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At some time in our lives most of us have experienced the loss of something dear to us, however, death is not often discussed openly. All people grieve in their own way after any sort of loss, but this is usually felt most significantly after the death of someone we love. Grieving is often described as an intense feeling of sorrow and experienced as a process of stages. Many people say that they need to commemorate the loss of someone or something by way of a formal funeral process. This can help make our loss seem more real and make it easier for us to accept what has happened, if only in the short term.

Every experience of grief is unique and therefore nobody can completely 'understand' what you are going through, however people who have been bereaved tend to experience common emotions even if there is some variation in the way that these are experienced. How you view and cope with your loss will depend on a number of factors, including previous losses, culture, religion and family support available to you.

A common emotion that many people feel is guilt in response to bereavement. People find themselves going over in their minds all the things they would have liked to have said or done with the loved one they have lost. They may even consider what they could have done differently and that they might have prevented the death. Some people may feel guilty if they are relieved that the individual has died following an illness. This feeling of relief is natural, understandable and very common.

Some people often feel agitated, angry or vengeful after the death of someone. This tends to be experienced at its peak a couple of weeks following the bereavement and is followed by sadness and sometimes depression. It can feel as though our emotions are changing from one day to the next, which can be distressing and confusing for the sufferer.

Bereavement can also cause physical reactions including sleeplessness, loss of energy and loss of appetite and common thoughts such as: 'I can't believe it'; 'Why did it have to happen?'; 'If only'; 'life has no meaning, I can't go on'; 'What if I forget them'; and 'people must see how much I miss them'.

Stages of Grief

There are common stages that are experienced by people when they are bereaved. There is no set timescale for reaching these stages, but it can help to know what the stages are and that intense emotions and swift changes in mood are normal. You may experience some overlap between the stages, which is totally normal.

The following stages have been identified by psychiatrist and researcher Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. She originally applied these stages to people suffering from terminal illness, and later to any form of catastrophic personal loss (job, income, freedom and the death of a loved one). The stages are:

Denial - This is when the recently bereaved person cannot accept what has happened to them. They might sometimes even forget what has happened and constantly refer to the person/pet as still being with them. This is usually a temporary defence that people use to cope.

Anger - Once the sufferer has acknowledged what has happened they may start to feel angry with themselves, the deceased, other people around them and if they are religious, their god. People might also start to look for people to blame. Common thoughts in this stage include: 'Why me? It's not fair!'; 'How can this happen to me?'

Bargaining - This third stage relates to people who are terminally ill and involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Psychologically, the person is saying, 'I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time...'

Depression - During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand what has happened is happening to them. The recently bereaved may start to isolate themselves from family and friends and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This is considered an important stage for grief to be processed.

Acceptance - This final stage signifies the moment that the bereaved individual accepts what has happened cannot be changed and is able to consider ways of moving forward with his or her life.

Unresolved or Unhealthy Grief

Unhealthy grief comes when the ultimate goal and stage of acceptance has not been reached after a significant period of time. Sometimes, the grieving process is especially difficult. Some find it impossible to acknowledge the bereavement at all, which can mean that their feelings are not worked through properly. This can sometimes happen if you don't have time to grieve properly, perhaps because you are too busy focusing on making sure the other people in your life are managing adequately.

It is important to remember that there is no 'standard' way of grieving. We are all individuals and have our own particular ways of grieving. We do what comes naturally to us at the time. However, during the process of grief some people can become 'stuck' and will feel like they 'can't move forward' with their lives. If this is occurring many years after the bereavement and or is significantly impairing your ability to function on a day to day basis, you may need to consider seeking help.

Unresolved grief can produce depression, loss of appetite and suicidal thoughts. According to Mind (the National Association for Mental Health), you are more likely to have a difficult grieving process if:

  • you are on your own and have no support from your community, family, or friends
  • you have unresolved issues with the person who die
  • the death was caused by a particularly difficult event such as a national disaster or an unsolved murder
  • the person goes missing or it is not clear exactly what happened
  • you are unable to attend the funeral or there is not on
Other circumstances around the death can lead to a difficult or delayed process. These include:
  • a sudden or unexpected death
  • the death of a parent when you are a child or adolescent
  • miscarriage or the death of a baby
  • death due to suicide

Help and Support

Cruse Bereavement care are a specialist grief support service in Essex. The people they work with often provide them with information about what they do and do not find helpful during their time of grief. Here are some examples:

  1. Talk to people who will listen to how you are feeling, particularly people who knew the deceased. This can be useful to help remember your loved one and to make sense of the way you are feeling
  2. Get help to organize a funeral
  3. Speak to work about taking some time off to process what has happened and keep them informed of significant dates that might trigger feelings of sadness or anger
  4. Sometimes people find it helpful to be busy and other times people want to be able to ask for help
  5. Keep something special that reminds you of the good times you spent with the person/pet you have lost
  6. Talk to a Cruse Volunteer (see support numbers below) or contact a counselor or any of the other grief services

Grief Support Services:

National Association of Bereavement Services
020 7709 0505
020 7709 9090 (helpline)

Bereavement Advice Centre
Helpline: 0800 634 9494
Supports bereaved people on a range of practical issues via a single freephone number. It offers advice on all aspects of bereavement from registering the death and finding a funeral director through to probate, tax and benefit queries.

Compassionate Friends
Helpline: 0845 123 2304; email:
An organisation of bereaved parents and their families offering understanding, support and encouragement to others after the death of a child or children. The helpline is always answered by a bereaved parent who is there to listen when you need someone to talk to; you can also email the helpline (

Child Bereavement
A national charity which helps grieving families and the professionals who care for them.
Support and Information Line: 01494 446648.

Cruse Bereavement Care
Helpline: 0844 477 9400; email: or
Exists to promote the well-being of bereaved people and to enable anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss. Provides counselling and support and offers information, advice, education and training services.

RD4U (Cruse Bereavement Care's young persons services)
Helpline: 0808 808 1677; email:

Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths
Helpline: 020 7233 2090; email:
A charity devoted to preventing infant deaths, and promoting baby health. They provide support services to those who have lost an infant.

National Association of Widows
Tel: 0845 838 2261; email:
A self-help organisation, run by widows, for widows, that offers comfort, friendship and a listening ear to widows and unmarried women who have lost a partner through bereavement.

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS)

Helpline: 020 7436 5881, email:
A national charity, established by bereaved parents which aims to support anyone affected by the death of a baby.

Helpline: 08457 90 90 90 or e-mail:
National organisation offering support to those in distress who feel suicidal or despairing and need someone to talk to. The telephone number of your local branch can be found in the telephone directory.

MacMillan Dove Community Bereavement Service
St Luke's Hospice and Thurrock Mind working in partnership, supported by MacMillan Cancer Support.
Support and counseling for those bereaved by cancer
Tel: 01268 524973 ext 210

understanding anger
understanding bereavement
understanding depression
understanding sleep disturbance

Essex CBT Therapy offer counselling services throughout London & the following areas in Essex

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