The grief process is uniquely personal and will depend on the closeness of the relationship, and whether the death is sudden or expected. There are common stages, but no one experiences these in the same sequence, time frame, or intensity. Some stages are:
Feelings of shock
Shock is often the first reaction to news of the death of someone you love. It is your body’s way of coping with a traumatic situation.
Sometimes the suddenness of the death is met with disbelief or even denial if the reality of the death is too painful to deal with.
We express emotion
It is healthy for us to cry and it is a natural release of emotion. Sometimes we may express relief, as the death may provide a ‘release’ for the one we love from pain and suffering. It is normal to feel relieved and you need not feel guilty. Suppressing your emotions may slow your recovery.
Feeling alone is common following the separation from the one you love. This happens even when family and friends provide care and support.
Some people feel guilty for the death and blame themselves, particularly if the death was an accident or suicide. You may feel that if only you had been there or intervened in a situation, you might have stopped the death. It takes a long time to resolve these feelings.
You may find yourself expressing anger towards the person who has died for leaving you. Anger might also be turned on people you feel could have saved the one you love like doctors, or people who were present.
Coping with bereavement often causes a physical response. You may suffer from headaches, temporary loss of memory and concentration, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, low defence to flu and infections and lack of energy or motivation.
Some people also reflect the symptoms of their loved one’s illness by “feeling their pain” in a physical way.
Readjustment – life goes on.
Throughout the grieving process, many people find it hard to return to normal activities and routines of life. However over time, you will pick up the threads of life and finally feel that there is “light at the end of the tunnel”. Life becomes more bearable, although it has changed.
You may find the services of a grief counsellor beneficial during the readjustment period. We can recommend suitable professional counselors.
For more info about bereavement and grief, click here to search for a local NZIFH member.