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What does grief look like? Ways to support your wellbeing during a bereavement

We experience bereavement when we lose someone important to us. It is characterised by grief, which is the process and the range of emotions we go through as we gradually adjust to the loss.

Losing someone important to us can be emotionally devastating – whether it’s a partner, family member, friend, or pet. Grief affects everyone differently, and it’s possible to experience any range of emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

Feelings of grief can also happen because of other types of loss or changes in circumstances. This could be the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, moving to a new location, or a decline in the health of someone we care about.

Breathe’s bereavement counsellors talk about what you may experience throughout grief and things you could try to support your wellbeing.

Stages of grief

Grief is not linear. Some people may experience grief in stages or as a cycle.

These could be:

Denial

Feelings of shock, disbelief, panic, or confusion are common here. “How could this happen?”, “It can’t be true”

Anger

Blaming yourself, blaming others and hostility are all common feelings and behaviours. “Why me?”, “This isn’t fair”, “I don’t deserve this”

Depression

Feeling tired, hopeless, helpless, isolated, like you have lost perspective, or needing to be around others “Everything is a struggle”, “What’s the point?”

Bargaining

Feelings of guilt often accompany questions like “If only I had done more”, “If I had only been…”

Acceptance

This does not mean that somebody likes the situation or that it is right or fair, but rather it involves acknowledging the implications of the loss and the new circumstances and being prepared to move forward in a new direction.

These stages do not always appear in the same order for everybody, and some people experience some stages and not others. It is common to move forwards and backward through the stages in your own way and at your own pace. Some people may experience grief outside of the cycle altogether. Grief affects us all in different ways. It’s important to remember there is no ‘normal’ way to grieve.

What can we experience through grief and loss?

It’s understandable that you might:

  • Cry all the time / Not be able to cry
  • Feel pain
  • Experience anxiety
  • Feel guilty
  • Have physical feelings of illness
  • Feel depressed
  • Frequently remember the person’s face or voice
  • Feel in shock or numb
  • Be angry
  • Not want to eat or eat more than usual
  • Go over every detail of their death

grief wellbeing

Things you can try to help with bereavement, grief and loss

Do:

  • Connect with others – try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor – you could also contact a support organisation
  • Familiarise yourself with the grief cycle and remember bereavement grief and loss affect people in different ways – there’s no right or wrong way to feel
  • Take each day at a time – there may be good days and bad days, focus on each day at a time.
  • Consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help each other
  • Develop coping strategies that work for you and discover your triggers – Mindfulness techniques or mood Diary apps such as Mood Panda can help, whilst journaling/diary writing can also help make sense of emotions
  • Fresh air – walking and nature are helpful when grieving and can also increase sleep quality

Don’t:

  • Do not try to do everything at once – set small targets that you can easily achieve
  • Try not to focus on the things you cannot change – focus your time and energy on helping yourself feel better
  • Try not to tell yourself that you’re alone – most people feel grief after a loss and support is available
  • Avoid the use of alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve grief – these can all contribute to poor mental health

Consider additional support

Counselling can help people work through what has happened, cope with the initial phase of shock and find coping strategies.

Counselling offers the opportunity to be listened to and understood when talking through your feelings and experiences in a safe, confidential space.

Interested in counselling with Breathe?

The first step is to complete and return a quick form.  Following a consultation, we will pair you with a counsellor best suited to your needs. We want to get it right for you so that you have a good relationship and experience, which will help you to achieve your goals.

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