How to cope with bereavement

Losing someone close to you can be the hardest part of life. Death is one of the few certainties in life, yet despite this when it actually happens it can turn your world upside down.

Every one of us will experience this during our lives but how we deal with it will be totally unique to us. The rollercoaster of emotions can remove all sense of reason but it's important that we give ourselves time to pass through this in our own way. Over time you'll find a way that works for you and there will be people on hand to help when you need them.

Take care of yourself

Often when you lose someone it's very easy to forget about looking after yourself. You might think that there are other things or other people that are more important than you.

It can be very easy to trivialise or set aside the things which previously made up the foundation of your day. Regular meals, cups of tea or coffee, popping to the local shop or chatting with friends or family. Usual things.

After you've lost someone, skipping the odd meal because someone has come to see you, putting the kettle on for a coffee and then answering the phone or planning an early night but finding more paperwork to go through can often happen. These things crop up for most of us at some point, but for you, especially now, they can have a negative effect on your physical and mental health.

Trying to maintain a daily routine can give structure to your day and give you the physical and mental strength to get through it.

It's ok to have a coffee and bite to eat when you have a visitor, they won't mind.

It's ok to have a soak in a hot bubble bath or take a long shower.

It's ok to have a lie in if you want to.

You used to do these things before, it's really important to remember that it's ok to still do them now.

It's Good to Talk

Sometimes when you've lost someone you love the temptation is to avoid talking about them or how you are feeling. It could be too painful or you might be worrying about upsetting other people, while they worry about upsetting you. Talking things through can really help you cope and support each other. You'll probably realise you're not alone in your thoughts and feelings and talking about them is nothing to be afraid of.

If you don't feel that there are family or friends for you to turn to, it's important to know you're not alone. There are lots of organisations who can offer advice or support, some of which may be able to put you in touch with other people who are in similar situations.

There's no rush

One of the biggest questions you'll probably ask yourself at some stage is, "when will I feel better?" There is no answer to this, which some people may find difficult. In truth though it's down to you to give yourself all the time you need. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You shouldn't suppress your emotions or think you should apologise for feeling a certain way.

You might think that showing how you feel is a sign of weakness or a lack of inner strength but allowing yourself to recognise these feelings is often one of the greatest strengths of all. It shows that you're open and accepting to these emotions and not afraid to face them. We naturally think that sadness, despair and anger are the strongest emotions at this time but laughter is also a healthy part of the healing process. It might seem strange at first when you're surrounded by sadness but smiling, laughing and recalling happy memories can give you and those close to you a different but welcome release.

In the beginning it might seem impossible, but over time the slightly better days can begin to outnumber the bad days. This doesn't mean that you don't care, or you're forgetting about the person who has gone, only that you're beginning to remember them in a different way. While you will still love them and miss them you're adapting and learning to enjoy life again. Take the time to reflect and remember those special occasions and happy memories.

If you're employed talk to your employer about whether you want to return to work or take some time out - whatever's right for you. For more information about taking time off after a bereavement, see Co-op's Employee Guide to Bereavement Leave. It might be that you find the routine of work brings back some structure and normality to your day or you may need more time. That could be time for yourself to come to terms with your loss or time for you to deal with the practical steps that need to be taken after someone dies.

Remember, sometimes you might be having a bad day, but this doesn't mean that you are going backwards. It's just one day and tomorrow might be slightly easier. Emotional pain is not a sign of mental illness, but if you find that you are struggling to cope and the days are not getting easier don't hesitate in contacting your GP. Admitting you need help and asking for it can be hard for many reasons but there are people on hand if you need them. Your GP can refer you to support services and there are other professional organisations who you can turn to.

If you need any help with these practical steps or you're unsure of what to do when someone dies, you can call us and we will guide you through what needs to be done.

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