Grief, Bereavement, and Mourning
Grief, bereavement and mourning are all used to describe the reaction to losing someone you love, but they have slightly different meanings. Both bereavement and mourning are part of grieving. Below is some information of the grieving process, according to www.cancer.ca :
Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of a loved one. It can also be a reaction to the loss of relationships, physical ability, opportunities or future hopes and dreams.
Bereavement is the state of having suffered the loss of a loved one. It is the time after a loss during which grief is experienced and mourning occurs.
Mourning is the external expression of grief. It includes rituals that mark someone’s death, such as funerals, wakes or memorial services. Mourning is strongly influenced by a person’s religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices.
Everyone grieves differently. The way you grieve will depend on:
- whether the death was expected or unexpected
- your relationship with the person who has died
- your personality and your cultural, spiritual and religious beliefs
- how you have coped with loss before
- the support systems in your life (family, friends and spiritual, religious and social communities)
Grief and emotions
Grieving is not a single emotional experience. It is a process through which we learn to cope with the loss of someone (or something) in our lives. It’s important to remember that there is no “right” way to grieve. No one can tell you how you should grieve, when you should feel certain emotions or in what order. Your grief is a very personal experience, and your feelings do not have to follow any path but your own.
During the grieving process, you may have many different emotions:
Shock and numbness - Even though death may be expected when someone has advanced cancer, the actual death may still come as a shock to you, especially if it was sudden or happens sooner than expected.
Sadness, loneliness and isolation - The sadness of grief is a deep sense of loss. Some people have a sense of emptiness or being left alone by the person who died. During grieving, many people withdraw from others, especially in social situations.
Anger - It’s not unusual to be angry after someone dies. You may be angry that the person left you, that they didn’t fight the cancer “hard enough,” or that they won’t be there for a special life event (for example, a wedding or graduation). You may also be angry at yourself because you didn’t visit the person often while they were ill, or you weren’t there when they died. You may also be angry at your god or fate for the person’s death.
Relief - If the person who died had been ill or suffering for a long time, you may feel a sense of relief that the struggle is over. You may also feel thankful that the stress of being a caregiver is over. These feelings are normal, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty about them.
Guilt - You may feel guilty about something that you said, or didn’t say, to the person who has died, or that you didn’t do enough to help them while they were alive.
Confusion - You may have problems concentrating or remembering things. You may feel like you’re walking around in a fog or that you are not yourself. This is a normal reaction to grief.
Grief can also cause physical symptoms and reactions:
- Trouble sleeping
- Some people may have dreams or “visions” of the deceased person, or hear their voice.
- Eating less or eating more
- Some people have physical signs of anxiety, including tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.
- Feeling tired or weak
Anticipatory grief is the grief that occurs when the person with advanced cancer or their family expects death to happen. It includes many of the same thoughts, feelings and emotions that can occur after a death.
Anticipatory grief can give you time to slowly get used to the reality of your loss. It can give you a chance to complete unfinished business with the dying person or strengthen your relationship with them.
Dealing with grief
Grieving can be a very painful and long process. Given time and support, you will begin to heal, accept the loss and adjust. There is no set time period for grieving. Most people find that their emotions and physical symptoms of grief start to lessen between 6 months and 2 years after their loved one has died.
To cope with grief, you can:
- Let yourself cry as often as you need. It is part of the healing process, not a sign of weakness.
- Allow yourself to feel sadness, pain, anger and any other emotions. Don’t let others tell you what you should be feeling.
- Take care of yourself by eating well and exercising.
- Limit the amount of alcohol or other drugs you use. These may cause other emotional problems and make your recovery from grief slower.
- Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself for all the things that you may have said or done, or didn’t say or do.
- Talk to and get support from others who have experienced a loss.
- Prepare for the emotions that may come up on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
- Take a break from grief – you don’t need to be focused on it all the time. Go to a movie or concert, take a hot bath, read or listen to music.
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