Coping with life after the death of someone close to you can be very hard. We explain some of the feelings you may have and suggest ways of dealing with them over the first few months of the grieving process.
Grief is a normal response to loss. It often brings physical and emotional pain. Shock, anger, guilt, regret, numbness and loneliness are some emotions that most people feel. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to take away the pain. Grief is something you have to work through. There is no set time to say when you will feel better. Sometimes you might find that you take two steps forwards and then three steps backwards.
If you have been expecting someone close to you to die, at first you may feel numb. This is nature’s way of helping you realise and accept the death. If the death is sudden and unexpected, your reaction may be disbelief. It may take time to understand what has happened and you may feel a great deal of pain because you have not had the chance to say goodbye.
You may find yourself expecting your loved one to suddenly arrive and hear familiar sounds like their key in the door, or feel their presence in the room. Accept these things as part of the process of grieving, which will eventually lead you through this terrible time.
Physical signs of grief
Some people are affected physically by the death of their loved one. Some people can’t sit still and become hyperactive. Others have headaches, shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, lack of concentration or depression. Some find it difficult to sleep and some experience bad dreams.
But don’t be alarmed – it’s unlikely that you will suffer any of these symptoms. It is just important to realise that an emotional shock can produce physical symptoms. You should speak to your doctor if you have any symptoms over a period of time.
Do not be afraid of crying or showing emotion. Tears relieve emotional stress and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Most people have times when they feel angry – angry that they have been left or that the doctor did not prevent the death, or angry that the life was not fulfilled and that there are plans left unfinished.
You might also feel guilt. ‘If only…’ is a very common feeling and is natural after a death. Talking about these feelings with a close friend or member of the family may help you.
The way forward
Many people choose to withdraw from social contact, feeling unable to face the outside world. You may feel like this, but grieving is difficult enough without having to do it all on your own. Allow yourself time to grieve and adjust to your new situation. Always take time before making any major decisions such as moving house. The most important healing can come from talking. It may help to go over what happened many times with family and friends. Talking about your feelings may also help. A professional counsellor or people like the Samaritans will have the time and understanding to talk to you. You will never get over it, but in time you will come to terms with what has happened.
Try to recognise the danger signs of becoming too dependent on tranquillisers or alcohol. You may find keeping a diary or writing down your thoughts helpful, and you never need to show your writing to anyone.
Visit our Helpful organisations page for a list of services such as Cruse Bereavement Care that provide advice and support for people who have experienced the death of a loved one.