How To Deal With Loss, Grief And Bereavement

Bereavement refers to an event which results in loss – this may losing your job, or a similar event, or the death of someone you know. The latter of these events is more commonly associated to the term bereavement. How you deal with grief and death is a personal choice, so there is no right or wrong way to cope – it’s individual to you. This may be influenced by your relationship with the deceased, for example you may need longer to cope with the loss of a close family member compared to how you may deal with the loss of a friend or a colleague. Your personality plays a big part in this as well. Some people find that they are able to go back to work and begin resuming their lives far quicker than others – this isn’t right or wrong, as previously stated, as it depends on the person and what is right for them.

There is still an on-going debate as to what constitutes grief and where it distinguishes itself from depression. There are certainly crossovers, and people who are grieving will exhibit signs that are akin to depression. This is a common feature of loss, as it is a naturally upsetting and emotional time. People need strong bonds with other people in order to maintain good emotional wellbeing, so it can be hard to come to terms with the facts when one of these bonds breaks – after all, death permanently removes these bonds. When someone you know dies, you may struggle to not only come to terms with the fact that the person has gone, but also that plans and hopes for the future have also come to an end.

There are usually several stages of grief, which are not separate and may not follow in order. These often begin with the initial stage of grief, which is shock or disbelief, and may last anything from minutes to weeks. The stage of acute anguish can last weeks to months, which is where the commonly associated symptoms of depression occur. During this time, people may find planning for the future difficult. The phase of resolution can last years for some people, as they come to terms with the reality of the situation.

‘Normal’ grief is a term used to describe the more typical symptoms than people generally experience with bereavement. These include numbness and feelings of shock, anger, sadness, tearfulness, disrupted sleep patters, preoccupation with the deceased, or seeing and hearing the voice of the deceased. These symptoms begin to dissipate as the person gradually accepts the loss and readjusts to the reality of the situation. For most people, this process takes around six months, but as previously stated it depends on the relationship with the person who has died as well as personality traits.

It is important to remember that while they are similar in certain ways, depression and grief are not the same. People do grieve without becoming depressed, but there are ways in which they are similar. Around 33 percent of bereaved people, though, also have a depressive illness around one month following the loss. 15 percent are still depressed a year later. It is possible to spot the signs of this from the intense feelings of guilt that are unrelated to the loss, suicidal thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, prolonged inability to function, and prolonged hallucinations involving the deceased.

The support from family and friends at this time is vital, as is maintaining contact with people. Although it is tempting to hide away and seek solitude, this won’t help your symptoms. If necessary, your GP can also prescribe antidepressants if your symptoms are leading to this condition developing.

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