Grieving is a natural process that can take place after any kind of loss. When a loved one passes away this can be a very overpowering emotion that has to run its course.
There are a whole succession of different feelings that can take some time to go through and must not be hurried.
Although people are all individuals, the order in which they go through these feelings is similar.
For some hours or days following the death of someone who is close, most people feel totally stunned, a feeling of disbelief is common, even if the death has been expected, say after a long illness. However, this feeling of emotional numbness can be a help in dealing with the various arrangements that have to be made. Still, this detachment from reality can be a problem if it goes on for too long.
To overcome this, it can help to see the person who has died. Sometimes it is not until the actual funeral, that the reality of what has happened finally sinks in.
Although it may be distressing to attend the funeral or to see the body, it is important to say goodbye to the ones we loved. It is often the case, for people who did not do this to experience a great feeling of regret for years to come.
After the feeling of numbness has gone it is often replaced by a sense of agitation and a yearning for the person who has died.
This can affect the bereaved in their everyday life, it may be difficult to relax, concentrate or even sleep properly. Some people experience extremely disturbing dreams, others say that they can see their loved ones everywhere they go, more commonly in the places that they used to spend time together. It is also quite usual to feel anger at this time – towards doctors and medical staff for not preventing the death, towards people around them such as relatives, or even towards the person who has left them.
Another quite common feeling is guilt. It is likely that the bereaved will go over in their mind all the things they wished that they had said or done, in some cases they may even consider what they could have done to prevent the death. Of course, death is usually beyond the control of anyone, and they must be reminded of this.
Guilt is often experienced if a sense of relief is felt when someone has died particularly after a distressing illness. This feeling of relief is perfectly natural and very common and is nothing to feel guilty about. These strong, confusing emotions are generally followed by periods of sadness and depression.
Grief can be sparked off many months after the death by things that bring back memories.
It can be difficult for the other people to understand or cope with someone who bursts into tears for no apparent reason. Some people who cannot deal with this tend to stay away at the time when they are most needed. It is best to return to a normal life as soon as possible, try to resume normal activities.
The phrase “Time is a great healer” is in most cases certainly true, however, the pain of losing a loved one never entirely disappears, nor should it be expected to.
For the bereaved partners there are constant reminders of their singleness – seeing other couples together and from images seen on television of happy families. All this can make it difficult to adjust to a new, single lifestyle.
The different stages of mourning tend to overlap and can show themselves in various ways. There is no “standard” way of grieving as we, being individuals, have our own ways of dealing with all life’s trials not least the loss of someone we love.
The Dove Service
The Dudson Centre Hope Street Hanley
Stoke on Trent Staffordshire ST1 5DD
Cruse Bereavement Care
A Child’s Questions about Death
Death is the name we give a very confusing part of life. We know that plants die in winter. We know that animals die too. We can understand that is the way nature works. But it is much, much harder to understand why people die, especially someone we love.
When someone we love dies, we may feel terribly sad and want to cry, or feel afraid, or even angry. Learning about this part of life can help us feel much better. Here are some of the questions that children ask about death.
Dying is a natural part of life. All living things – plants, animals, even people – are special parts of the natural world. Nature almost always gives us long, healthy lives. Like all other living things, though, people grow old and reach the end of their life. This is called death or dying.
Many times, they do. Yet sometimes, even though they have tried their best, someone dies. Doctors help people live long, healthy lives. Because of what doctors have learned, people live much longer now than they did when your grandparents were children. Hospitals help people too. Doctors and nurses work in hospitals to make sick and injured people better. People go to hospitals to become healthy, not to die.
Some people believe that when someone dies, part of that person lives on and goes to Heaven. This part of us is not like a heart or brain or any other part of us that doctors have to take care of. It is the part of us that lets us feel love and happiness. It never gets sick. It never wears out. This part of us is called spirit, or the soul. Lots of people all over the world believe that when they die their spirits, or souls, live on. We cannot see someone’s spirit. We cannot see Heaven either. But we have faith in them. Faith is believing in something that we cannot see or measure.
Doctors tell us that death is not usually painful. Dying is almost always quiet. When someone dies in an accident, they often feel no pain at all because death comes so quickly. When someone is sick or hurt for a long time before death, special medicines can take away much of the pain.
