Bereavement Services

Going through the grieving process

When death takes a person we love, it hurts us deeply – even if the death was expected. As much as we may try, we’re often unprepared for the emotions, thoughts and physical sensations that often come with grief.

Some helpful things you can do

Know what to expect

After losing someone close to you, you may experience a wide range of emotions. Many people report an initial feeling of numbness, but the process is unique for everyone. Don’t be surprised if you experience denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, sadness, yearning, anger, humiliation, despair and/or guilt.

You may not be prepared for the intensity and duration of your emotions, or how swiftly your moods change. You may even begin to doubt your mental stability. The physical impact of grief can take the form of changes in eating, sleeping, concentration and physical symptoms.

These feelings are natural and can help you come to terms with your loss. Although you never stop missing your loved one, the pain eases with time.

Mourn a loved one

Mourning is a natural part of the grieving process. It’s very personal and can last months or years. You may find comfort in religious traditions that honor the departed, or by sharing memories with friends and family. 

Grieving is the outward expression of your feelings about loss and can be expressed physically, emotionally and psychologically. For instance, crying is a physical expression, while depression is a psychological expression. It’s very important to allow yourself to express these feelings.

At first, you may want to separate yourself from the pain, but you can’t avoid grieving forever. These feelings will need to be resolved or they can cause physical or emotional illness that results in anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Experience grief

The intensity of your reaction is influenced by your relationship with the departed, and whether the death was sudden or accidental.

A child’s death arouses an overwhelming sense of injustice because we may think of the lost potential, unfulfilled dreams and senseless suffering of our child. Parents may feel responsible and as if they’ve lost a vital part of their identity. 

A spouse’s death is also traumatic. In addition to severe emotional shock, the death may require major social adjustments as the surviving spouse may have to parent alone, adjust to single life and carry the family’s financial stability.

Elderly people are especially vulnerable when they lose a spouse because it means losing a lifetime of shared experiences. Their feelings of loneliness can be compounded when close friends die, too.

Take time to grieve

After a loved one dies, allow yourself the time and space to grieve. There are many ways to cope effectively with your pain:

  • Seek out caring people
  • Express your feelings
  • Take care of your health
  • Exercise – walking can help boost your mood
  • Accept that life is for the living
  • Postpone major life changes

Be patient with the grieving process and seek outside help when necessary.

Help children grieve

Children who experience a major loss may grieve differently than adults. A parent’s death can be particularly difficult for small children, affecting their sense of security.

They may be confused about the changes taking place around them, particularly if well-meaning adults try to protect them from the truth or from their surviving parent’s expressions of grief.

Limited understanding and an inability to express feelings puts very young children at a disadvantage. They may revert to earlier behaviors such as bed-wetting and thumb-sucking, ask questions about the deceased, invent games about dying or pretend the death never happened. 

Coping with a child’s grief puts added strain on a bereaved parent. However, responding with anger or criticism only deepens a child’s anxiety and delays recovery. Instead, talk honestly with children in terms they can understand. Remember, children look to adults for examples of suitable behavior.

Look ahead

You can survive grief with support, patience and effort. Some day, the pain will lessen, leaving you with cherished memories of your loved one.