and support each other if one is in a state of

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