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  • Writer's pictureSandra

Understanding Bereavement

Updated: May 20, 2020


Although the death of someone close to us is a certainty and visits the lives of each and every one of us, it can be traumatising and temporarily paralysing.

Loss and bereavement knows no bounds. Consequently when a parent loses a child, grief leaves a lifelong scar on the family and those associated with them. The shock and anger associated with losing a child can be far reaching and whilst we eventually bear the loss of a grandparent, or parent, when losing a child, the order feels so wrong.

Given the enormity of the loss, parents may withdraw individually, the pain feeling too intense to share, which can bring distance to the parental relationship. The grieving process is not linear and you will experience an array of emotional feelings. Your grief is unique to you and whilst friends and love ones want to help by sharing their experiences, you may not always find this helpful.

Some people choose to keep really busy, avoiding painful thoughts until other signs show themselves (anxiety, depression, or uncontrolled anger).

In grief some find religion comforting whilst others temporarily put space between themselves and their religious beliefs with anger and disappointment getting in the way.

Part of your grieving process may involve spending time on your own to think about the person and the impact of their loss on you. Eventually memories become less painful with an ability to carry warm, cherishing feelings in our hearts.


It is really difficult to accept that you will never see your loved one again. Although family and friends want to be there for you, there comes a time when they go back to their lives which may leave you feeling quite isolated.

We may isolate ourselves to mourn our loss and being alone provides that space to think, shed tears which is all a normal part of the grieving process.

Daniel J Siegel, MD says in ‘The Developing Mind’, each of us needs a period in which our minds can focus inwardly. “Solitude is an essential experience for the mind to organise its own processes and create an internal state of resonance”

Symptoms of Grief

· Insomnia and exhaustion

· Flashbacks

· Difficulty functioning on a daily basis

Some people find the symptoms so painful that visiting the GP may result in short term courses of medication to take the edge off the pain. This alongside talking therapy has over time often proved really helpful.

5 stages of Grief

There is no timeframe and no order to the 5 stages of grief. We unconsciously meander back and forth emotionally until we are ready to move on.

Loss forces us to consider the fragility of life and in the grieving process we may be propelled into making different life choices that we would not have previously made.


A state of overwhelm, particularly when loss is unexpected can lead to numbness, detachment and a need to keep busy; unconsciously avoiding the reality of what has taken place. There may be days when you are unable to accept what has happened and believe it is your mind playing games on you.


In the wake of your loss, it is normal to wish that you had longer together, and whilst some clients have been able to have deep meaningful conversations, it is not always possible and for some this may bring guilt and disappointment.

We may not be afforded time to be with our loved ones before they pass and this may cause trauma, guilt.


Have you felt any of these symptoms following bereavement?

Low mood

Lack of appetite

Little motivation to get back into the work routine after a period of bereavement leave

Isolating oneself

Uncertainty and loss of confidence

At this in our lives, these feelings may seem entirely normal. Over time however, it may feel easier to repress painful emotions rather than face them. By doing so we are unconsciously storing up emotional distress for later.


It is normal to experience ‘death anxiety’ after loss when it is usual to question the meaning of life and get in touch with our own mortality.


Repressing our anger can lead to depression. Many of us learn in childhood that anger is unhealthy and uncomfortable, to be avoided at all cost.

When we experience anger in our grief, it may well need to be explored rather than buried despite the pain it brings.

Some clients avoid sharing their emotions with loved ones, preferring the anonymity of a counselling professional to whom they feel more able to offload their deep-rooted emotional pain.


Understanding and accepting that a loved one has come to terms with the end of their life. In supporting this decision, you are providing comfort to them and in turn, may make the grieving process easier for you.

Retrospectively time heals, however, it can be really hard to grieve simultaneously whilst engaging with normal routines. It is however, these routines that enable us with time to re-acquaint with normal living.

All of the firsts without that person in our lives will cause pain and leaves a void that cannot be filled. Over time however, we welcome the memories with the pain not being so raw.

What takes place in the Counselling Relationship?

We may unconsciously avoid giving ourselves permission to grieve, perhaps favouring the anonymity of a counselling professional. The Counselling Room may provide the freedom to focus on your pain.

Understanding your grief as an emotional reaction to loss.

Helping you to endure the pain of your loss.

Supporting you to live with the pain eventually enables you to heal.

By telling your story you will...

Make sense of the loss.

Move into a new world, albeit a different one.

Eventually establish a new identity by adopting new roles and using your own resources.

Find a new place in your heart for the person you have lost from your life, never forgetting them and letting the memories fill you with more warmth and less grief.

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