After the Funeral – Dealing With Grief
It’s never easy to lose someone you love, be it a partner, family member or friend. Even kind words offer little comfort, when your heart feels raw from grief. It is a natural reaction that will eventually run its course. How long it takes depends on the individual, ranging from days to months to years.
The different stages of griefGrief comes in many forms and several stages. We all experience them in different ways. It may not always happen in this order, and may even overlap.
- Shock - When you first hear the news, adrenaline takes over. While you may appear to function on the outside, there is a feeling of numbness, like running on autopilot. This may last from a few days to a few weeks.
- Denial – There is a sense of disbelief and you may expect your loved one to walk through the door at any moment. Some people avoid actions that reinforce the painful reality, including the funeral itself.
- Anger and Guilt – When reality hits, you may feel anger towards your departed loved one, other people or a higher power. For many, there is also a sense of guilt, for not doing enough or simply for being alive.
- Bargaining – At this stage, you may feel a need to regain control. It is common to ‘bargain’ for a miracle.
- Depression – You may feel a sense of despair, hopelessness and emptiness. This may lead to insomnia, poor appetite and weight loss. If depression symptoms persist, or get in the way of how you function daily, it may be time to seek professional help. Visit beyondblue.org.au for more information.
- Acceptance - One day at a time, you begin to process and accept the situation. It does not mean forgetting, neither does it mean the grief goes away. It’s about adjusting and creating a new chapter in your life, while appreciating those who are still around you.
How to embrace grief
- Be kind to yourself
We naturally torment ourselves with thoughts of “what if” and “if only”. Stop knocking yourself over things you have said, done or didn’t do. You are only human.
- Take care of your health.
Grieving activates our fight or flight response which consumes your energy. You may not feel like eating, but small healthy meals will help you cope better.
- Talk to someone
Isolation intensifies the grief. Connect with people, even when you don’t feel like it. Perhaps join a support group or speak to people who have gone through a similar experience.
- Manage triggers and flashbacks
Memories, even good ones, can remind you of your loss. Birthdays, anniversaries and festive seasons are especially difficult. When something triggers a flashback or a flood of emotions, take a few deep breaths and focus on the present. Take time off work or plan a holiday around significant dates.
- Take your time
Grieving takes time, and we all have different timeframes. Leave your loved one’s room or wardrobe the way it is until you are ready to pack things away. When you are, have a friend or family member to help. Keep meaningful mementos and give the rest away. If you can’t decide what to do with some items, put them in storage and try again another day.
- Understand that people grieve differently
Family members and those close to your departed loved one may grieve in different ways. Acknowledge this without judging, even if they move on before you do.
“We grieve in different ways
and in different timeframes.”
How to help someone experiencing grief
For someone who is grieving, your love and support is usually enough.
- Ask how you can help – Offer to cook a few meals, babysit, do the shopping, or take that person out for fresh air.
- Be there – Listen and provide a shoulder to cry on, but remember to give that person space to grieve in private.
- Talk about other topics – Don’t let the deceased be the focus of all your conversations. Keep topics light and be sensitive about emotional triggers.
- Encourage them to see someone - If the grief does not ease over time, keep a watchful eye and suggest professional help.
Grief is a very personal experience and it’s not the same for everyone. Acknowledging grief and that it’s okay to feel this way is a positive first step. Remember, where there is great grief, there was great love, and there is beauty in that.