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For most of us, bereavement will be the most distressing experience we will ever face. Grief is what we feel when somebody we are close to dies. Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no 'normal' or 'right' way to grieve. You may feel a number of things immediately after a death.
Shock: It may take you a long time to grasp what has happened. The shock can make you numb, and some people at first carry on as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. Many people feel disorientated - as if they have lost their place and purpose in life or are living in a different world.
Pain: Feelings of pain and distress following bereavement can be overwhelming and very frightening.
Anger: Sometimes bereaved people can feel angry. This anger is a completely natural emotion, typical of the grieving process. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together. We may also feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.
Guilt: Guilt is another common reaction. People who have been bereaved of someone close often say they feel directly or indirectly to blame for the person’s death. You may also feel guilt if you had a difficult or confusing relationship with the person who has died, or if you feel you didn’t do enough to help them when they were alive.
Depression: Many bereaved people experience feelings of depression following the death of someone close. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning and some people say they too want to die.
Longing: Thinking you are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when you least expect it. You may find that you can't stop thinking about the events leading up to the death. "Seeing" the person who has died and hearing their voice can happen because the brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it.
Other people's reactions: One of the hardest things to face when we are bereaved is the way other people react to us. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to our loss. Because they don't know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing, people can avoid those who have lost someone. This is hard for us because we may well want to talk about the person who has died. It can become especially hard as time goes on and other people's memories of the person who has died fade.If you know someone who is grieving the death of someone close you may wonder how best to support them.
People who have been bereaved may want to talk about the person who has died.
One of the most helpful things you can do is simply listen, and give them time and space to grieve.
Offering specific practical help, not vague general offers, can also be very helpful.
Be there for the person who is grieving - pick up the phone, write a letter or an email, call by or arrange to visit.
Accept that everyone grieves in their own way, there is no 'normal' way.
Encourage the person to talk.
Listen to the person.
Create an environment in which the bereaved person can be themselves and show their feelings, rather than
having to put on a front.
Be aware that grief can take a long time.
Contact the person at difficult times such as special anniversaries and birthdays.
Mention useful support agencies such as Cruse.
Offer useful practical help.
Avoid someone who has been bereaved.
Use clichés such as 'I understand how you feel'; 'You'll get over it ; 'Time heals'.
Tell them it's time to move on, they should be over it - how long a person needs to grieve is entirely individual.
Be alarmed if the bereaved person doesn’t want to talk or demonstrates anger.
Underestimate how emotionally draining it can be when supporting a grieving person. Make sure you take care of yourself too.For many children and young people the death of a parent, caregiver, sibling or grandparent is an experience they are faced with early in life. Sometimes people think a child or young person who is bereaved at a young age will not be greatly affected, as they are too young to understand the full implications of death. This is untrue and unhelpful. Even babies are able to experience loss. A baby cannot cognitively process the implications of the bereavement but that does not mean that they do not feel the loss.
Children and young people need to be given the opportunity to grieve as any adult would. Trying to ignore or avert the child’s grief is not protective and can be damaging. Children and young people regardless of their age need to be encouraged to talk about how they are feeling and supported to understand their emotions.
Coping and adapting- When someone close to us dies we have to cope and adjust to living in a world which is irreversibly changed. We may have to let go of some dreams built up and shared with the person who has died.The length of time it will take a person to accept the death of someone close and move forward is varied and will be unique to the mourner. How we react will be influenced by many different things, including:
previous experiences of bereavement
No one can tell you how or when the intensity of your grief will lessen; only you will know when this happens. It is not unusual for bereaved people to think they are finally moving towards acceptance only to experience the strong and often unwelcome emotions they experienced shortly after the death.
Life will never be the same again after a bereavement, but the grief and pain should lessen. There should come a time when you are able to adapt and adjust and cope with life without the person who has died. The pain of bereavement has been compared to that of losing a limb. We may adapt to life without the limb but we continue to feel its absence. When a person we are close to dies we can find meaning in life again, but without forgetting their meaning for us
Many people worry that they will forget the person who has died; how they looked, their voice, or the good times they had together. There are, however, many ways you can keep their memory alive.A traumatic loss is one that is sudden, unexpected, and often results from horrific or frightening circumstances. Here we provide information for those affected by natural disaster, terrorist attack, suicide and other traumatic losses.
Bereavement through murder or manslaughter may be particularly difficult to come to terms with. Feelings of unfairness, disbelief and despair may be heightened and you may encounter unwanted intrusion and interest from your community. You may feel that you have little control over the public interest shown towards the death of the person you were close to and this can lead to self isolation and separation from your family, friends, community and wider society.
You may feel numb as if this isn’t happening to you. You may feel there has been a mistake. Such feelings of disbelief and shock are completely natural responses. You may keep asking why it happened and spend lots of time asking yourself if you could have prevented it. You may ask why wasn’t it you who died.
Anger and the need for revenge are also common reactions. It is OK to be angry, to feel cheated or to have ideas about revenge, as long as you recognise that such emotions are just that – emotions. If you feel overwhelmed by these thoughts please speak to someone whom you trust.
Everyone grieves in a different way. There are no rights and wrongs. Emotions may seem so all consuming and terrifying that you feel you are losing control or are “going mad”. This is completely natural, you probably won’t have felt such strong emotions before and their intensity and depth can make you feel overwhelmed. If the perpetrator has yet to be apprehended or is unknown you may feel frightened and at risk. This again is a natural reaction experienced by many people who have been bereaved through violent crime. It is important that you share you worries and fears with people whom you trust.
