How will I feel after the death of my loved one?

Food for thought!

Following the death of our loved one, an enormous change has taken place which cannot be undone; we begin to realise life can never be the same again.  Reality tells you there is nothing which can be done to bring our loved one back; what we can do is begin to look at the way we think, feel and behave following the death of our loved one. 

Grief is like a ball of hot intense emotions all tangled together; this intertwining makes emotions difficult to understand and the person grieving will not be able to make sense of the emotions and may be unable to articulate how they are feeling for some time following the death.

Please note:
Numbness on hearing the death of a loved one can last for weeks, months and years this is normal and the effects of shock, it is more positive if you go with the flow of your numbness rather than push against it until it disperses and emotions begin to re-enter your conscious space.  Please note these emotions can be intense even if years have passed since the death of a loved one.  Numbness is nature’s way of protecting us!

Signs of stress i.e. heart palpitations, tight throat, jaw/chest pain, dry mouth, nausea, sweating, shaking….: These symptoms will be short lived on hearing about the death of a loved one and the result of shock and/or panic.  However, any symptoms of this nature after the initial hearing of the death MUST be checked out by a trained medical person since they can be the signs of a heart attack and should be treated with urgency.


Grief is an emotion, not a disease
There is no time table for recovery
But there is also no getting around the pain
Each of us has to experience the pain
 In order to recover from it……..
Our hopes and dreams may no longer be possible
We may feel hopeless and want to run away
It takes time and effort to regain the ability to function.
We need to express our feelings and be patient with ourselves
Grief is a process
Recovery is a decision
Readjustment does not come overnight
But each of us can resolve to survive and live         
………one moment at a time

Grief is a turbulant voyage until you find your calm, until you find your peace

We are all doing the best we can with the understanding, knowledge, awareness and skills we have.

·         When we lose someone, we love we also lose the unique relationship we shared with him or her.  For example, if you are daughter or son of a parent who has died, if you are the spouse of the same person, an ex-partner or a friend you will all experience grief for the same person.  However, each person’s grief will be experienced in a different way.  This is because you shared a unique relationship with the person who died; each and every person grieving the loss of a loved one is suffering a truly unique personal experience.

·         There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to work through your loss and arrive at a place of ‘Gracious Remembering’.  Whilst the loss of your precious loved one is truly individual and unique; grief, usually has an overall pattern.

·         After the death, many people have probably told you ‘time heals’ the problem with this statement is it implies when time has passed your grief will have passed with it.  Almost ‘as if’ our sorrow, despair and pain will have dissolved by some unseen energy; so, when we find ourselves some weeks, months or even years from our initial shock we may still be feeling deeply bereft and with some intensity. 

·         What time does however is give us some breathing space until we gradually arrive at a time when we feel we may need to let go of the ‘pain and sorrow’ and begin facing our here and now living.  We may gradually come to realise that we owe it to ourselves, our loved ones who are still sharing our life and to the person we have lost.  Turning away from our despair and sorrow does not mean leaving our loved one it means to let go of the pain, despair and sorrow we associate with their death. 

·         Following the death of our beloved, an enormous change has taken place which cannot be undone; we begin to realise life can never be the same again.  Reality tells you there is nothing which can be done to bring our loved one back; what we can do is begin to look at the way we think, feel and behave since our loss took place.  With this realisation, it is possible to discover new ways of being by becoming more aware, gaining understanding to what makes you ‘tick’ and to discover within yourself strengths that you did perhaps not know existed or have not acknowledged before. 

·         To discover and achieve new strengths it may be necessary to raise our awareness, skills and knowledge; this is where counselling can support you to work through your grieving process; to offer you deeper clarity, insight and tools to support your journey through your grieving progression.

·         Please remember anything new and any change takes time and constructively undertaken one step at a time for lasting results; exploration, awareness and insight as described here needs to be thought about with imagination, respect and empathy towards others paying equal respect and empathy towards yourself.  Being kind and gently towards yourself and others who are grieving helps support the chaos and despair you may find each other in. 
What’s normal following the death of a loved one?

SHOCK -  Numbness, disbelief, feeling ‘cocooned’.  Reality has not penetrated, bereaved people can be quite accepting and be bearing up, whilst inside they can be feeling ‘alone’ lonely’ ‘fearful’’ helpless’. You may find believing what has happened difficult and feel as if you are living in a dream world which is not real, this is all part of ‘normal’ grief reactions. This can take some time to work though before you begin ‘feeling’ again especially when death was sudden and unexpected. We may feel helpless and powerless in the beginning and when our feelings do start to come back we may feel angry, intense pain, guilt, uncertain, insecure or disconnected from others and self.

SEPARATION AND PAIN -  Grief breaks over in wave of distress.   Intense yearning, pining, feelings of emptiness.  Searching behaviour – dreaming, may think we see our dead loved one in the home, street or when visiting familiar places.   Feelings of ‘there’s been a mistake’ and there may be a feeling of ‘I should be grieving but I’m not’ is absent grief due to not wanting to let the pain of grief in; because if you do then you will have to acknowledge ‘death has happened’.  Separation and pain can immobilise us into doing nothing whilst at the same time hoping this is not true!

DESPAIR -  Can be characterised by depression, anxiety, panic, fear, worry, mood swings, difficulty with concentrating, anger, guilt, irritability, restless and extreme sadness.  There might be yearning for the lost opportunities, things left unsaid, regret these things won’t change because the one you loved died before you had the chance to do, work through or make happen.   You didn’t have the chance to prepared for their death, you were not allowed to say goodbye if your loved one died suddenly and this affects our understanding in the immediacy of the trauma unfolding.   Guilt can be an intense experience following a sudden death you may think or feel you could have or should have done something differently, but remember you didn’t choose this, you couldn’t have known death was going to happen so your guilt is not rational and is detrimental to your well-being and healing.

ACCEPTANCE -   Intellectual acceptance arrives long before emotional acceptance.  We may continue to be depressed, irritable, and moody.  We may need to concentrate on our emotional acceptance whilst accepting a tangled, complex ball of grief reactions that will take time to resolve

RESOLUTION AND REORGANISATION -   New patterns of life are established.  Eventually we are able to recall memories of our dead loved one without being overwhelmed by extreme emotions.  We become to reinvest in our daily living in a more constructive and meaningful way.

All these ‘phases’ overlap with each other.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  We all grieve at our own pace in our own times.  The main thing is to recognise you are grieving, you’ve not grieved for this person before and so your grief is a journey of discovery and an opportunity for you to find out who you are, what your deeper values and strengths are and to change anything you find which you does not work for you!

This process is not linear and will take time and effort on your part to find your balance and reorganise your living following the death of someone you loved dearly.

Remember you are vulnerable, a major change has taken place, one you had no control over, one you did not wish to come about or plan for and it is this major change you are dealing with so be patient, kind and gentle with yourself, until the day comes when you get up and can say to yourself, this is painful, this is very sad I didn’t want it …. I have survived and will continue to survive. 

You recognise your feelings are no longer overwhelming you and you are managing them they are not managing you.  

Your grief will ebb and flow and if you feel your emotions are waving over you and come and go in intensity throughout your day this is normal and part of you processing your feelings. 

If you find your emotions are overwhelming you or you seem stuck for more then 2 weeks it will be productive to your well-being to speak with your doctor or contact a professional & experienced counsellor who will be able to navigate you through your grief.  If you do feel you are struggling with your grief contact me to gain compassion & caring support in partnership we can make a difference to your well-being.
Susan Stubbings Doncaster