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How do I cope with the emotions caused by bereavement?

Posted by Be Well

How do I cope with the emotions caused by bereavement?
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When a loved one dies, it may feel as though your life has changed forever, whatever the circumstances surrounding the death.

The loss of a friend or family member can be very difficult to come to terms with, and you may find that you go through a variety of emotions, and sometimes not even understand your own feelings.

Everybody deals with grief differently. Don't ever feel as though you should be feeling or acting a certain way. It's best to go with your own emotions, accept that this is the way you feel, and find ways to get through it.

There is no time limit on grief, it may take months, years or even longer to come to terms with your loss.


If the death was unexpected, you may find it difficult to accept it has happened. Denial, shock, panic, anger and confusion are all common after sudden losses.

If a family member or friend was living with a long illness, you may even find that you feel relief or acceptance at their passing.

Deep sadness, hurt, loneliness, feeling loss, exhaustion and tiredness are all common as the loss gradually sinks in. There is no time limit to grieve; it may be that one day you feel better and more able to cope, while on other days you find it hard to even get out of bed.

These constant emotional ups and downs make day-to-day life very difficult. It can be tough to get back to the practicalities of your normal life. Life can seem too much, and it can be difficult to deal with problems and challenges in a way you once did.

Back to life

Some people find that they want to get back to work, school or 'normal' life as soon as possible, as a way of keeping busy and carrying on. Others find that they need time to themselves, to let the enormity of the loss sink in, before they can venture back into their lives.

Talk to your employer about your situation. You may be able to take compassionate leave or unpaid holiday. Do what feels best for you and your family.

Grieving is a process which takes time. You may never get over the loss of someone you care about. But you come to terms with it and learn how to cope with it.

It is important that you are patient with yourself and those around you. Losing someone you love is the most difficult part of life, no one expects you to bounce straight back as though nothing has happened.

It may be painful, but it may help to recall happy memories of the person. Remembering them as they were may help you to smile through your grief. Try talking about them or looking at pictures. You could gather mementoes of them and make a memory book.

Don't feel rushed to move their belongings. Clothes and possessions can be painful reminders at first, but over time you and others may value them as memories.

Only sort through belongings when you are ready. It may prove to be very difficult and you may feel deep pain at selling or throwing out the person's possessions. So think about whether you want someone there, or whether you need to do it by yourself.

You may like to keep something, such as a favorite t-shirt. Often bereaved people hold onto an item of clothing as a reminder of their loved one's special smell. When you do feel ready to sort out belongings, bear in mind that others might like something as a special keepsake.

Visiting the grave or place where the ashes were scattered might help you to feel close to the person. Laying flowers, talking at the graveside and writing messages are all ways of remembering, paying your respects, and 'showing' the person you still think of them, which can be very comforting.

Look after yourself

After bereavement it can seem like the sparkle has gone from life. You may feel less interested and enthusiastic about work, socializing and general life. Remember that it is now more important than ever to look after yourself and stay healthy.

Try to eat regularly and eat well. Eating healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables will keep your body healthy, and give you the strength you need to cope.

Don't turn to alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings, as these will only make you feel worse in the long run. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself.

If you have trouble sleeping, speak with your doctor about treatments and techniques to help you relax and sleep.

Gentle exercise such as getting out for a walk in the fresh air, going swimming or to the gym can help to clear your mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and keep you fit and healthy.

General stress relief techniques may help to soothe you and calm you down. Often bereavement causes feelings of panic, extreme anxiety and worry for the future. So it may help if you can find a way to relieve your stress. Try reading your favorite book, watching a DVD, listening to music you find relaxing, a hot bath or massage.

Talking can help

Sometimes after bereavement, people don't know how to express their deep feelings. This can lead to feeling that they are 'bottling things up' which, in the long run, can increase stress and unhappiness.

Try writing down your feelings before you go to bed, as a way of clearing your mind before you sleep. You could write a letter to the person who has died, telling them how you feel and what you miss about them. Getting your feelings out into the open, however you do it, may help you to deal with your grief.

It may help to talk through your feelings with someone you trust. You could talk to a friend or family member about your memories of the person, what you miss about them, how you are feeling, and what you can do to cope.

If talking to someone close to you is a problem because you are worried you will upset them, or they are finding it difficult to cope themselves, then you can seek professional help.

You could also speak with your doctor who can refer you to a counselor. Talking to a trained professional could help you identify your feelings and work through them.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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