Losing someone you love
Grief and loss come part and parcel of loving someone, and although you may experience symptoms of depression after a bereavement, it may be a part of the natural healing process. Find out more below about what’s normal and when to seek medical help.
Here at Dr Morton’s - the medical helpline© you can:
- talk to a GMC registered doctor
- get advice and reassurance
- find out more about the natural grief process
The Stages of Grief
Many people are familiar with the ‘Seven Stages of Grief,’ but in reality, most people don’t progress from one stage to the next in an orderly way. You might miss out some of the steps, or jump between the steps. You may move forward one day, and backward the next. The feelings you experience might include:
It is difficult to accept what has happened and we can feel numb or disorientated.
Feeling actual physical pain in response to an emotional upheaval is a real phenomenon, and can be overwhelming and alarming. If you’re suffering from chest pain, seek urgent help immediately. Other physical grief responses can include a throbbing headache, fainting, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and muscle weakness.
This can be directed at life in general or even at the person who has died. Not infrequently it is directed at those who were caring for the person who died, dwelling on every word that was spoken and every decision that was made.
It is common for us to feel guilty, sometimes just for being alive, or feeling that we could have done or said more.
Sitting and thinking about good and bad times. This can help us to come to some acceptance of the loss.
Acceptance or letting go
As time passes the depression lifts and we don’t feel so sad and unhappy all the time. Energy levels improve, and sleep and concentration return to normal.
The truth is, bereavement and feeling sad is an intensely personal experience. Take time to recognise and accept your feelings, and know that you are not alone. Reaching out to others who care about you, or who have been through something similar, can be an immensely healing experience.
The way we process loss can be hugely dependent on the context.
Was the death of your loved one expected?
You may feel differently if your loved one died peacefully in the presence of family, compared to a sudden tragedy such as a car accident. If the person had been ill for a long time and was struggling, they may have wanted to be at peace, while the death of someone who dies unexpectedly may be perceived as more tragic. You may feel their life was cut short, or be sad that you didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.
What if a child dies?
It is particularly difficult to understand and accept the death of children. A baby may have been stillborn. A toddler may die of a rare disease. These are thankfully rare events nowadays in this country, but this does make it all the more shocking when it does happen.
What was your role around the time of death?
Where were you when the death happened? Were you there, holding your loved one’s hand as they passed away, or were you thousands of miles away? Did they commit suicide – do you feel you should have done more to help? Our perception of our own role in a loved one’s death and feelings of guilt or regret can further complicate our grief.
Where did they die?
Having a relative die in hospital is distressing for some, while others might feel glad that their loved one was near medical help and had medications to lessen their discomfort while dying.
There a lots of factors that affect the way you feel about a bereavement. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ things to feel. Sometimes taking time to evaluate these feelings can give you clarity about where they are coming from.
When to call a doctor
It can be difficult to draw the line between normal feelings of sadness after a bereavement and something more serious. Read our depression page to find out about the symptoms of depression. If you ever feel life is not worth living or become suicidal, please speak to a doctor as soon as you can.
How can I prevent depression after a bereavement?
Don’t suffer alone. There are so many wonderful resources and support networks out there specifically set up to help with bereavement and loss, some of which we’ve listed here:
Sands – the stillbirth and neonatal death charity
A national charity supporting families through the loss of a child or children who are bereaved. Support and Information Line: 01494 446648 www.childbereavement.org.uk
Cruse Bereavement Care
Royal College of Psychiatrists
This is the professional medical body that is responsible for the education and training of doctors working in psychiatry. Their website had many resources, including their bereavement leaflet.
This national organisation supports people who are distressed, feeling suicidal or sometimes just need someone to talk to. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They will also reply to emails and will try to answer within 24 hours. Helpline: 08457 90 90 90 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.samaritans.org
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