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Bereavement means “to be deprived by death”, and the bereaved can be deprived in many ways, depending on the circumstances of the death and the relationship with the deceased. They may feel deprived of hope, the future, peace of mind, financial security or the chance to say goodbye or to put things right. Death represents a particular loss and the grieving process comes from this.
THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEFElisabeth Kubler-Ross, the author of On Death and Dying, sets out the Five Stages of Grief as follows:
It is important to emphasise that these stages are only part of the framework of learning to live with bereavement. They are tools that may be helpful in framing and identifying some of the emotions but they are not defined, definite stages. Not everyone goes through all five stages, nor is the progression through them always linear – people can move from Stage One to Four and back through Stage Two, for example. Each individual grieves in their way.
It can be helpful to set out some of the emotions, physical symptoms and behaviours associated with grief. We need to also bear in mind that there can also be anticipatory grief where a death is expected, for example a person with a terminal illness or advanced old age.
EMOTIONS ASSOCIATED WITH GRIEF
SHOCK: Disbelief is one of the first emotions particularly if the death is unexpected
DENIAL: Inability to accept the reality of the death
NUMBNESS: Feeling like running on auto-pilot
ANGER: Why me? Why did they have to die?
DEPRESSION: Feeling lost, helpless, despairing
GUILT: The ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’
ACCEPTANCE: Beginning to accept the reality of the death (this does not cancel out the sorrow or sense of loss.)
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH GRIEF
The mind and body are inextricably linked, and bereavement can have physical effects too:
The last symptom is very common, where the bereaved person feels that the deceased is present, may hear their voice, laughter or smell their scent or imagine that they see them in a crowd. Our senses do play tricks on us, particularly in traumatic situations such as bereavement.
BEHAVIOURS ASSOCIATED WITH GRIEF
Bereavement can have an impact on our day-to-day behaviour. You may experience:
Many of these will pass with time. If any become chronic or start affecting the health of the bereaved person, medical help is advised.
HOW TO HELP YOURSELF
Life does go on. Grief is not something you “get over”, rather it becomes part of you that will become integrated into who you are. To grieve indicates that you cared about the deceased, and it is an entirely natural reaction.
There will always be memories and anniversaries, but eventually you will adapt to a changed life with different relationships and perspectives. If you feel you cannot move on, please seek help as acute, unaddressed grief can be detrimental to both mental and physical health.
OTHER SOURCES OF HELP
Bereavement Ireland runs The Bereavement Counselling Service (BCS), a group of volunteers recruited and trained in the theory of grief and the counselling of bereaved individuals. The BCS was formed in 1982 by a group of professionals with backgrounds in psychiatry, medicine, social work, nursing and psychology who were concerned about the lack of support available for those who had experienced bereavement.
The charity is based in Dublin but operates at several centres in the greater Dublin area, also Bray, Newbridge, Carlow.
It has a useful website with downloadable guides including:
You may prefer to source in-depth specialist counselling to help you come to terms with the bereavement and its effects. LawCare suggests you find a qualified counsellor via a reputable website such as the IACP
You may also find the LawCare factsheet entitled: Counselling a useful resource and our Top Tips for Wellbeing.
Freecall, 24/7 1800 247247
Pieta provides a free, therapeutic approach to people in suicidal distress and those who engage in self-harm.
Turn the Tide
Co-founded in 2003 by psychiatrist, Professor Kevin Malone and Irish businessman/solicitor, Noel Smyth this site offers a wealth of information on suicide. It also provides advice and support on recognizing the signs and symptoms of Mental Health problems.