Your Wellness

Bereavement and Trauma

Some of us have experienced loss of different types, including the profound loss experienced when someone close to us dies. Whatever the loss, our mind and body will react to this change. Something or someone that was there before is no longer there. Something or someone we depended on as part of our lives has gone. There has been a change. This can shake our world, and how it does so, will depend on what has happened and what support we have in place to cope.

When we are bereaved, we can feel anxious, sad, angry, shocked, grief-stricken, withdrawn, in disbelief, guilty, sad and in denial. We can experience these in no particular order and we can struggle with sleep, concentration, our appetite and making decisions. We can also experience physical pain, such as headaches and muscle pain, as well as less specific bodily reactions that are similar to feelings of anxiety. 

A few things that might help with change, loss and bereavement

Here are a few self-help suggestions that might help you with any difficult feelings you may be experiencing while adjusting to change, loss and bereavement:

  • Contact a bereavement charity: If someone close to you has died, it might be helpful in addition to the tips below, to contact bereavement charities such as Cruse or Winston’s wish and/or read quality information about the death of a loved one.
  • Feel the feelings:  Allow yourself space to be with the feelings you are experiencing.
  • Sometimes you may find it useful to talk with someone about your feelings, such as a phone call or video call with a friend.
  • Sometimes you may just want to be alone with your feelings.
  • There may also be times when writing down your feelings and thoughts or using music or art as an outlet is helpful too.
  • Remind yourself that with any loss and change, difficult feelings will follow.
  • There is no time limit to grief: For many people, the intensity of loss will diminish over time, but for others, it may not.
  • It is important to work out how we remember the person who has died, and how we continue relating to their memory and what they meant to us, even though they are not with us any more in body.

Other types of loss

  • With other types of loss the feelings are likely, in time, to pass or to change. 
  • It might help to acknowledge that this is a time of adjustment.
  • Allow yourself to let go of the thought that ‘everything will return to normal’, because it may not, but in time you will find a ‘new normal’.
  • Henri Nouwen said ‘‘Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions and unknown futures unknown’. 

Take care of your body

Look after yourself physically. Try to get a good night’s sleep. Try to eat as healthily as possible. Include some daily exercise, but make sure that this is in line with the current government guidance. Some people find meditation, prayer, mindfulness or just being out in nature helpful.

Give to others: Sometimes giving to others or an act of kindness can help you feel better. Consider volunteering, delivering groceries or calling someone who might live alone. You may want to read the random acts of kindness during the coronavirus lockdown for inspiration.

Do something that is going to make you feel good: Doing something that makes you feel good can often be a welcome distraction from thoughts and feelings that are challenging to shift. Try something new like drawing, making music, growing seeds, reading a book, or watching an inspirational  movie.

Different ages and cultures may react differently to loss and grief. Be patient with others around you who may also be struggling with loss but express it differently. Remember that everyone experiences grief differently, and at different times and stages – this can include members of the same family group.

Be honest with children: If you have children be honest with them about your own feelings and name them. Help them name their own feelings and use age-appropriate language to explain a death. Consider doing a creative project alongside them that reflects how they are feeling. Help them to learn how to look after themselves. You may find  information from the charity Cruse useful, it talks about what you can do to help a child who is grieving.

Call 999 or go to A&E now if

  • you or someone you know needs immediate help
  • you have seriously harmed yourself

Alternative support includes:

  • Call 111
  • Talk to the Samaritans
  • Shout Crisis Text Line
  • Rethink Mental Illness
  • MIND
  • Tell someone you trust
  • Talk to your GP
  • Specialist mental health service