Coping with bereavement.
Bereavement is a very distressing but common experience. Sooner or later most of us will suffer the death of someone we love, yet in our everyday life we think and talk about death rarely. When we have to face someone’s death (especially for the first time), we can feel inexperienced in coping with this traumatic event and its aftermath. This page, copyright the Mothers Union, 2001, provides information about how to help with this acute experience, both for the person who has lost someone and for those who care for the bereaved.
Grief is a very individual experience and often, therefore, a lonely time. For some grief is very intense, whilst for others it is rather mild. Some of us grieve from the time we hear of the loss, others experience a delay before grief is felt. Some experience a short grieving period, whereas for others grief seems to go on forever. These experiences are determined by many factors. Each of us is, of course, affected by our own personality and personal history. Our grief is also influenced by the type of relationship we had with the deceased and by how the person died. In some cases where the relationship was difficult or contained unresolved issues, a more complicated grief pattern sets in.
Whatever our experience, bereavement can feel like an inescapable journey we have to endure. Some prefer to travel this path alone dealing with their own feelings. Others deal with loss by talking to friends or family. Often, however, the support of a counsellor or chaplain is a valid opportunity to talk to a third party who, unlike friends and relatives, is not emotionally involved. In counselling, the bereaved may, if they wish, address the painful feelings of loss, talk of the deceased and of ongoing reactions to losing him or her (or in some cases, where more than one person has died).
It is common in our grief to feel our experience is unlike anyone else’s – to feel abnormal, silly, overemotional or as though we are losing our grip on life. To the left are some of the feelings we, or others around us, may experience in grief.
When there are difficulties between family members following a bereavement:
A death in the family can bring people together but it can also create tensions and strains, such as reawakening rivalries and unresolved problems between brothers and sisters, father and mother, parents and children, and between partners. How each member of the family copes affects all the other members and, if support does not seem to be apparent, it can add to the pain and suffering already being endured.
Money, property, belongings, wills and last wishes or the lack of, can become very difficult to deal with and it can sometimes be more shocking and painful to see how family members react in these situations than it can be to cope with the actual death. Sometimes, extra help from a third party is needed, even if only to talk and admit what the problems within the family are.
Healing and coping
Often we fear feeling a bit better as we imagine this means we are forgetting and betraying the deceased. But eventually the pain may become less or will occur less frequently; this does not mean we didn’t care, because when we lose someone we love there may always be a gap in our heart. Healing means that we start to feel `normal` again and we begin to feel more able to cope with life.
We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.