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Is my grief normal?

February 2022

Family Support

Most of us will at some point in our lives experience the death of someone close to us.

Louise Tilney, bereavement care co-ordinator at Prospect Hospice, supports people whose loved ones were cared for by the hospice.

In this article she talks about grief and offers advice and support for people either experiencing grief or it may help someone you know who is grieving.

 

Often people ask ‘am I grieving normally?’

I ask them what their expectations are of normal grief, because the answer is there is no normal way of grieving; no right or wrong way. Grief is unique to all of us, as is the loss we have suffered.

Grief is an intensely personal experience and we react to death in different ways.

A bereavement can shatter our patterns, routines and assumptions. You may experience a sense of confusion and bewilderment after the loss of someone you love.

Grief is a complex process and it’s hard. It produces a wide range of physical and emotional reactions as you painfully adjust to life without that person in it.

Emotions such as numbness, anger, disbelief or even guilt. It can also affect you physically; some people can experience symptoms like shortness of breath, panic attacks and even chronic pain.

All of these feelings and emotions are perfectly normal.

These feelings and emotions can come in waves; sometimes they are overwhelming – like a tsunami washing over you and other times they will be less intense, like water trickling around your ankles.

Grief is uncertain and there is no timescale for it. There will be good days and bad days, good times and bad times, regardless of whether the bereavement was recent or not.

There may be those times when you wake up in the morning and it feels harder. Significant days or milestones – such as birthdays or anniversaries – might intensify your feelings and emotions.

Grieving is about navigating your way through life without that person in it. A life that is productive and comfortable for you.

It’s about adjustment and perhaps acceptance. Some people say they are trying to work out their new normal.

Do not be hard on yourself. Remember, grief is a natural response to losing someone who is important and it affects people differently.

 

Some self-help tips if you are grieving

Allow yourself time and space to grieve.

Take one day at a time.

It’s ok to say you are not ok, but it is important to take care of yourself.

Try to get as much rest as you can and eat regular meals.

Accept offers of help and support from other people.

Talk to people – your friends or family – about the person who has died and your memories and feelings. If you don’t feel you can talk to them or you don’t have anyone to talk to, seek support. GPs can refer you to bereavement support services or you can contact organisations directly which offer support.

A suggestion to remember your loved one is to create a memory box with items that are precious to you. Creating a memory box can be comforting and cathartic and you can open it whenever you want to. You could put in photos, write down things your loved one liked or funny things they said. Another idea might be to include a favourite possession, such as a hat.

 

Supporting someone who is grieving

If someone you know is bereaved, the most important thing to do is to listen to them.

Bereaved people say they often want to talk about the person who has died as they don’t want them to be forgotten and they derive comfort from it.

Allow them to express their feelings and offer to be with them, even if it is sitting in silence. Having that connection can bring them solace.

Ask them what they need from you. It might be they want emotional support or help with practical things, like taking the children to school or providing a meal.

Invite them to socialise with you, but remember it might be too much.

 

*If your loved one was cared for by Prospect Hospice and you would like to enquire about bereavement support, you can call our single point of contact team on 01793 816124 (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm).

Here are the details of other organisations you may wish to contact;

Cruse Bereavement Care

https://www.cruse.org.uk/

Tel: 0808 808 1677

Child Bereavement UK  

https://www.childbereavementuk.org/

Tel: 0800 028 8840

Samaritans (for anyone at any time and for any reason)

https://www.samaritans.org/

Tel: 116123

Silverline (provides information, friendship and advice for older people)  https://www.thesilverline.org.uk/

Tel: 0800 470 8090

WAY Widowed and Young (offers a peer-to-peer support network for people aged 50 or under when their partner died)

https://www.widowedandyoung.org.uk/

 

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