Dr's Casebook: Understanding the stages of grief when you lose someone

Sadly, we had a family funeral to attend last week.

Saturday, 13th November 2021, 4:45 pm
There are several recognised stages of grief.

Dr Keith Souter writes: This makes Remembrance Day seem all the more poignant for us personally this year.

Remembrance Day is an important day for everyone.

It is a day when we can pay our respects to the millions of men and women who gave their lives in conflicts all around the world, but it also gives us an opportunity to remember those that we have grieved for.

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There are several recognised stages of grief.

Generally, a normal grief process lasts for about three months.

There will still be emotional pain, but things will become easier after that.

Initially there is shock.

One simply cannot quite believe that the loved one has gone, even if they were of an advanced age.

People often exhibit the mental mechanism of ‘denial’ whereby they refuse to believe that the person has died.

This is a defence mechanism that stops too much emotion from flooding over us at once.

This is sometimes accompanied by emotional blunting, so that the person does not weep as much as they would expect.

After a few days comes yearning.

The person yearns and wants the deceased person to come back.

They find themselves filled with memories and images.

They want to be close to their things and personal effects.

In this time, which can last for a week or two, there is often anger that the person has been taken away, or that certain people did not do enough.

Then there is sometimes guilt; perhaps the person feels that if only they had done certain things the individual would still be with them.

Guilt about things that had not been said before the person died.

Despair can often last a few more weeks.

This is the sadness that comes when it is realised that they have gone.

It is common for people to hibernate, to become apathetic and to feel that life is pointless.

But all this will pass.

And then as the main hurting starts to go, comes recovery.

It is a matter of coming to terms with the loss so that one can rebuild one’s life, and experience a return of joy.

It is all the normal pattern of grief as we learn to remember, but yet still let our loved ones go.