Skip to main content

Understanding grief

Grief varies in its intensity in accordance to the relationship with the deceased person.

The initial reaction to loss is usually denial and this could be seen as natures way of putting up a mental barrier to stop us absorbing the reality of the loss. Along with this then comes a sense of shock and as a result it is very common for a bereaved person to feel numb, confused and detached from others and everything around them. In fact many bereaved people feel they are 'losing it' completely because nothing is as it was.

Why has this happened to me?

This is the question many bereaved people will ask and it is not uncommon to want to find something or someone to blame for the death. Sometimes the anger might even be aimed towards the person who has died "Why have you left me to cope on my own?" and sometimes anger can be turned inward and then feelings of guilt may be experienced.

When the reality of the the death does begin to dawn and the person realises "this really has happened to me" the emotional rollercoaster begins with unpredictable highs and lows and setbacks. A grieving person may scream and shout one day and then completely withdraw into themselves the next. They may become very short tempered and irritable lashing out at those around them. They may also start worrying about their own mortality and the health of others as they fear death might happen again.

Everyone experiences grief in a different way

It is very important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that everyone grieves differently because of the uniqueness of their relationship with the deceased person. Whilst for many people recovery after bereavement may take between 18 - 24 months, for others the process may take much longer and again there is no set timetable.

The final part of the grieving process comes when the bereaved person feels able to try to learn how to manage the new life they now have and so begin to move forward.

Download/view our leaflet

in bed

Bereavement can have physical effects too

Sometimes you may experience numbness, breathlessness, tiredness and dizziness. It is not unusual either to suffer from headaches, short losses of memory, muscular tension, tightness in the chest or in the throat, stomach upsets or shakiness. You may feel exhausted for weeks or months afterwards and have a sensation that nothing is real. All of these physical symptoms are common and very much part of the impact of grief so don't be alarmed - but if you are concerned see your doctor who may be able to help.