The Grief Journey

Excerpt from the book “After Suicide: Help for the Bereaved” by Dr Sheila Clark.

At first you may be overcome with shock and confusion. You may feel guilty. It may all seem like a bad dream. You may find you can live only minute by minute, day to day. You may have had to deal with the police, coroner’s officials and funeral directors at a very private time of your life. You may have to communicate with your loved one’s place of work or education and deal with questions from friends and neighbours. What should I tell them? Do I try to cover up the suicide?

After the funeral you may wonder why your grief gets worse instead of better. You may feel the separation from your loved one becomes more painful after parting with the physical body. Your loved one may feel very distant from you.

You may be struggling with the unreality of the death every time you face a new situation which would have involved your loved one. You may find yourself faced repeatedly with the pain that they will not return.

Three to four months…

After about three or four months you may reach a low point in your grief as the reality that your loved one is not coming gack sinks in fully. Many people find this very hard to accept. It takes some much longer than others. You may find yourself fighting against it, crying out, and yearning and pining.

You may be frightened of losing the memories of your loved one and be temporarily unable to visualise their face. You will never lose those memories. They just become hidden for a while and will re-emerge later. You will hold on to them and they will become very precious for you. This is one way your loved one will be with you now. Making the change towards that acceptance can be very difficult.

You may be given constant subtle reminders of your loss. There are no telephone calls and no homecomings. You watch your loved one’s friends continuing with their normal lives. Support from family and friends may be diminishing as they have by now moved on through their own grief and are getting on with their lives and expect you to do the same. You may be feeling intensely lonely.

You are also probably becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. It is usual for the body’s mechanisms which promote the coping responses to become drained about this time. And, incredibly, most people expect you to be back on your feet by now. This is a good time to visit your doctor. Your health can be assessed and you have an opportunity to discuss any further help.

Survival…

As the days pass you will experience your grief beginning to lift and it may surprise you that life can regain some normality. You will experience good days and bad days; it will be quite normal for you to see-saw up and down between feelings of coping and despair. As time goes on you will experience more peaks and fewer troughs and the troughs will become progressively shallower.

Healing…

In the early stages you may find it difficult to believe that your grief will lift and your journey will take an upward turn. The intense pain and sadness which you are feeling will subside and the memory of your loved one will become more comfortable in your mind. You will retain the happy memories. You will invest in life again and plan your future, although this may be a very different life from the one which you lived previously.

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