Bereavement is one of life’s most difficult experiences. According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, the death of a spouse is the most stressful and acute event in life. Although we know that death will affect each of us, we don’t like to talk about it, which makes us handle the grieving process poorly.
Bereavement is one of those experiences that cannot be avoided, sometimes even several times in a lifetime. Although it is a common and well-known process, there is still very little talk about it. On a daily basis, we prefer to celebrate youth and activity, and treat the topic of death as taboo, making us unable to cope with the loss of loved ones, as well as not knowing how to support others in their grief.
We should be aware that both death and mourning are natural processes in our lives. Knowing how these processes take place and what emotions they may involve will allow us to go through these difficult experiences more easily.
Stages of mourning
Experiencing mourning is an individual matter, and everyone may feel it differently. However, psychologists have succeeded in describing several phases of mourning and the behaviors that accompany them. Knowing each stage helps to understand and accept the emotions and reactions that occur in the face of the death of someone close to you, as well as to get used to the loss.
The first stage of mourning is shock, especially when the death was sudden. We may react differently to the news of a loved one’s passing – with crying and shouting or silence and stillness. Sometimes somatic symptoms also appear, including headaches, sleep disturbances or palpitations.
In the second phase of mourning, strong, often extreme emotions emerge. We feel despair and anger, which we direct toward, for example, doctors for not saving a loved one. During this period, which usually lasts several weeks, we feel the loss most acutely, we think about the deceased all the time.
The third phase of mourning is the so-called disorganization, which can last up to several months. At this time we feel emptiness and sadness after the deceased person, it is difficult for us to imagine life without him. During this time, many people avoid contact with others or throw themselves into work and activities.
The final stage of mourning is reorganization. This is the moment when we slowly begin to accept the new reality. We return to the earlier rhythm of life, make plans and enjoy our lives. Memories of the deceased are still intense, but they no longer cause pain. In this phase, the motivation for change emerges.
How to cope with bereavement?
Bereavement is a very painful experience that involves many difficult and overwhelming emotions, but we should allow ourselves to feel them and face them rather than deny them. Many people escape into work or drown themselves out with stimulants. Such ways do not make it easier to experience mourning, but only temporarily drown out the emotions, which may return with double the force in a while.
Mourning is best experienced consciously, allowing yourself to cry and get angry. Something different may help everyone – for some, long conversations with a friend will be soothing, while others will need a solitary vacation or burning the deceased’s belongings. Let’s treat ourselves gently and with understanding, and give ourselves time to experience all the emotions. Bereavement usually does not require psychological intervention, but if you feel you can’t cope with the loss, don’t be afraid to seek help from professionals.
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