Bereavement can come in many different forms; the most recognised being the loss of a person, whether that is any family member, a close friend or acquaintance or someone who had an impact on your life in a more indirect way. There are, however, many more and sometimes complex forms of bereavement. The loss of a pet, often underestimated and trivialised. The loss of a job, a house, a way of life. Infertility, an often unseen and unspoken grief where the loss is not something that has necessarily been taken but something which might never be gained. All of these are real forms of bereavement and therefore each come with a tangible and poignant grief of their own. For the purpose of this article I will address grief in the form of the aftermath of losing a person but bear in mind it can be adjusted to fit any specific experience of bereavement.
You have just lost someone you love. Whether it was expected or unexpected, whether they were young or old and no matter the circumstances of their death; it is always painful and you always need to grieve.
So let yourself grieve. Give yourself time and allow yourself to feel the hurt that you are going through. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel hurt and cry and go through all of the emotions that come over you in this period. Do not bottle it up and try to force yourself to be okay.
Allow yourself to talk about the person you have lost. Remember your happy memories with them and all of the things you loved about them. It will be painful but it is important that you let yourself do this otherwise you will find yourself, years down the line unable to talk about them because you didn’t learn to and that will be another loss. If the other people around you who are also bereaved have difficulty talking about them; find a friend or someone who didn’t know them who you can open up to about the person you lost.
Speak to a bereavement counsellor if you need to. They can help you in a structured way and allow you to express your grief in a controlled environment. It’s okay to seek help with this and you are not weak if you do so.
Do not feel guilty when you smile, laugh, feel happiness or forget about them for a period. Although it is perfectly normal to go through this — you wonder how you can smile when they have died — you have to remember; what would that person want for you? For you to allow yourself to be happy again, even if it’s just for a moment. You have not negated your grief or your love for them by smiling.
Don’t take your pain and your grief out on other people. In the first period after you have suffered your bereavement, it will hurt and it will be a shock to find that life goes on as normal. The world still turns, people still complain about petty things and people go about their normal lives, very often smiling and laughing in public. This will offend you. People, even people that know the loss you have suffered, will go on as they were and this is okay. We can’t expect the world to stop because we have lost someone we love. Do not lash out or get angry at people for carrying on with their lives because you will feel even worse and regret it.
Do not think about things you wish you had said or done to/with that person. Do think about things you wish you had not said or done. Thinking in this way will damage you severely and so unnecessarily. This negative thought process will only torture you and you have to be forgiving of yourself. We all make mistakes but when it comes down to it, if you loved them then they knew that; if you care about them, they knew that. They knew because as humans we make mistakes but when it comes down to it we know how someone feels about us.
There is no magic way to deal with bereavement in which it takes away the pain and fast forwards you to a point in your life in which you have learnt to deal with your grief. There is no set time frame in which your grief will be lived out. The grief never completely goes away because ultimately, your love for that person will never go away. And that is your comfort. All we can do is learn to live with our grief. It will make you stronger, it may change your outlook on life. Nothing can change the past so we have to learn to live with the present and be hopeful for the future.