Death is never a punishment. It is almost always natural. Time or illness wears out important parts of our bodies. After many, many years these parts cannot work anymore. People die when these parts – the heart, for example – stop working. Sometimes sickness makes our bodies stop working before a person becomes old. This is not a punishment though. A person dies when an important part of their body wears out and stops working.
Sometimes death does not seem fair.
Almost everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, is loved by others. Almost everyone will be missed by others when they die. Right now, someone just like you somewhere else in the world is asking the same question: why did someone I love have to die?
People who are dead look as if they are sleeping but dying is nothing like sleep. People – animals too – sleep to rest and stay healthy. Sleep gives hard-working parts of our bodies’ time to store up strength. Think of how good you feel after sleeping. You feel good because your body is rested and ready for another day. When someone dies, their body stops working. It is not resting. Its job is over.
Sometimes, but not often, death comes to a child. Illness can make this happen. So can a very bad accident. A young person’s death makes us feel especially unhappy. We feel that it isn’t fair. We feel that everyone should live a long, happy life. We know that we will miss a young friend, or sister, or brother more than we might miss anyone else. We may even feel sad because we sometimes argued or fought with that child. All these feelings are normal. Every young person has them, just as you do. But you must leave room for other feelings too. Remember that you often made that child happy. Maybe you did argue once in a while. All friends and family do that. But all friends and family love each other too. Even though that child’s life was not as long as yours will be, it was a mostly happy life, because of loving people like you.
Most grown-ups are strong and healthy. They will live until they are incredibly old. Sometimes though, a grown-up’s heart or other important part of their body stops working. Being big and strong doesn’t always help. It is not the person’s fault. It is not your fault. Remember this too: probably no other grown-up you love will die before they become old.
It is natural to cry and feel sad when someone you love dies. You miss them. You may feel lonely. You may feel confused too. Most people – not just children – feel the same way when someone they love dies. Sadness is something like the pain you feel when you hurt yourself. At first it hurts very much. But it will hurt less each day. Sooner than you think it will be gone. Then you will be able to think about the person who has died without feeling sad. Right now, you are trying to understand more about death. This will take some of your sadness away. It helps to ask questions. It also helps very much to tell your family and friends how you feel. It helps most of all not to pretend. If you are sad, don’t pretend you are not. If you are not sad, don’t try to feel that way.
No one knows how long he or she will live. We do know that we will not live forever. (Imagine how crowded the world would be if people lived forever!) We know that when we grow old, death gets closer. This does not mean that people worry all their lives about growing old and dying. As we grow older, we learn more about living and dying.
Probably a long, long time. Almost everyone does.
Unhappiness can sometimes make us feel sick for a while. But almost no one dies because they are unhappy. Remember the times when you have been unhappy? Sooner or later, you feel better again. You are able to smile and laugh again. Everyone goes through times like this. It has nothing to do with dying.
One of the nicest things about being a person, is that we feel love for another person. This doesn’t end when that person dies. Funerals can help us to cry and say our goodbyes to someone we love. They are for sharing loving feelings about someone who has died. They give us the chance to remember with others the goodness and joy that person brought to our lives. This takes away some of the sadness that we feel. It also helps us understand how much others care too.
When people die, they don’t need their bodies and cannot feel pain any more. After someone dies, we put their body in a coffin, which is a wooden box made especially for them. They are taken to a cemetery or crematorium. These are places where we can say goodbye to the person we love. A cemetery is a quiet place where we can come and think about the person we loved. After we have said our goodbyes, their coffin is put in the ground. Some people prefer to be taken to the crematorium after they have died. Here their bodies are made into ashes which can then be scattered in a special place. This place might be in the gardens at the crematorium, or in a wood, on a hill or wherever they especially liked to be.
As we grow up, we learn more about many things in life, not just death. Think of all the things you have learned already! By the time you are grown-up, you will have learned much, much more. The more we learn about life, the better we are able to understand that part of it we call death or dying. It won’t be as confusing as it is now. It won’t be as hard to talk or think about. You have already learned some important things about this part of life. You probably won’t forget them. What you have learned will help you all your life.