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Bereavement is the emotional pain and grief experienced as a result of a loss or death. Bereavement leaves a longing for the person or pet who has gone and affects our physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing. Adjustment to the loss can take many years with overriding feelings of pain and grief.
Bereavement is the term given to the loss of loved one through death. On the death of friend, family member or pet, we enter a mourning process that triggers feelings of anger, sadness and numbness. Physical problems can also begin such as a loss of energy, poor appetite and sleeping difficulties. When bereaved, a person will grieve and there are various stages of grief experienced over weeks, months or even years.
The grieving process is the body's way of coping and accepting loss enabling you to carry on with your own life. If a person doesn't grieve properly after the death, or within a short space of time afterwards, feelings remain bottled up leading to emotional, physical and psychological problems later.
Grief is a painful process that needs to be experienced in order to help emotional and physical wellbeing in the future.
The symptoms of bereavement are typically experienced during the different stages of grief after the death of a loved one. The stages of grief, although not distinct, do have an overlapping period between each one. Grief and its associated symptoms are explained below:
Shock / Emotionally numb This is usually the first stage of grief after a bereavement and is an initial reaction to loss. Feeling shocked and emotionally numb can last days, weeks or longer in some cases. This stage allows the mind and body to cope with making arrangements for funerals or dealing with family issues surrounding the death. While the feelings are practical at the time, if left for too long it can become a problem.
Yearning Once the shock and emotional numbness has passed, it can be replaced with a yearning for the loved one who has died. People often spot the face of the person who has died in a crowd or when the phone rings expect it to be them on the other end of the line. For people who have lost a pet, they often imagine seeing their pet walking past them out of the corner of their eye or feel a deep yearning at feed times when they'd usually expect to see their pet.
Anger and agitation During bereavement, the anger stage of grief gives rise to feelings of guilt, resentment and strong emotions about the person who has died. You may find it difficult to concentrate or sleep as you dwell on past arguments or situations and emotions you didn't have the chance to share when they were alive.
Sadness and withdrawal The anger and agitation stage is a period of strong emotions and usually gives way to intense sadness and withdrawal from social interaction with friends and family. The sadness can trigger tearful outbursts especially when memories or reminders of the loved one are experienced.
Coping In time, the intense pain and sadness you feel after a bereavement lessens and life takes on a more positive note. Loss should still be acknowledged but you'll learn to live with it and find coping mechanisms that allow you to heal mentally and emotionally.
Letting go Seen as the final stage, letting go of the loved one who has died will allow you to carry on living in a normal way although life is not the same as before. Sleep and energy levels usually return to normal.
There is no timescale in which these stages take place and each person experiences grief from a bereavement in different ways. Knowing the stages of grief can help you to understand your emotions and moods and recognise what you're feeling is normal. If for any reason your grief is totally overwhelming and you're not moving on then you should seek the help of a healthcare professional.
You can usually self-diagnose bereavement as you go through the intense feelings of the loss of a loved one. Because we all experience bereavement in different ways and under different circumstances the normal stages of grief can give way to serious mental difficulties such as depression or suicidal thoughts.
Healthcare experts have discovered that the risks of a difficult grieving process increase if:
You live alone with no support from family or friends
You have unresolved personal issues with the person who has died
A disaster or murder was the cause of the death
You can't attend the funeral or are unable to have a funeral (such as when a person goes missing)
The death was sudden and unexpected
You're the child of a parent who has died
A miscarriage has led to the death of your baby
Your baby has died suddenly
The death was a suicide
You were responsible for the death
Multiple deaths (car accidents etc.)
These circumstances can lead to serious mental health issues that will require a diagnosis from your GP and a referral to a psychological specialist such as a Psychotherapist or Counsellor.
We always advise with any conditions, ailment or health problem you take independent medical advice from your GP before considering a complementrary therapy, alternative medicine or alternative treatment.