The death of someone close to us typically releases very personal emotions. Coping with grief is likely to vary considerably from one person to another and from one time to another.
How do I cope with grief?
The very personal nature of grief and bereavement means that there is no right or wrong way to cope with the emotions unleashed, explains guidance published by the NHS.
Our reactions are likely to be most powerful in response to the death of a loved one. Although just the one word “grief” is used to describe the process, it is not just one feeling, but likely to involve a whole jumble of emotions, cautions Cancer Research UK, before it becomes possible to understand and accept your loss.
Nevertheless, there is a general consensus among many experts that the process of grieving typically progresses through a number of identifiable stages:
- many authors, for example, accept that one of the first stages of grief is sheer denial. Even when a death has been foreseen, the event invariably comes as a shock – and one of the ways of simply surviving that shock is to deny its reality;
- you may feel numb, day by day passes in a daze, and you may find yourself tired, exhausted and crying a lot;
- accepting that the loss is real, that the event has happened, may be one of the first steps towards acceptance of the death;
- your response to the intense pain of grief is likely to be deep and seemingly interminable anger;
- feeling that pain and anger, however, may be part of the process of eventual acceptance before it goes away;
- adjusting to the reality of your loss may also involve a series of what might be called bargains – anything that might help you come around from the feelings of permanent daze;
- for those with a belief, the bargaining might call for some sort of deal with God – “if you let this happen, I will do that” – or a promise to yourself to change your ways in some fashion;
- this may be part of your way of adjusting to a new life in which the loved one is no longer around;
Depression and guilt
- it is not unusual to feel guilty – if there was only something you had done or not done, the loved one might not have died, you might have felt differently about it, or you might even feel guilty about surviving whilst the loved one passed away;
- hand in hand with that guilt is likely to be a profound depression – from which there seems no light at the end of the tunnel;
- accepting your grief is not the same as it having gone away forever – coping with grief means recognising the reality of the death, but also accepting that the way you feel is every bit as real;
- acceptance may mean your recognition that the grief never goes away and at some times of the year might come flooding back in all their raw emotion – such as those interviewed by the BBC on the 25th of December 2017, who describe Christmases without a loved one sharing in the occasion;
- some of the coping mechanisms for this acceptance of your continuing grief include talking to people, not just about how you feel but about the life of the person who has died and the experiences you shared with them;
Coping with grief is an intensely personal experience, and no two people are likely to encounter the same emotions. Recognising some of the stages of bereavement may help you negotiate the pain and suffering that paves the way to an eventual acceptance of living with your grief – and bereavement counselling may help in this process.