Dealing with Bereavement & Family Estrangement

First hearing the news

The loss of someone close to us can be one of the most painful experiences that most of us will ever go through at some point in our lives. Yet nothing will ever prepare us for the complete devastation of how to deal with such traumatic news.

When we first have that realisation that our loved one has died it can completely rock our world by leaving us feeling vulnerable, alone, and frightened. We fear what the future holds for us and cannot even begin to imagine how we will ever be able to move on.

The impact it may have on our physical and emotional wellbeing

There may be an array of different emotions such as confusion, anxiety, anger, relieve guilt, fear etc to name a few that we may struggle to process whilst in such a state of shock.

We may have an overwhelming sense of needing to blame someone for the death. This may be directed towards our loved ones who are also grieving or those who cared for the deceased.

The feeling of complete exhaustion to our physical and mental health from grieving feels like we have run a marathon leaving our bodies emotionally battered and bruised.

We may be given a new label, this could be widow, widower, orphan etc. Not only are we dealing with the loss of our loved one but also a huge part of who we define ourselves as has been taken. Though I ask you to look deep as even death cannot take away the identity you have to your loved one, you are always deserving of that title.

The legal aspect and funeral arrangements

The first few days and weeks can seem like a blur, we are suddenly in a position of dealing with telling family and friends, registering the death, and struggling through all the various other legal aspects that comes with bereavement at a time when we just want to curl up with a blanket and shut the world out. We may question how the world continues to keep moving when ours has come to what feels like a complete standstill.

Making the arrangements for the funeral feels too big a task to endure. We are having to make plans for that final goodbye yet often we are not ready to let go so we feel completely torn making such decisions.

At the same time, we so desperately want to do things right for our loved one and this can seem quite challenging. We may have a life time of memories with that person so how do you choose the final song and words for the eulogy to sum up how special they truly were.

Should you say goodbye in the chapel of rest or should you remember them as they were, what if you have regrets, the endless questions ruminate round and round in your head. These are dilemmas that you are expected to think about rationally when emotionally you are maybe at your lowest. What ever decision you make it is vital that you take on board it was the right decision at that time in your life so try to let go of regrets in the future.

Being kind and coping at such a difficult time

During this sorrowful journey I ask you to be kind and to give yourself all the nurturing and love that is needed.

Be open with others, if they ask how, you are it is okay to say 'Today is not a good day, I need to reach out to you.'

Let others in to be the strength you need to cope with your sadness. You do not have to keep being strong so show others your vulnerability and allow yourself time to heal.

There is no time scale for grief as it can be a roller coaster of a journey, we may take ten steps forward and then what feels like 20 steps backwards. Something as simple as a special song, family get together, date in the diary etc can send us right back to feeling we have just been hit with the news of our loss.

You have had a major shock you need time to adjust to this new but very strange kind of normal.

Somewhere along the way we do start to adapt to a different way of living and our lives start to grow through new experiences etc. The loss may feel just as huge but the rawness starts to ease and we start to feel hope again that we can survive this. It is not easy but somehow, we get there and we learn to see the joy in life and that is okay, your loved ones would so want this for you.

Clare-Marie Keel, March 2024

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