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Coping with bereavement

Bereavement can affect people in many ways, and various emotions can arise at different times throughout the grieving process. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Powerful emotions can overtake daily life and come on suddenly from an unexpected memory or innocent remark. 

To begin with you may feel shock or numbness, or simply feel that you are in a daze. There can be overwhelming sadness with lots of crying and the inability to feel in control. You can get angry at the situation, the illness or accident that took them from you, or even at your loved one for leaving you. 

Guilt is another feeling that can become entwined with all the others. Guilt for feeling angry, guilt for something you said or did not say, even guilt for not being able to prevent your loved one dying. 

All these feelings are perfectly natural and normal. None of these negative thoughts and feelings make you a bad person. It’s just nature’s way of helping you sort out your feelings and the situation in your own time and your own way. 

It’s also natural throughout this period to feel very tired or even exhausted. You can become distracted and forgetful during this period too, as your mind is overloaded with grief from your bereavement. 

Stages of bereavement 

It’s recognised by doctors that there are four main stages of bereavement. They are: 

  • accepting that your loss is real 
  • experiencing the pain of grief 
  • adjusting to life without the person who has died 
  • moving on - putting less emotional energy into grieving and channelling it into something else or, even better, something new. 

Not everyone moves from one phase smoothly into the next and there’s no set timescale for feelings to become less intense. It’s a gradual process. 

Sometimes, even when people feel ready to move on, it can feel really daunting to get back into the community. Especially if you have lost a partner of many years and used to do nearly everything together. 

It can be difficult too if you’ve spent a long time as a carer, with hardly any free time to follow your own hobbies or interests. 

There are many clubs and organisations that will welcome you, along with many volunteering opportunities. Use your local paper, community boards or the internet to explore the varied options. Phoning the leader of the group first is a good idea. That way, you can find out the general format and know that someone will be expecting you at your first meeting. 

Help and support 

There are many organisations who will be pleased to provide help and support. Here are a few, but for a specific need, the internet or your local library will be able to help you locate more. 

At a Loss 

A directory of organisations offering support and advice to help people through this difficult time is available from At a Loss.   

Child Bereavement Help 

Child Bereavement Help offer support for families when a baby or child is dying or has died. They also support children who are facing or dealing with bereavement. You can call them on 0800 028 8840

Cruse Bereavement Care 

Cruse provide somewhere to turn when someone dies. Their helpline is 0808 808 1677

Macmillan Cancer Support 

Macmillan Cancer Support is one of the largest British charities and provides specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer. Telephone 0808 808 0000

National Bereavement Partnership 

The National Bereavement Partnership provides a support helpline, counselling referral and befriending service for all those suffering from bereavement. Call their helpline on 0800 488 0800

Road Peace 

The UK’s national charity for road crash victims, Road Peace provide support to those bereaved or injured in a road crash. Call them on 0845 4500 355

Samaritans 

Samaritans is a charity providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide. You can call them on 116 123 (short number). 

SSAFA Forces Help 

SSAFA provide support for armed forces, veterans and their families. Call them 0800 731 4880

Sue Ryder Online Bereavement Support 

Free access to one-to-one professional support, community forums and expert information resources from the Sue Ryder charity. 

The War Widows Association of Great Britain 

The War Widows Association is an advocacy group for widows and widowers of British military personnel killed in action, or from injuries attributable to their service. Telephone 0845 241 2189.