Dealing with Grief

What is grief?
When you are grieving, you may experience many different symptoms as you are trying to cope with your loss. We are all individuals so grief may manifest itself in various ways. There is no right or wrong way to feel and you may experience your loss differently to others.

Some people have a sense of numbness or shock and may appear unreactive. This does not mean that they are not struggling to cope. Others may be very demonstrative, crying or weeping inconsolably as they express and discharge their emotions, and they need to do so. There are many common experiences including an overwhelming sadness which most people recognise as grief. Your brain is having to adjust to a new way of living without your loved one and this can be exhausting, especially when you experience a host of emotions which may also include anger or guilt. These are all normal, natural reactions and common to most people experiencing bereavement.

It is generally acknowledged that there are different stages to mourning your loss. They are not necessarily linear and you may find yourself at any stage at any time. These stages involve:
· Accepting the reality of the loss
· Working through the pain
· Adjusting to a life without the deceased
· Emotionally relocating the deceased so you can move forward

Your brain will work through these stages at your own pace and will eventually move you forward to beginning to live life fully once more. This takes time so be gentle with yourself, especially when your loss is recent. After time, if you are continuing to struggle with your bereavement and feel that you are not able to move on, then there are many sources of help. You are not alone and professionals have specialist training that can help you.

Changes during the Covid-19 pandemic
The current pandemic is creating changes to the way people are nursed in hospitals and how funerals and ceremonies are conducted. These necessary changes around social distancing to keep safe, are creating distress for many people. We are all conditioned by our own particular social cultures surrounding death and saying goodbye to our loved ones. You have a set of expectations about what will happen and your involvement in what happens, and of course this includes being able to show your love and give comfort. The pandemic rules mean that things need to be done differently, and you may not be able to look after and honour your loved one in the ways you hoped for and expected. This naturally creates uncertainty, which may be expressed as anger towards those upholding the rules or guilt that you are not able to do what your loved one may have wanted if times were normal. Again these are natural reactions to the distress you are experiencing.

How do I cope with these changes?
Perhaps a fitting way to honour your loved one in these difficult circumstances is to use your creativity to find an alternative way of saying goodbye that works for you and your family. The most fitting tribute to the deceased is to be able to think of them with warmth and a good feeling, rather than allowing yourself to be drawn into a fight with the authorities. If the funeral or ceremony you would have wanted is not possible, then it may be that a special memorial can be organised after the social distancing rules have been relaxed. Engage your brain in coming up with a range of different ideas. Giving your brain something constructive to plan for in the near future will help you to cope with difficult emotions. Planning ahead will allow family and friends to get together and share happy memories of your loved one and honour them as you would wish. Your new alternative idea might even be a better, more personal and thoughtful tribute to your loved one.

Resources & Organisations – Offers Counselling – Stillbirths & Neonatal Support Charity, offering practical advice and support. – Offers Counselling – Bereavement Helpline – York based support group for Children – Compassionate Friends support group for parents. Support Group for Teenagers – Offers support to families who have experienced Sudden Infant Death. (SIDs) -Offer practical and emotional advice about bereavement – Useful resources – Support group for Men under 45yrs

I am a Chartered Psychologist helping and supporting people through difficult times in their lives. You can find out more about my work at