November 8th is National Bereavement Day and there are many ways in which to appreciate the role of a day like this. For some people it may be a little like Thanksgiving, a time to pause and reflect on the members of their family, close relationships, sadly no longer with them and to touch base with what’s really important in their lives.
They may use the day to be nostalgic, to remember their loved ones, the special people who have touched their lives and commemorate their passing. One tribute to those people no longer with us is to live our lives as well as we can. But some bereaved people struggle to move on, feeling that it is disrespectful to do so.They may feel that it is important to honour the dead person’s memory by continuing to do what that person wanted.
The truth is, those people who loved and cared for us whilst they were alive would want us to be happy and fulfilled after their death. They would want us to honour their memory by being true to ourselves, leading satisfying lives. That is a real tribute to their memory.
Let’s consider the what can happen when someone dies, let’s look at the process of grieving. And it is not only death that can cause the distress of grief. The ending of a significant relationship, a missed opportunity, redundancy, loss of health or lifestyle can generate feelings of bereavement. For these, the process of healing and recovery is very similar.
Several stages make up the cycle in the grief and loss transition process. These stages may be experienced several times and in any order until the process is exhausted:
- Shock is often the first feeling experienced. This comprises of numbness, disbelief or perhaps even no feeling at all.
- Denial often follows, as ‘I don’t believe it, it’s not true.’ A refusal to accept the loss is often part of the reaction at this stage.
- Bargaining can include negotiation, as in a ‘if I promise to do this, will you make it right’ kind of way. This stage is often directed to God, a higher power or to whomever is deemed to be responsible.
- Anger can last some time. Rage, frustration and fury is often about trying to make sense of what has happened, anger that nothing can be done to change things, whilst struggling come to terms with it. ‘Why me, after all I’ve done, it’s not fair’ are often the sentiments expressed at this stage of the process.
- Depression and grieving can become all-consuming. Crying, not knowing or caring what happens next, the future appearing pointless and bleak are often part of this phase of the cycle. It is important to be gentle with oneself at this time.
- Acceptance is the ultimate stage of the process, a feeling that the loved person lives on through oneself, any children, memories, photographs, lifestyle. Some people are concerned that acceptance of a close death is a betrayal or negation of the dead person’s life, but in many ways it is a celebration of their importance to us, as we continue living the life we started out together.
National Bereavement Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the significance of our special relationships now no longer with us. For some people they may have memories of an animal who was especially important to them, who was their close companion and friend. Taking time to celebrate the time they spent with us, read letters, play music, look at photographs may be a special way in which to remember them.
Family, friends, belief systems are all important parts of possible support systems after a loss or death. Guiding family and friends as to how they can help is important. Some people are unsure as to what to say, they don’t want to be hurtful, appear insensitive, say the wrong thing. Loss and bereavement are times of mutual learning, about ourselves, each other, about how difficult times in life need to be handled.
Healing and recovery also entail celebrating how far we have come since the loss, how proud the departed would be at what we have done with our lives, how supportive they would be at times of distress, how amused by our ‘disasters’. Some people find that bereavement counselling and hypnotherapy can provide important solace and comfort after a death. Understanding the various stages of grief, learning ways to cope and heal, ultimately moving into recovery are all part of the road to wellbeing again.
Susan Leigh is a long established counsellor and hypnotherapist who works with clients to help with relationship conflict, stress, assertiveness and confidence issues. She works with individual, clients, couples and in corporate situations.
Her book ‘Dealing with Death – Coping with the pain’ is a self help book dealing with loss, grief and endings in many different life situations. The loss of a loved person, animal, relationship, career is a devastating blow that this book helps the reader work through.
To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit http://www.lifestyletherapy.net