Bereavement is the state of loss when someone close to an individual has died. Feelings of bereavement can also accompany other losses, such as the decline of one’s health or the health of a close other, or the end of an important relationship.
People experience bereavement in various ways, with different thoughts or feelings during the process. People may feel shocked, sad, angry, scared, or anxious. Some feel numb or have a hard time feeling emotions at all. The grieving person may experience feelings of guilt, “I should have…”, “I could have…”, or “I wish I had…” Emotions may be very intense, mood swings. At times, many people even feel relief or peace after a loss. These are all normal reactions to loss. In normal grief, symptoms will occur less often and will feel less severe as time passes (symptoms lessen between six months and two years after the loss).
The reaction to loss is influenced by the circumstances surrounding it and one’s relationship to the deceased.
Losing a partner or spouse:
The surviving partner may have to deal with a multitude of decisions regarding funeral arrangements, finances, and more, at what feels like the worst possible time to have to deal with such matters. The bereaved partner may also have to explain the death to children and help them through their grief.
The death of one’s child, regardless of the cause of death or the age of the child, is an emotionally devastating event that can overwhelm a parent. “A child’s death arouses an overwhelming sense of injustice for lost potential, unfulfilled dreams, and senseless suffering. Parents may even feel responsible for the child’s death. They may also feel that they have lost a vital part of their own identity.”
The death of a mother or father can have a deep impact no matter what age a person is when it occurs. The specifics of how one grieves will depend on several personal factors, including one’s relationship with the parent, religious beliefs, previous experience with death, and whether one believes it was “time” for the parent to die. The loss of a parent may also mean the loss of a lifelong friend, counselor, and adviser. Therefore, the bereaved person may suddenly feel very much alone, even with the support of other family and friends.
A Loss Due to Suicide
It can be more difficult than dealing with other losses because of the feelings of shame, guilt, rejection that are often experienced. In addition, the stigma attached to deaths by suicide can increase the bereaved person’s sense of isolation and vulnerability.
When someone’s death is expected, those close to that person may experience anticipatory grief. “Like grief that occurs after the death of a loved one,” It can involve symptoms of depression, increased concern for the dying person, and emotional preparation for the death.
Grief is painful and exhausting. But working through sorrow and allowing themselves to express such feelings can help a bereaved person recover.
Identifying the emotions connected to the loss, helping the bereaved become able to live independently, and illuminating the bereaved person’s ways of coping with the loss.
The American Psychological Association identifies several actions that bereaved people can take, that may help them cope:
- talking about the death with others
- accepting the normal feelings that come with loss
- minding one’s own health and eating well
- celebrating the life of the deceased person.
Grief can be complicated when the loss is sudden or unexpected. It can often be , frightening when the loss is the result of an accident, disaster, or the result of a crime. Other factors also play a role. A person’s experience of mental illness, lack of personal and social supports, and difficult personal relationships can also affect the impact of grief. These are generally depressed patients who have not shown improvement with antidepressant drugs, and at times present with other psychiatric conditions.
Loss occurs in many ways:
- Real loss when a significant person is lost.
- Threatened losses are situations where we deal with impending loss.
- Symbolic losses are the loss of an ideal, belief, way of life, or country.
- Loss of physical strength, disease, or surgical procedures resulting in amputation are major losses. In pathological mourning “the individual has been unable to come to terms with the loss, either to acknowledge it consciously, or to give up yearning for the person”
These patients had “difficulty in accepting the fact that the lost person was dead”, and they expressed “ideas of guilt and self blame” and a painful feeling of emotional loss and emptiness. Also frequently seen was “hostility towards others associated with the loss”. Hostility is pathological if the person withdraws socially and avoids family members.
Characteristics of Those Suffering Pathological Grief
Self detrimental behavior and lost social interaction. lacking initiative and being indecisive and restless. They look to others for direction and want to be included in social activities; when they are, they feel grateful. However, they are apathetic and cannot make up their minds to do anything on their own.
Nothing brings satisfaction, and it appears that they carry out many daily routines out of habit. Patients may show self punitive behavior without being aware of guilt feelings. Such people may give away belongings, be lured into foolish financial dealings and act stupidly, damaging their reputations and losing their friends or professional status.
Drug dependency can develop to ward off painful awareness of the loss. In reality the loss is too difficult to accept; a pathological mourner can achieve chemical relief. Individuals suffering pathological grief have a high morbidity rate and increased rates of physical disease and death.