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Coping with bereavement

Symptoms

Grieving takes place after any sort of loss but most powerfully, after the death of someone we love. Often, grieving takes place in stages and different emotions are experienced during the different stages. However, not everyone experiences the same stages or feelings, nor with the same intensity.  

In the few hours or days following the death of a close relative or friend, some may show no emotions. This apparent lack of emotions may help a person get through all the important practical arrangements that have to be made, such as getting in touch with the relatives and organising the funeral. For some, this numbness may be replaced by a strong yearning for the dead person. Some may “see" their loved ones everywhere they go – in the street, the park, around the house, anywhere they had spent time together. For others, this numbness may be replaced by agitation. For example, they may find it difficult to relax or concentrate and this may even affect their sleep. They may also feel very angry 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.  

Another common feeling is guilt. People may find themselves thinking about the various things they could have said or done. They may even consider what they could have done differently to prevent the death of their loved ones. Guilt may also arise if a sense of relief is felt when someone has died after a particularly painful or distressing illness. This feeling of relief is common, and understandable, given the circumstances.  

Over time, some may withdraw from their relatives or friends. During this time, it may appear to others as though the bereaved person is spending a lot of time sitting around and doing nothing. Instead, they may actually be thinking about the person they have lost, reflecting on the good and bad times they have had together.  

These various stages of grief can overlap, and may manifest in different ways for different people. As time passes, the intense emotions begin to fade. Most recover from a major bereavement within one or two years. However, the sense of having lost a part of oneself never goes away entirely. 

 

Children and Adolescents 

Even though children may not understand the meaning of death until they are three or four years old, they feel the loss of close relatives in much the same way as adults.    

Preschool children usually see death as temporary and reversible – a belief reinforced by cartoon characters who “die” and “come to life again”. In their early school years, children may feel responsible for the death of a close relative and so may need to be reassured. Young people may not speak for fear of adding extra burden to grown-ups around them. The grief of children and adolescents, and their need for mourning, should not be overlooked when a member of the family has died.    

Once children accept the death, they are likely to display feelings of sadness. The relatives 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. It may not be words of comfort that are needed, but more the willingness to be with them during this time of pain and distress. Some may choose to deal with their pain and distress by crying or talking to others about their loss.  

 

Help From Your Doctor  

Bereavement turns our world upside down and is one of the most painful experiences we endure. However, it is also a part of life that we all go through. 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 the symptoms listed above do not improve over time, then it is necessary to see a psychiatrist for professional help. 

Hotline / Helpline 

Who is it for?  

Day  

Times  

Telephone  

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) 

Anybody in crisis and the suicidal. 

Daily 

24 hours 

1800 – 2214444 

Mental Health Helpline 

Those suffering from psychological and psychiatric problems 

Daily 

24 hours 

6389-2222 

SAMH Helpline 

For people who have psychological, psychiatric or social problem and others who need information on services for such persons 

Mon – Fri

 

9am – 5pm 

1800 – 2837019 

Hotline 800 

Mandarin speaking community with family marital and personal problem 

Mon – Sun 

10am – 9pm 

1800 - 3535800 

AMP Hotline 

Malay / Muslim families in crisis or those who need help 

Mon – Fri 

10am – 5pm 

6416-3960 

Club HEAL 

For Malay / Muslim individuals or families  who require assistance with or support for mental health concerns 

Mon – Fri 

9am – 5pm 

6899-3463 

Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) 

Indian families in need of assistance or counselling 

Mon – Fri
Sat
 

9am – 5pm
9am – 1pm
 

1800-295-4554 

Aware Helpline 

Women with a variety of concerns 

Mon – Fri 

3pm – 9.30pm 

1800-774-5935 

Counselling & Care Centre 

For individuals, couple and families experiencing psychological, marital or family problems 

Mon – Fri 

8.30am – 5pm 

6536-6366 

 

Where You Can Get Help 

For more information on how you can seek professional help at IMH, please click here or call us at 6389-2000 (for enquiries), or 6389-2200 (for appointments). 

A member of National Healthcare GroupWork Life Activeness AwardTUVTUVGold   Comm Chest Award 2012