Traditionally, November is a time when we remember our loved ones who have passed away. During the month, people are often encouraged to express and talk about their loss and to take time to think of those they miss so dearly.
Bereavement is something everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It can be expected or very unexpected. Either way, when you experience the death of someone who was close to you, there begins a journey that no one wants but no one can stop.
Grief is the price we have to pay for having loved and been loved. Although you have some control over your grief, it is not possible to bypass all of the normal grief reactions. They might not feel normal at the time, but there is a reason why you feel the way you do and it is necessary to feel these feelings.
Imagine a completed jigsaw has been thrown up into the air for no good reason, with the pieces falling all over the place and some going missing. This is like what happens when there is a bereavement. Life feels out of control and like something is missing. You may do everything you can to put the pieces of the jigsaw back together. However, some pieces are still missing.
It is important to make a new picture, but one that contains lots of memories of the person who is gone.
There is no single typical response to the death of a loved one. Grief is as individual as the person who is grieving. Some feel like they’re going crazy, or are in a bad dream, or are left questioning their religious beliefs. Some feel numb or have trouble believing that the loss really happened. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting them to show up, even though you know they’re gone.
Sadness, emptiness, despair, yearning or deep loneliness are all common. You may cry a lot, experience regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do.
When a loved one dies, it is common to be angry at yourself or God or the doctors. You might even be angry with the person who died for abandoning you.
Death can also trigger worries and fears. People describe feeling anxious, panicky, helpless, and/or insecure. It is common to question your own mortality, to worry about facing life without that person, or to feel stressed about the responsibilities you now face alone. Grief often includes many physical symptoms, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains and insomnia.
Don’t forget that the death of a loved one changes your life forever. You may experience one or many of the symptoms described. So be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who do not understand.
Take one day at a time. Get additional support if you can and especially if you or someone close to you is worried that your symptoms are more than a normal reaction to the bereavement.
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.