What is Bereavement?
Bereavement sometimes also referred to as grief, is a term used to describe the sense of loss felt when a loved one passes away. This sense of loss may contain a host of emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt and/or frustration and anxiety, and the period immediately following the death is often referred to as the mourning period. People who are acutely bereaved or grieving may also be described as “in mourning” for the deceased.
Coping with BereavementCoping with the loss of a loved one and the resulting mix of emotions can be overwhelming. Allowing yourself time to grieve and come to terms with your own feelings is imperative to finding peace. Though it may seem impossible, you must remember to be patient with yourself and give yourself time to cycle through different emotions and come to a natural feeling of calm and/or acceptance. While you wait, try not to make any major decisions such as moving, changing careers, having a child or getting married that might be made due to overriding emotion rather than logical consideration. Most people find some support a source of comfort when they are bereaved, and seeking out caring friends and relatives, an organised support group or professional help may help you work through your emotions. They will likely also remind you that it is important to express your emotions rather than bottle them up inside, and help you remember that though you have suffered a loss, you are still alive and must live your own life.
Maintaining Physical HealthWhile you look after your mental health, it is important that you also look after your physical health when you are bereaved. It can be very easy to put off eating, or to overeat, as an emotional response to your loss. Maintaining a healthy diet of fresh, natural foods at this time is imperative. Staying fit and active with at least 30 minutes of exercise three times per week is also important for maintaining your physical health. You will also want to avoid becoming dependent on alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to help you cope with your emotions. If at any time you feel that you are becoming physically ill or addicted to a substance, see your GP or a mental health professional immediately to discuss your concerns and create a plan for looking after yourself. After all, becoming ill is not what your loved one would have wanted for you.
Children and BereavementChildren who experience a sudden and/or profound loss often display and work through their grief in a different manner than do adults. Very often children do not have the vocabulary to express what they are feeling, so it is their behaviour that may become representative of their emotions. Changes in sleeping patterns, bed wetting, eating patterns, thumb sucking and socialising, such as becoming shy or bossy, or avoiding social situations all together, can all be signs of a child trying to cope with bereavement following the loss of a loved one. Children themselves may not even realise that this is what they are doing, for example children will likely not want to bed-wet, and may not have any idea why they have started or how to stop it, so adults must be vigilant in observing changes in children’s behaviour and what these changes may ultimately be communicating.
Bereavement, or the sense of loss experienced by the death of a loved one, will be felt in a different way by each individual. Regardless of what is experienced, time should be taken to work through the emotional aspects of bereavement while care is taken to maintain physical health throughout this time. Children may experience bereavement differently than adults, so their behaviour should be observed as clues to what they may be feeling. Professional help always should be sought if needed to support an individual through bereavement.