Coping with bereavement
Coping with bereavement is never easy. While everyone knows death is a certainty, very few people understand the stages of bereavement and how to cope with it.
Stages of bereavement.
The first stage is the hours and weeks after the death of a loved one, which is a sense of shock, disbelief and numbness.
The second stage occurs when a person begins to accept the loss intellectually and emotionally. This period is marked by intense physical and emotional pain, with feelings of guilt and anger and physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, headaches and loss of appetite. The person will usually find a way to maintain the relationship they had with a loved one through their memory, thoughts and/or actions.
While the intense pain begins to subside, feelings of pain and loneliness often persist for much longer. This period can take many months, during which the person learns about life without their loved one.
The final stage begins with getting back to organising life. The final stage of grief is the person recognising that they have grieved and that life goes on. The person gradually re-engages in all aspects of life, takes on old roles and resumes new roles where necessary.
If you are aware that you cannot escape the pain of grief and bereavement, there are a number of coping mechanisms worth considering:
Seek support Support groups provide an environment where people can share their experiences and know that others in the group understand and can provide information about community support specific to your location. Let friends and family know what you are going through and make sure you are included in family events.
Look after your health Keeping your health up is important for healing and for avoiding depression as a result of bereavement. Avoid alcohol, if possible, to alleviate sleep problems and pain, as it can impede the grief process and become destructive.
Resume normal activities Get back into a daily routine of activities and events which helps in adjusting to life without your loved one.
One of the most informative sites for information on bereavement and grieving is the website for The Centre for Grief Education which is the largest provider of grief and bereavement education in Australia.
Grieflink is a resource on death related grief for the community and professionals that provides information on coping with grief and helping the bereaved.