Police investigations-A death through murder or manslaughter will often result in police investigations, a post mortem, trials and court attendance. You may feel frightened and frustrated by what seems like a never ending cycle of procedures. You may feel that you have to put your grief on hold whilst focusing on court attendances and other procedures.
Media attention - There is often media attention following a violent crime or homicide, and the person who has died can become “public property”. This is a difficult and often frustrating experience for people who are trying to grieve in private. You may feel you have lost “ownership” of the person who has died and may feel that they are being spoken about unkindly or inaccurately.
What can help?
Talking to family, friends, someone who has had similar experiences, your GP or a support organisation such as Cruse.
Recognising that the initial reactions of anger, shock and fear will lessen in time.
Remembering that you will have bad days and better days as you grieve.
Holding a memorial service or other ritual of remembrance.
Looking after yourself.
Accepting that you are not to blame for the death.
Taking time to do things that you like doing.When someone we love dies by suicide, the grieving process can be more complex and even more difficult to resolve.
Grief is a natural process, but it can be devastating. Most people will cope with help and support from family and friends. For those who need additional specialist help, we offer free confidential support for adults and children, and this can be by telephone, email or face-to-face.
Befrienders Kenya has started a support group for the people who have been bereaved or have lost a loved one through suicide to share their experiences and feelings, helping the bereaved cope with the loss of their loved ones as well as dealing with stigma and other factors emanating from death through suicide.
We aim to support you through this difficult time and hope that you will find some comfort and reassurance.
We are here for you
Contact us now - if you don't want to give your name, type Anon
From the depths of old internet comments comes another incredible gem of a story. One user wrote the following heartfelt plea online:
"My friend just died. I don't know what to do."
The rest of the post has been deleted, only the title remains. However, the helpful responses live on, and one of them was absolutely incredible. The reply by this self-titled "old guy" might just change the way you approach life and death.
I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not.
I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents...
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.
Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.
As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too.
If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.
Breavement by suicide includes confusion, guilt and shame and isolation.
The following suggestions may help you cope if you've lost a loved one through suicide.
Set aside some time each day for grieving so that you can cry, remember the dead person, pray or meditate.
Record your feelings, thoughts and memories in a journal. Writing may help you gain some control over intense emotions and so reduce their power.
Take care of yourself. When you are able, set aside time for things that you used to enjoy. This is not disloyal and will help you cope with your grief.
Exercise should help you feel better emotionally and will make you physically tired so that you sleep better.
Meditation, relaxation techniques, massage and listening to music can help reduce the emotional and physical stress of bereavement.
Some people find it helps to express their feelings through writing poetry or painting. Other creative activities can also be healing and restorative.
Avoid making major decisions, like disposing of the person’s belongings, soon after the death. You may not be thinking clearly and may do things you later regret.
Birthdays and the anniversary of the death can be difficult. Talk to other family members and plan in advance how you want to spend the day.
You may feel particularly down when the tasks of planning the funeral and sorting out the affairs of the person who died are over. Ask for help if you need it.
Alcohol or drugs may provide short-term relief from painful feelings, but they delay grieving and can cause depression and poor health.
If you are feeling depressed (which may affect your sleep, appetite and lead to suicidal thoughts), get help from your GP.
You may prefer to seek support from people other than friends or family.
If someone close to you has taken their own life, there may be unwelcome publicity, prejudice or hostility against the act of suicide, which could leave you feeling isolated and unsupported. You may feel angry with the person who died for causing so much pain, for not dealing with their problems in a different way or seeking more help. You may feel they have robbed you of a future you wanted them to share with you. You may also feel guilty that you couldn’t prevent them from wanting to take their own life. If the death followed long periods of distress, and perhaps previous suicide attempts, you may have a sense of relief that the person’s suffering is over and they are now at peace, but you may still find it hard to cope with. Grieving and dealing with the changes which follow any loss is never easy. People often experience unpredictable extremes of emotion, feel insecure, and at times feel out of control. When someone has taken their own life you may feel so low that you even have suicidal thoughts yourself. You may want to talk through any such upsetting thoughts and feelings with someone you trust – a friend, someone in your family, perhaps with your GP or a trained volunteer from Befrienders Kenya. Different people can help at different times, and so can different activities or simply taking time out to be alone with your thoughts and feelings.
Bereavement through drugs or alcohol can often be a very confusing and distressing experience. It can include accidental or intentional deaths (through overdose), or a death that has come about through long term drug or alcohol use. There are many specific issues that someone who is bereaved in this way may face during their grief:
The legal processes surrounding a death by drugs or alcohol can be complex, lengthy and something about which the bereaved person will have had no previous experience, all of which can be extremely overwhelming at such a distressing time.
People who experience drug and alcohol related bereavement often face social stigma and isolation. Many feel that the death is not ‘worthy’ in the eyes of society, and that their grief and bereavement cannot be manifest publically with the same legitimacy afforded those who lose a loved one to a long-standing health issue or old age.
Additional difficulties may stem from the behaviour of the person before their death which may have lead to strained relationships, and leave the bereaved person with ambivalent feelings towards the death.
Sometimes the bereaved person will not have known that the deceased was taking drugs, so the death will be entirely unexpected.
Family members who have experienced this bereavement say: "I was made to feel ashamed, but he was my son and I loved him", “ it was horrific", and “I'm in despair, I'm angry and sad: I have a friend whose son died of cancer and it's totally different; she can just be sad".
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