The funeral has passed and suddenly there is nothing to do but think about your bereavement. You still feel very numb but no longer can you deny to yourself what has happened. The pain begins to become unbearable and you feel that you do not want to go on. You may feel that part of yourself has been torn away. You can’t concentrate on anything, you weep at the slightest thing and you begin to feel that you are going mad.
These words describe some typical feelings experienced by newly bereaved people. I have based them on my own personal experience of grief and on the experiences of the hundreds of bereaved people that I have met in my role as a bereavement counsellor.
However, this may not match your own experience. If your loved one has experienced a long and difficult illness you may feel a huge sense of relief at their passing, and your relief may be accompanied by huge guilt that in some way you are ‘glad’ that they have died. If the person that has died had been suffering from dementia you may feel that you really lost them long before their death. If your relationship with the deceased was sometimes difficult then you may experience much confusion, guilt and anger.
The person you have lost may have died very young; well before their time, and you are grieving not just for your loss but for the life they will never have, for the children they will never see growing up. If you have lost your own child you will be struck by how against the natural order of things such a loss feels. You feel angry at the unfairness. You ask “Why me?”
Whatever your loss, your grief is unique to you. The only rule is that there are no rules; everyone grieves differently and nobody should tell you how to do your grieving. For some people grief lasts a long time, perhaps many years. Other people adjust and finds ways of coping with their loss very quickly. Some people continue to need little rituals to help them get used to their new life, such as keeping their loved one’s dressing gown in the bedroom and their shoes in the hall. Follow your instincts, do what you need to do. Resist friends and relatives who tell you what’s best for you, however kindly their motives.
Not everyone cries. Not everyone needs to and it doesn’t mean that you loved them any the less.
Gradually the very worst of the pain begins to pass. You were not going mad. You find that you begin to have the occasional good day. The good days get closer together and then start to equal the bad days. Then the bad days get further apart, until the time comes when you can have a new relationship with the deceased, a relationship based on love, and with a gentle sadness which replaces the pain. You don’t forget them, but you have adapted to a life without them.
A small percentage of people do not easily come to terms with their loss, even after many years. Strong feelings of grief continue as if the loss was yesterday. If this is true for you, talk to your doctor to see what help may be available where you live. Please feel free to contact me wherever you live.