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Dealing with the Pain of Bereavement

BereavementAs Maria V. Snyder says in Storm Glass; “Everyone grieves in different ways. For some, it could take longer or shorter. I do know it never disappears. An ember still smoulders inside me. Most days, I don’t notice it, but, out of the blue, it’ll flare to life.”

Sudden loss and bereavement can leave you feeling numb, overcome with grief or confused. The loss of someone close to you hits hard and deep. There is the shock, the disbelief, having to comfort and be strong for others, guilt, denial and often much, much later, the true outpouring of pain and hurt.

The fact that the true response only comes weeks and sometimes months after the event makes it harder to cope with. You thought you had been dealing well with it, your friends and family thought you had moved on, you had returned to work. And suddenly there you are, in tears every night, feeling worse than the day you heard the news. Reality hits you: he or she is truly gone.

A lot people try to ignore this reaction: it’s silly, you can’t suddenly feel like this after all this time. They feel too embarrassed to tell those closest to them, often thinking: “because it’s been such a long time, they may think I’m seeking attention.”

Then there are many that just cannot stop grieving. This is often wrongly judged as “wallowing”, but it’s not. The hole left behind by the loved one is so big that they don’t know how to cope. There are people out there that get knocked for six with just their favourite TV show ending – it was part of their lives – so imagine if it is a person you saw and loved day by day for many years.
Like the delayed griever, you too might repress your emotions, thinking it is the right thing to do. No, it is the wrong thing to do.

Repressing the pain can lead to physical manifestations of the pain or, often, depression.
So please do seek someone to talk to, a person you truly trust, or seek counselling, there is no shame in this!! A therapist has the skills to deal with your problems and you don’t need to worry about them not wanting to listen to you: it’s their job!!

A good exercise to accompany counselling or to try and deal with the pain in general is to practise Mindfulness. This might surprise you, because Mindfulness isn’t about “being in the moment, and isn’t “the moment” exactly what we are trying to avoid. Well, “the moment” is a big part of it, but what is far more important is getting the mind to be still, so you are no longer a prisoner of your own thoughts. Training your mind to be quiet is a good aid to tide you over when you feel grief and despair washing over you.

Sameet Kumar, Ph.D., author of Grieving Mindfully and The Mindful Path Through Worry and Rumination says: “Grief can often feel like chronic stress, and research shows that 20-30 minutes of twice daily mindfulness practice can alter how your brain processes stress after about eight weeks. Mindfulness practice during grief can help your mind and body find precious moments of peace during difficult times. Regular mindfulness practice can also help you sleep better and is a crucial foundation for developing healthier habits during your grief journey.”

There are many courses out there so you can pick any that would serve you best. Taking a course would also help get you out of the house into a new situation where you can meet new people, so it is always a win. If you don’t feel like going out, there are dozens of online classes available too, many of them for free.

While counselling and mindfulness might work to help you on your way, you still have to take it one day at the time. For every good day there can be four bad ones. But if you cherish these good days and every fun moment and remind yourself that you are allowed to be fun and don’t have to feel guilty you can slowly move on. Yes, you are allowed bad days too, you don’t have to get up if you don’t want to, there is no fault in that, in many ways it is healthy to not force yourself out of a depression and treat it as a flu. But don’t forget: a flu doesn’t last 4 weeks and even people with the flu have to do their shopping.

Use the good days to make plans with your best friend, brother, sister, parents or kids: if you have been in bed or in the house and depressed for more than 3 days, they should take you out for a walk, a lunch or the zoo, and you are not allowed to complain. Once you are outside the mind usually clears and a new happy moment to treasure during the bad times will follow.

Dannii Cohen

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