Feelings when someone dies
You may feel a number of things immediately after a death:
Shock: It may take you a long time to grasp what has happened. The shock can make you numb, and some people at first carry on as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. Many people feel disorientated - as if they have lost their place and purpose in life or are living in a different world.
Pain: Feelings of pain and distress following bereavement can be overwhelming and very frightening.
Anger: Sometimes bereaved people can feel angry. This anger is a completely natural emotion, typical of the grieving process. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together. We may also feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.
Guilt: Guilt is another common reaction. People who have been bereaved of someone close often say they feel directly or indirectly to blame for the person’s death. You may also feel guilt if you had a difficult or confusing relationship with the person who has died, or if you feel you didn’t do enough to help them when they were alive.
Depression: Many bereaved people experience feelings of depression following the death of someone close. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning and some people say they too want to die.
Longing: Thinking you are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when you least expect it. You may find that you can't stop thinking about the events leading up to the death. "Seeing" the person who has died and hearing their voice can happen because the brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it.
Other people's reactions: One of the hardest things to face when we are bereaved is the way other people react to us. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to our loss. Because they don't know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing, people can avoid those who have lost someone. This is hard for us because we may well want to talk about the person who has died. It can become especially hard as time goes on and other people's memories of the person who has died fade.
How to help someone bereaved
If you know someone who is grieving the death of someone close you may wonder how best to support them. Read on for some suggestions of what to say and do. People who have been bereaved may want to talk about the person who has died. One of the most helpful things you can do is simply listen, and give them time and space to grieve. Offering specific practical help, not vague general offers, can also be very helpful.
- Be there for the person who is grieving - pick up the phone, write a letter or an email, call by or arrange to visit.
- Accept that everyone grieves in their own way, there is no 'normal' way.
- Encourage the person to talk.
- Listen to the person.
- Create an environment in which the bereaved person can be themselves and show their feelings, rather than having to put on a front.
- Be aware that grief can take a long time.
- Contact the person at difficult times such as special anniversaries and birthdays.
- Mention useful support agencies such as Cruse.
- Offer useful practical help.
- Avoid someone who has been bereaved.
- Use clichés such as 'I understand how you feel'; 'You'll get over it; 'Time heals'.
- Tell them it's time to move on, they should be over it - how long a person needs to grieve is entirely individual.
- Be alarmed if the bereaved person doesn’t want to talk or demonstrates anger.
- Underestimate how emotionally draining it can be when supporting a grieving person. Make sure you take care of yourself too.
How to help yourelf when someone dies
1. Accept your grief and how you want to deal with it
2. Each person’s grief is unique: Some people cry a lot, others don’t. Some want to talk others are more private. There is no right way to grieve.
3. Accept your feelings and find ways to express them: This may be through talking to someone you trust and/or private expression through crying, writing, vigorous exercise.
4. Seek and accept support: Stay in touch with family and friends and see your GP if necessary. Use counselling if necessary.
5. Keep active: Walking, working, cooking, helping others, doing something you enjoy.
6. Pace yourself: Grieving can be exhausting. Rest when you need to. It’s important to do some pleasurable things and it’s alright to have fun from time to time.
If you feel anxious or stressed try to use breathing, positive self talk, music, aromatherapy and other complementary therapies.
For more information and support, click here to visit the Cruse NI webpage.