If you have not already done, please make early arrangements to talk to a funeral director - this booklet "What to do when someone dies" can help with the practicalities of this and well as understanding many of the processes that might have to be followed when a person dies.
It can be the case for many of the family and friends of the deceased that
there are so many things to do in the immediate aftermath of death of a loved one that they forget – or do not have time – to grieve.
When the deceased has been laid to rest, the care equipment has been taken away, the support package for the patient has ended; when it has all quietened down, then the grief can hit. Days or weeks or months later.
Harthill PCN practices want to be able to support the bereaved at those times, whenever they come and to facilitate that support, each of our practices has appointed a Bereavement Support Officer.
The Bereavement Officer is the key contact for bereaved patients to help with queries in the time after the patient has died.
"I'm not ready to see anybody"
People can have quite different experiences when they lose someone close to them and not everyone wants to talk about the loss of a loved one.
Whilst we would like to encourage all those who struggle in the aftermath of a death to talk to one of our team Bereavement Support Officers, we hope the information below will help until you are ready to do this.
Many people will not experience bereavement or loss until later in life and may have little opportunity to learn about death and about how people are affected by grief. It can be difficult to know what is “normal” and to understand how we or our families respond when we face a loss.
You may think you are the only person who has feels the way you do, and whilst everyone responds to a loss is their own individual experience, there are some common experiences that many people will share.
In the hours and days after the death
People often describe the symptoms of shock soon after the death of a loved one. They may feel numb, panicky, weepy or actually unable to cry at all.
Some will have difficulty sleeping; some might experience physical symptoms such as heart palpitations. Meanwhile, others might calmly go through the all practical tasks surrounding the death and then find themselves worrying that they may be seen as uncaring. This is just one of the signs of shock and it is most likely that they will feel the impact of the death at a later point.
Some people find themselves completely unable to cope and need a lot of practical and emotional support from those around them at this point.
In the weeks and months after the death
There are no ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ when people experience grief in the early stages - everybody is different.
Some feel a sense of agitation for quite a long time after the death. They may become very active doing things like cleaning the whole house, or going straight back to work when not really ready. This agitation can sometimes amount to anxiety and panic, with symptoms such as breathlessness, palpitations, heavy chest, dry mouth, and dizziness being common.
Other people may feel they are “going mad” because they experience such odd things. They might experience seeing, hearing or feeling the dead person near them or in the distance.
This is not unusual following a death. These feelings may alternate with depression, weepiness, tiredness and low mood.
People may start to wonder “what’s the point in going on?"
Some may feel guilt and start to question the circumstances of the death and their relationship with the person who died - wondering what they could have done differently or if they could have done more to helped the situation.
Perhaps they fell guilty when there has actually been relief at someone's death - especially if the deceased suffered a painful or prolonged illness. It is worth remembering that many people feel relief when suffering ends.
People can sometimes feel angry after a death. This can be directed at the dead person; “why has he left me?”, or at those around.
Family members or people involved in caring for the dying person may be the target for the bereaved person's anger. They might think or ask, “Why didn't you do more?”
Other people’s reactions may be difficult for the bereaved person.
Sometimes people can be clumsy in what they say or do or they avoid contact with the bereaved person. These reactions are usually because people do not know what to do or say in the face of someone’s grief.
Sometimes others do not understand it can take a long time to even begin to recover from a death.
When do people begin to recover from bereavement?
Coming to terms with a death is a very personal and gradual process and it can take a long time. People generally find that slowly and gradually they are able to get on with their lives and think a little less about the person they have lost. Most people will begin to feel like this within one or two years of the death of someone close to them, however this can depend on many factors.
It may be difficult to accept the death of a loved one yet still be possible to move on with life in spite of this. Sometimes bereavement can be more complicated, particularly in a situation where there has been a difficult relationship.
Some bereavements are particularly traumatic, for example where death is very sudden and unexpected, or involves the loss of a child. Bereavement by suicide or criminal acts are especially hard to deal with. That is often when it can be most helpful to turn to others for support. Counselling can help many people who are bereaved and you should be able to talk to your practice Bereavement Support Officer for details of organisations who provide this support.
It is important not to feel guilty if you are beginning to build a life for yourself following a death. It is quite normal to begin to recover and start to rebuild your life, and is not in any way disloyal to the memory of the person who has died.
If you feel you are stuck or not coping at all well with your grief then contact your doctor to discuss this. Alternatively you can use the booklet "What to do when someone dies" or the Bereavement booklet in the Self Help section (extracts from which we have shown above) for more information - including links to different organisations that can offer help and support.