Grief is a natural response to loss, such as the death of a loved one. We all experience grief differently, journeying along different stages of grief, emotions and intensity.
So how does grief look like? For some, they may appear stoic and emotionally numb, seemingly unaffected by their loved one’s passing. For others, they might respond with intense emotions such as anger and agitation.
Sometimes emotional numbness may be a person’s way of coping as they contact relatives of the deceased and organise the funeral. This numbness eventually gives way to a strong yearning and nostalgia for the person who passed on.
Agitation may sometimes replace emotional numbness. Depending on how intense this sense of agitation is, some might find it difficult to relax to a point of affecting their sleep. They may also find it hard to focus on tasks.
People experiencing grief may feel anger toward doctors and nurses who did not prevent the death of their loved ones, or towards relatives or friends who did not do enough, or may even be angry at the person who has left them.
People may find themselves thinking about the things they could have said or done differently to prevent the death of their loved ones. This sense of guilt may also arise especially if a sense of relief is felt when someone has died after a particularly painful or distressing illness.
A person in mourning may withdraw from their relatives or friends, thinking about the person they have lost, reflecting on the good and bad times they have had together. It is crucial during this time for people to rally around them in support.
The grief of children and adolescents, and their need for mourning, should not be overlooked when a member of the family has died.
Children under the age of four usually view death as temporary and reversible – a belief reinforced by cartoon characters who “die” and “come to life again”. Even though they may not fully understand the oncept of death, they feel the loss of close relatives in much the same way as adults, Once children accept the death, they are likely to display feelings of sadness. Some may choose to deal with their pain and distress by crying or talking to others about their loss. Young people may withhold their feelings for fear of adding extra burden to grown-ups around them.
The family should spend as much time as possible with the child making it clear that the child has permission to show his or her feelings openly. Family and friends can help by spending time with the person who has been bereaved. A listening ear and willingness to be with a grieving person during this time of pain and distress would certainly bring solace and comfort.
Bereavement is one of the most painful experiences we endure. Even though death is part and parcel of life, it is important to allow people enough time to grieve. Some may get over their loss quickly, but others may take longer. However, if family or relatives notices that a person’s sense of loss and grie do not improve over time, then it is necessary to see a psychiatrist for professional support.
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