When an individual has lost a loved one (s)he is said to be bereaved. This is an emotional time, and often one that can be surprising and even frightening to both the bereaved and his or her family and friends. It is during bereavement that most people require additional support, whether it be emotional, practical or financial, from family, friends, professionals or the government – or some combination of them all.
Understanding Bereavement and GriefBereavement is often equated to grief, and grief has been described as the emotional response to the death of a loved one. Most often grief is equated simply with sadness, though this is not exactly the case. Grief often involves a progression of different emotions. The Kubler-Ross model of grief, which developed after Elizabeth Kubler-Ross investigated this cycle in many grieving individuals, describes grief as a five stage process. Denial, anger, bargaining depression and acceptance are all stages identified by Kubler-Ross.
However, this does not mean that all bereaved individuals will experience all stages, that all stages will be experienced in the same way, or that all stages will be experienced in the same order. There is no set itinerary for grief, though if there is a distinct lack of emotional response, or an emotional response so overwhelming that it begins to affect a person’s employment, education or personal relationships then some support may be needed.
Emotional SupportWhether it comes from relatives, friends or a trained professional, most bereaved people need emotional support following the death of a loved one. Very often bereavement counselling is recommended, as it allows the bereaved to explore and describe his or her thoughts and feelings to an objective audience – the counsellor or support group. During bereavement counselling it is acceptable to cry in anguish or rage in anger if those are valid emotions, and there will be no one who will attempt to censure what is being felt. Family and friends may also be able to provide this emotional support, though since their main concern is likely to be to look after the bereaved, or guard the memory of the deceased, and not always to assist with emotional exploration, they may not be able to remain as objective as a bereavement counsellor or members of a bereavement support group.
Practical SupportParticularly in the days and weeks immediately following the death of a loved one, many individuals appreciate a degree of practical support from family and friends. Cooked meals, child care, assistance with errands, and of course help with organising the funeral and possibly even the estate of the deceased are all things that can be offered to help lighten the load of the bereaved. Professionals such as solicitors and/or accountants who can help explain legal rights and responsibilities following the death may also be able to lend practical support at this time. A Citizen’s Advice Bureau may be able to offer practical information and advice as well.
Financial SupportThe death of a loved one can leave the bereaved in need of financial assistance, whether it be to cover the cost of the funeral, to settle the deceased’s estate, from losing a second income or something else entirely. There are some benefits and payments available to help financial support the bereaved, though all will have certain qualifying conditions attached. Just a few of these supports include Bereavement Payment and Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and/or Guardian’s Allowance. A Citizen’s Advice Bureau will be able to offer more information on these and other financial supports.
Bereavement is a complex state, one in which many individuals find that they need emotional, practical and/or financial support to pass through successfully. Family, friends, trained professionals and even the government may all be able to offer certain types of support at this time, though it may require the bereaved asking for help before it can be offered.