The time that immediately follows a death can be a roller coaster ride. Feelings of shock and despair are opposed by the hectic rate at which arrangements unfold towards a funeral and administration of the Estate. Family and friends rally around, the telephone does not stop ringing with messages of support and the morning post brings cards and letters of sympathy. There is often no time to focus on your own grief.
You may find it encouraging to know that many bereaved people bounce back into a fulfilling and meaningful life. Their stories are often very moving but show the extraordinary resilience of human nature. The road to new life is long and bumpy but it can start today, there is help at hand and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The funeral itself will be a sad day but may be countered by feelings of excitement when meeting family and friends that have not been seen for a long time. The ‘Wake’ following the funeral may encourage high spirits as friends exchange fond memories.
This can all change very quickly after the funeral: Friends and even close family members return to their own busy lives and for them a degree of normality returns. Yes, they miss the person who has died but it does not impact upon them every hour of the day. For you the difficult time has just begun and it may well be a lonely place – where there was once a soul-mate to pass the time, their absence is now glaringly apparent.
We often refer to ‘my other half’ and it may well feel that half of you is missing. You may have to suffer some unhelpful clichés from well meaning friends: ‘Time will heal’ or ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘He/she lived to a good age’ – but you know this is not the case.
You may find it difficult to believe that life may return to something that is enjoyable and meaningful, but it can. You will need to be strong (even if you don’t feel it) and you will need to be optimistic during the difficult times ahead. Look for little successes in what you do; celebrate them and use them to unlock the route to greater successes.
Take advantage of our SAIF Support; it is there for you and people like you; it is free of charge and you can tap into its resources and drop out again whenever you want to.
Despite it appearing at first a little extreme, you need to move towards a ‘new life’. Many aspects of your life will change. From a practical perspective you may need to learn to perform the tasks that your partner/spouse used to do for you both or at least find someone to do it for you.
Your social world has also changed as some of the things you enjoyed together may be far more difficult on your own. Perhaps you socialised with a group of other couples – this may feel less comfortable now. However, perhaps there were things you would have liked to have done in the past that were not very popular with your other half? In bereavement new opportunities arise, such as the perusal of new hobbies that may provide great enjoyment. We have set up ‘The Melksham Friendship Group’ designed to help bereaved meet new friends.
You may feel you need support. You probably have the support of family and friends, but they will all have their own lives to lead and may not be with you all of the time. You may find it helpful to have the support of other people who are in a similar situation to you and others who are perhaps a little further on in their bereavement. The friendship Group arranges informal, friendly meetings, usually over some coffee, where people can just talk about their experiences or just listen to other people. There is always a leader at these meetings who is well aware how frightening it can be to attend and who will do everything possible to make newcomers comfortable.
In the weeks that follow the funeral it is common to find it difficult coping with every day activities: going to the shops, preparing a meal, even just leaving the house. Worse, when you do leave the house there may be anxiety in returning to it knowing that it is empty. We recommend that you try to take small steps at a time; ask a relative or friend to support you in your first attempts at things you find difficult.
Some people may advise that you should keep yourself busy; it will keep your mind off your troubles. This is all very well, but making life busy in an artificial manner may bring its own hazards and repercussions. We suggest making subtle changes to life, expanding upon the things that work and dropping those that don’t. If you go to the shops once a week but enjoy doing so, change your routine to go twice a week or more, but buy less when you are there to compensate.
There will be some difficult times ahead but these can be managed to a degree by some careful planning. There will be important dates during the year that need to be addressed: Birthday, Christmas, Anniversaries, Mother’s/Father’s Day etc.. Don’t shut yourself away and dread the day - try to turn this around in your favour. In advance, talk about the day among family and friends; what can you do to make the day more bearable? There is no point in pretending nothing has changed so focus on it instead. Perhaps there should be an empty chair at the meal table; perhaps a candle should be lit for the day. Retain the family tradition of an important day, to support those around you, but change the usual pattern subtly to acknowledge the absence of the deceased and pursue a new direction.
You may experience some unusual and unwanted sensations: Difficulty in sleeping, feeling numb and unable to participate, bad or unwanted dreams, visions of the person who has died, relief (especially if the loved one had suffered). You may also suffer a loss of belief. These and others are often quoted by people who are recently bereaved. This may be very uncomfortable if it happens to you but will hopefully pass quite quickly. There is nothing wrong with you unless the problem persists over a long period and if it does you should certainly consult your doctor. If you can, try to avoid remedies such as anti-depressants and in particular avoid excessive alcohol. These are not easy answers and may make things worse in the long run.