Bereavement Basics

Bereavement is the process of coming to terms with a world that is no longer the same, can never fully return to its pre-loss state and learning to write a new narrative. Someone or something is missing, and we are not the same.

Grief is a normal reaction to loss and yet it is not uncommon for people to ask the following questions, “Am I losing my mind?”, “Am I mourning correctly?” and “When will it end?”

Grief can be exhausting, disorienting and leave you feeling as if you have been caught in the midst of a whirlwind. And the truth is you have. Your world has been turned upside down.

There is no one right way to grieve. Some people are more emotional grievers, finding release in tears and benefit from talking with people. Others are more action oriented and seek comfort in focusing on a memorial or donating to a charity in memory of a loved one. Some people grieve for a short time and others need more time.

Closure has become a popular word in our world of quick fixes but to those who have experienced grief they know closure is a myth. Instead think about the accommodation or integration of grief into your life. Like a wound that is initially painful it eventually turns to a dull ache and with time is a faint scar that is only felt on certain occasions.

When you are grieving, it is important to take good care of yourself. Getting enough sleep and eating properly is crucial to healing. Sometimes we feel compelled to be in a state of constant mourning in order to show love for the one we lost. It is okay to dose the pain and do something enjoyable. It will not dishonor your loved one.

While grief is a normal response to loss, it can be a lonely experience. This is not the time to be making major changes in your life. Consider finding ways to connect with others and to reestablish routines that provide comfort and support.

There are times when grief requires intervention. If you feel you are unable to do the most basic of daily activities or several months have passed and you are unable to be distracted from your pain, let someone know.

Sometimes a person is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. This is often seen in sudden or tragic deaths or if someone was unable to be present at the end and can complicate a person’s recovery.

Speaking to a trained professional can be helpful in the enhancement of resiliency. The role of a bereavement counselor is to allow a person the room to express their pain without the worry of having to protect someone from the intensity of their emotions. A therapist can provide feedback and guidance as you embark on this new and unasked for journey. May you find comfort and growth along the path.

Anna Kirshblum, LCSW
JFS Clinician, Adult Mental Health Services