Dealing with Bereavement

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Dealing with Bereavement

The following helpful article on the topic of bereavement is written by the Reverend Jim Hobbs, M.A.  Jim is a local Anglican minister and professional counsellor, now retired.  We have worked with him many times over the years on funerals we have arranged.



After the awfulness of the death of someone you loved so much, you may feel you are on a very lonely journey. It is one that none of us ever wants to start anyway. The signposts are not always clear. The road can seem pretty rough. You may feel you're travelling without a map. At times, there seems little or no help along the way.

I thought you might like to have something in the way of a little help on your journey. These notes come from various qualified sources as well as my own personal experience of grieving when my first wife died. You may find it helpful to glance at some of the points from time to time as you travel on your journey, rather than read them through all at once and immediately try to compare what you are going through with what has been written. If anyone else in your family would like their own copy, then please feel free to copy as many as are needed.

The way each of us grieves is different. There is no proper way of going through what is a very painful process. Your journey is yours, but to have someone walk with you at different moments and share some of your journey from time to time can be useful. Such a person might be your Vicar or Rector, your Doctor, or a Counsellor, whom you can access through your Doctor (in which case sessions will be free) or local papers where counsellors advertise, but will charge for therapy. Another source of help can be Cruse Bereavement Care (who do not charge but ask for donations). Their main work is with those who are bereaved. You will be able to find them in the Phone Book or at

Grieving and Mourning


Sadness? This is often not always shown by crying outwardly. But if you do, it gets others to be sympathetic and protective towards you. This is what you need at a time like this. So go with the flow of your tears, whether you are alone or with others.

Anger? You can be angry with your loved one for dying and leaving you. This may be because you feel there was nothing at all you could do that would stop them dying. You may want to say, "Where are you?" But they don't come back so you can't say, "Don't leave me again!" A negative thing that can happen with anger is if you are angry with yourself, you may want to direct it on to others such as doctors, hospitals, clergy or the legal system.

Guilty? It is quite normal to feel that if in spite of everything you did to look after your loved one and did everything you could, you didn't do enough, or that you should have taken them to hospital sooner. It's fairly normal if you feel like this.

Anxious? You may feel a bit insecure, right through to panic attacks and persistently feeling anxious. You'll feel at times you won't be able to survive on your own right through to feeling really afraid.

Loneliness? This is something people feel intensely. You may feel more secure in your own home, but after a while, it is quite alright to accept invitations out, especially to the things you used to enjoy on your own or together, or that you'd like to do now that you're on your own.

Feeling tired is quite common, particularly if you were nursing or caring for the person who died.

Helplessness is something that's also quite usual. You may feel you won't be able to cope with the simplest things. As time goes on you'll find yourself making more and more decisions.

Shock is common, whether it's a sudden or expected death. There are physical feelings that go with this, like feeling cold or curling up in a chair unable to do anything.

Yearning is quite normal. You've lived and loved with someone for a very long time. They aren't there any more. You want them back again. Your love has nowhere to go.

A sense of freedom can happen, especially if the person who died was a dominating personality, or if your relationship wasn't happy, or if your time was taken up so much with looking after the person who's died. But then you might also have a sense of guilt about feeling this. Don't worry - this is quite usual.

Relief. You may also feel a sense of relief, especially if the person you loved was ill for a long time, and there was no hope of recovery, or if you felt deep down that you ought to let them go into death as they would be out of their suffering. This is something else you may have a sense of guilt about feeling or even thinking like this. But this is quite normal.

Numbness. You may well not be able to have any feelings about anything around you at all."


You may feel a hollowness in your stomach, tightness in your chest or throat, oversensitivity to noise, a sense of unreality about yourself or things around you - "Nothing seems real at all - not even me." You may also feel short of breath, or feel weak, as if you've no energy. Your mouth also may feel dry. You may find yourself with a sense of disbelief that the death happened at all. You may feel confused about it. You may find yourself totally preoccupied with thoughts about the person who's died, or that somehow they're still around. You may also have hallucinations - usually these soon pass. They're signs of the links between thinking and feeling


You may well find these happening to you, but after a while, they will go away. Don't be alarmed if you don't sleep well, or that you don't eat very much. You may also get absent minded. You may want to avoid other people. You may well find yourself dreaming about the person who's died - but at the same time, you may want no reminders at all of them because it would all be too upsetting for you. You may find that you walk around the house looking for them or calling out for them. You could find yourself sighing. You may feel quite restless, and find or want things to do just to take your mind off what has happened. You will of course find yourself crying. Tears do relieve the tremendous emotional stress you are going through. You may find yourself carrying things that remind you of your loved one, or treasuring objects that belonged to them, which is one reason you may find it difficult to dispose of their clothes.


You may find yourself going through different phases. You will have a sense of numbness. This helps mask the real hurt you feel so dreadfully. Then you will also be yearning for the one you loved to return; it's hard to accept that they've gone forever. Sometimes you may find it difficult to cope or function. These are all stepping stones to be gradually able to start to pull life back together again. None of these come in any order. They overlap. And that can be confusing. But having a checklist can help to see where you might be, or that what is happening to you is part of the experience of the vast majority of those who go through grief. There are goals you can work towards. They will be hard to do and to take on board. You may want to find someone competent enough to help you work towards achieving them.

The first goal is working towards knowing and accepting your loss as real. Then you need to deal with how this is affecting you in terms of your feelings and how you act towards yourself and other people. You'll need to find space to deal with the things that are getting in the way of you readjusting to your loss. The final goal is working towards being able to say goodbye to the one you loved in your own way that is comfortable for you and being able to settle into reinvesting in life again, making it worthwhile for yourself.


1.To accept the reality of the loss. This is about coming full face with the reality that your loved one has died. The awful truth is that s/he has gone and will not return. This is so very hard to accept and to live with.

2.To work through the pain and grief. You will experience emotional and behavioural pain associated with the loss. You will feel it.

3.To adjust to the environment in which your loved one isn't here any more. It's realising the roles s/he played for me. It'll mean adjusting to a new sense of myself. I'll have to develop new skills and take on some of the roles s/he had. My fundamental life values and philosophy may change as well. I'll also be searching for meaning, trying to make sense of it all and regain some control over my life.

4.To emotionally relocate your loved one and move on with your life. You can say to yourself: " I'll never forget him/her, but I'll also find an appropriate place for him/her in my life so that I can get on with my emotional life through the things that are still open to me. There are other people to be loved, but I won't love him/her any less."

Copyright Jim Hobbs 12/1999


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