How might you feel?

How might you feel?

Even when we may know or expect that someone is going to die, it can sometimes still be a shock when it actually happens, and our responses may come as a surprise to us. Alternatively, it may be that you have experienced a sudden and totally unexpected death as a result of an unexpected and rapidly progressing illness.

Listed below are some of the feelings and experiences often described by those we support in bereavement. These responses can feel heightened following sudden and traumatic events that leave us feeling powerless and vulnerable.

You may identify with all of them, some of them or none of them at all. It is common to experience a whole range of intense emotions that can feel as if they come and go in waves and there are no rights or wrongs in how we find ourselves grieving.

You may experience:

• Feeling frozen, or strangely calm
• Crying uncontrollably or not being able to cry at all
• Swinging between belief and disbelief. Turning to speak to the person who has died, hearing their voice or thinking that you have seen them
• Difficulty sleeping, eating or concentrating
• Feelings of restlessness, anxiety, panic or painful, anxiety-provoking flashbacks
• Feeling remote from the people around you, even from close friends and family
• Feeling isolated and alone
• Experiencing a loss of confidence
• A feeling of lethargy or the opposite, a compulsion to keep busy
• Feeling that life has no purpose or meaning any more
• Feelings of guilt about what you did or didn’t do
• Feelings of anger directed at anyone, or everyone, perhaps including yourself or even the person who has died
• You may find yourself feeling very concerned for your own health and the health of others close to you.

All these feelings, and more, are a normal and natural part of grieving and will often accompany feelings of sadness, longing and fear about the future. For some, there may be feelings of relief at knowing their loved one is no longer suffering.

Over time, these distressing feelings should lessen or feel more manageable. However, adjusting to the changes that bereavement brings can be a slow process for some people.