Grieving is a natural process that will take place after any kind of loss. When a loved one passes away there will be a very overpowering emotion that has to run its natural course.

The days following the loss of a loved one

There is a whole succession of different feelings that can take some time to go through and must no be hurried. Although people are all individuals, the order in which they go through these feelings is broadly 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 period of illness. However this feeling of emotional numbness can actually be a help in dealing with the various practical arrangements that have to be made, although this detachment from reality can become 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.

Feelings you may experience

Although it may be distressing to attend the funeral or to see the body, it is important to say goodbye to the one we loved. People who do not do this sometimes 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 actually 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 angry at this time – towards doctors and medical staff for not preventing the death, towards people around them such as friends and relatives, or even towards the person who has left them.

Another very common feeling is guilt. It is likely that the bereaved will go over in the 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 have prevented 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 had died, particularly 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 felt for about two weeks or so after the death and 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 other people to understand or cope with someone who bursts into tears for no apparent reason. Some people who can’t deal with this tend to stay away at the time when they are needed most of all.

Returning to normal life

It is best to return to a normal life as soon as possible and 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 partner there are constant reminders of singleness. Seeing other couples and families 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 of life’s trials, not least the loss of someone we love.

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