Sooner or later we all come to grief, but how are we supposed to make sense of our experience? J Worden has written eloquently about bereavement, and here I have summarised some of his ideas. Just as the body needs time to recover from a physical injury, so the bereaved person needs time to recover. Mourning takes time, and everyone’s grief is different and takes different times. Roughly speaking when the death in question is not complicated, then the process of adjusting and adapting to the loss might take anywhere up to two years.
It can be helpful to think of there being four tasks to mourning. The first is accepting the reality of the loss. The death in question may have been expected but there is still a sense of unreality about it, so the first task is to accept the fact that the person has died. They are gone forever. It is not uncommon for people to think they have caught a glimpse of the dead person for a long time after they have died. This can become part of a denial process that some people can get stuck in, while others just have to keep working through it and keep reminding themselves that the person has died. This task takes time; the funeral may help make the reality of the situation clearer.
The second task is working through the pain of the grief. People need to grieve in different ways, but they all need to work through the pain of their loss. Grief counselling can help people work through the pain of their feelings in a confidential and secure framework.
The third task is to come to terms with the fact that the deceased is no longer part of our environment. Gradually we come to terms with the fact that we now live without the person in our lives, we will have to raise children alone, not have a parent to help us, deal with money alone and so on.
The fourth task is to move on with our life, we don’t stop thinking of the dead person, but now we can start to engage with new things. We do not forget what we have lost, but we start to learn to live again.
Psychotherapy and counselling services are there to help. You can also get advice from local hospices, and Cruse Bereavement Care.