Talk It Out

Bereavement and mourning death

Bereavement is the grieving period after a loved one’s death. Bereavement, or grief, is a normal process where humans react to a death. Grief can be experienced as a social, mental, emotional or physical reaction. Bereavement is a natural part of life, as sooner or later everyone will experience the death of someone that they love. However, death, and coping with death isn’t usually something discussed. Thus, we are armed with very little information about what is normal, what to expect and how to cope during a time of bereavement. During this time, it is important to surround yourself with supportive loving people, and at times bereavement counselling will be necessary to help you process the loss.

What to expect during a bereavement period

When grieving you may initially feel empty and numb during a period of shock. You may also experience physical reactions to your grief including nausea, trouble breathing, trembling, trouble sleeping, muscle weakness, or trouble eating. Emotionally you may become angry, extremely sad and anxious. Many people also feel extremely guilty during the bereavement period. Moreover, you may also be absent-minded, socially withdraw, lack the desire to work, or experience strange dreams while grieving. While these feelings are all normal, they will all pass when you have finished grieving your loss. A loose guideline for what to expect during your bereavement period are the seven stages of grief. You won’t necessarily experience all of these emotions, or in the order that they are listed, or even one at a time; but you are likely to experience them all at some point during the grieving process. These stages include:

  1. Shock and denial
  2. Pain and guilt
  3. Anger and bargaining
  4. Depression, loneliness and reflection
  5. The upward turn
  6. Reconstruction
  7. Acceptance and hope

One cannot put a time on how long the grieving period lasts, as it will vary from one case to the next. Your grief will last as long as it takes for you to come to terms with your loss, and learn to live with it. For some people this can take several months, for others it can take years before they can accept and live with their loss. There are many factors to take into account for the length of time it will take you to grieve your loss, for example, your personality, health, coping methods, family, life experiences or culture. Grieving time also depends on how prepared you were for the loss and your relationship with the person you’ve lost.

You will know that you have moved through this period of bereavement after you have accepted the loss of your loved one, you have worked through your grief and felt the physical or emotional pain that comes with it, you have adjusted to living with out the person you’ve lost, and you have successfully moved forward with you life. Once you have worked through these steps you will have completed the grieving process. It is important to be patient and confident in the knowledge that over time you will emerge from this period of bereavement.

If you are struggling to come to terms with the death of a loved one you may need bereavement counselling. Contact Louw Alberts in the Centurion, Pretoria area for expert help with bereavement.

Louw Alberts is an experienced psychologist.

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