Losing family members or loved ones—or even seeing them in their last few days—can be one of the most painful things to go through in life. There’s never an easy way to handle such a situation and all the emotions that come with it. While death is an inevitable reality, nothing can fully prepare you for the impact of experiencing a loss.
While people cope with loss in different ways, death generally results in grief and bereavement. During this time, you may experience a barrage of different emotions, such as denial, shock, sadness, anger, or yearning. Regardless, remember that your feelings are valid and normal. Likewise, it takes time to fully accept what has happened, so you shouldn’t feel bad if you need to take time off.
To help you through this difficult time, you can read the information below to understand the grieving process and learn how to find bereavement support.
What are Grief, Mourning, and Bereavement?
Grief, mourning, and bereavement are often used interchangeably as emotional reactions to the death or loss of a loved one. While there are similarities between the three, they aren’t the same. Get to know each of them in more detail below.
It’s normal and expected to experience grief after a loss, such as death, the loss of a job, or the end of a relationship. Common grief reactions may include emotional reactions like anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. On the other hand, physical reactions can include appetite changes, sleeping problems, loss of motivation, and physical problems or illness.
According to the Kubler-Ross model, grief generally occurs in a cycle of five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While this is a common pattern among many people, it’s important to note that the grieving process is individualized. Not everyone linearly goes through all five stages, and some may only go through specific stages.
The bottom line is that everyone grieves in their own way, so there are no hard rules to this process. At times, people may experience what’s known as complicated grief, a prolonged grieving period characterized by feelings of disbelief and yearning. In such cases, it’s best to seek support from a psychologist who can help you accept the loss gradually.
Mourning often occurs at the same time as grief since it involves the process of accepting a loss and returning to your daily life. The main difference between grief and mourning is the former refers to what you feel inside while the latter refers to how you express that grief outwards.
Given this distinction, mourning includes religious rituals and traditions, such as honoring the dead through a funeral. Other examples may include crying, praying, talking to people, listening to music, or writing a letter. Like grief, mourning occurs differently for each person, so there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Finally, bereavement is the period after a loss, so it includes the time you experience grief and mourn the loss of a loved one. The length of the bereavement process is based on your relationship with the deceased, whether the death was expected, and other factors. Everyone’s journey is different, so it’s essential to give yourself adequate time and space to heal.
Again, bereavement is a very personal process, so people may react to it differently. However, certain factors can affect how you cope with the aftermath of a death. These include the following:
- Social Network. Your social network can serve as a support system to provide guidance and compassion during these trying times. This may include friends, family, relatives, colleagues, or other communities.
- Circumstances. There may be different circumstances leading up to a person’s death. For example, if this is your first time experiencing a loss, the feelings may be incredibly overwhelming since you’ve never dealt with this type of situation. Similarly, unexpected death can potentially be more difficult to go through because of the shock.
- Time. Another factor affecting bereavement is the time that has passed since the death. While there’s no fixed timeframe as to when you can heal from the loss, the hope is that you gradually learn to cope with the situation and reach acceptance.
Understanding the grief of losing a loved one
One of the most common causes of grief is the loss of a loved one. Different symptoms and reactions may manifest based on the circumstances surrounding the death. However, the one constant is the grief and bereavement process that follows after. Here are just some instances of when you may experience grief:
- Child’s Death. No parent is ever ready for their child to pass away, regardless of how old they were. When going through such a loss, you might feel a sense of injustice and grieve for the dreams that your child won’t be able to fulfill, and the experiences they won’t go through.
- Spouse’s Death. Having your spouse die can be intensely traumatizing. If you experience this type of loss, you might be overcome with emotions like numbness, shock, anxiety, sadness, and despair. At some point, you might even feel guilty or angry that your partner left you.
- Elderly Person’s Death. In the case of elderly people dying from a terminal illness, you may think that the impact won’t be as big. However, this isn’t true. No matter how old a person is or how prepared you were for the end of their life, you’ll still grieve and mourn as you would from the loss of anyone else.
What is Bereavement Care?
While grief, mourning, and bereavement happen differently for everyone, there’s no denying the pain associated with losing someone you love. During this difficult time, it’s important to get support from family, friends, and professionals, who can help you cope with the distress and emotions from the loss.
This is where bereavement care comes in. Bereavement care is a critical aspect of hospice care or palliative care. It involves providing ongoing support to family members, spouses, family caregivers, and other bereaved people for a certain period after a patient’s death. Bereavement care is highly broad, so it covers various forms of support based on a person’s needs. Examples include counseling, information, and practical or social support.
If you’re interested in getting bereavement support, you can find this in hospice facilities. While hospices primarily care for people nearing the end of life, they often extend this care to a patient’s loved ones to support them as they grieve.
How Bereavement Care can help
Bereavement care can comfort you through a painful loss and teach you coping mechanisms to adapt to the situation. With a tailored bereavement program, you can better understand how you respond to loss and learn how to deal with the grief. Given that each person experiences loss differently, it helps to speak with a professional who can offer advice based on your specific feelings and circumstances.
Similarly, qualified bereavement professionals can educate you more about grief and bereavement, which can feel empowering for some people. By knowing more about what you’re going through, you can ultimately find ways to help yourself accept and recover from a loss.
Of course, you don’t need to rush yourself through the process. Some bereavement care programs from hospices may only cover a specific period, but this doesn’t mean you’re restricted to a timeframe. It’s important to give yourself as much time as you need to process your emotions and accept what has happened.
Where to find Bereavement Care
If you’re seeking bereavement care to cope with the loss of a loved one, Cardinal Hospice is here to help you out. We know the pain and distress of losing someone, so we offer bereavement services to the people close to our patients to support them in their grief and bereavement. Rest assured, we’ll provide the highest quality of care to your loved ones and make sure they stay comfortable—even at the end of life.
For more information on our hospice care and bereavement program, feel free to contact us today to discuss your needs.