All of us experience grief either in response to the death of a loved one or other life events that result in feelings of loss. Bereavement refers to the period when a person experiences grief and goes through mourning following the death of a loved one. Anticipatory grief refers to the experience in anticipation of an expected loss.
Grief can be extremely painful. A person experiencing grief in the aftermath of a loss can experience a number of emotions such as extreme sadness, guilt, anger or anxiety. Grief can affect not just our emotional wellbeing, but our physical health as well. It is normal to feel a loss of appetite, feel tired and disrupted sleep patterns.
Each person copes in his own way and there no ‘right’ way to grieve. Coping with the loss depends a lot on the age of the deceased, kind of death such as after a prolonged illness v/s sudden occurrence, his or her role in the family as well as the persons own past experiences and patterns of coping. Experiences and response to bereavement is also influenced by our culture and our spiritual beliefs. People often ask about the length of time that one grieves for. This too can vary from person to person. Sometimes in the beginning we may get busy with all the arrangements and rituals as well as all the practical issues that come up after a death and may not give ourselves the spcce to grieve. At times like this the impact of the bereavement can hit much later. Feelings can ebb and flow.
It is important for us to give ourselves time to grieve. If we feel sad and want to cry we should let our selves do that. It is also important to reach out to friends and family for support. One can often feel like isolating oneself but this might make the process more difficult. Reaching out, talking about the person and the good memories with other people who share the loss helps tremendously.
Most people gradually come to deal with the loss and move on. Although life may never be the same again people are able to readjust and cope with life without the loved one. Sometimes the experience can be so overwhelming that one can feel extremely hopeless and one can reach out to a mental health professional for help. With some people the distressing emotions following death linger for a very long time and have an impact on daily functioning. One can have trouble in accepting the death, intense yearning for the person, preoccupation with memories of the person, extreme anger and/or feelings of emptiness. These experiences can fluctuate with spurts of positive emotions but reoccur for a long time and make it difficult for the person to manage daily responsibilities and move on. In these circumstances it is important for the person to seek help from a mental health professional.