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How to Cope with Bereavement

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” – Thomas Campbell

There is no handbook on how to cope with bereavement. Grief is the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. Following the death of a loved one there is a period of intense grief, mourning and loss. It is a devastating event that can turn our world upside down and changes our lives forever. This is the nature of bereavement. It is experienced by anyone who has ever loved.

Bereavement is a highly personal experience. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve and is different for everyone. Some may cry and others have dry eyes. How you grieve depends on various factors such as your personality and coping style, your life experience and your faith.

There is no set timetable for grieving. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually and cannot be forced or hurried.

Bereavement is painful and we need to talk about it. Ignoring grief does not make it better. In fact, it can make it worse. We need to know how to cope with bereavement or we risk grief’s damaging effects.

“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” – Earl Grollman

Here are some tips on how to cope with bereavement:

How to Cope with Bereavement

Have Perspective

Death is something that will happen in the future. Hopefully, it is something that is not going to happen today, so there is time to enjoy some of what life has to offer and put death into perspective.

If you were given a wish to live as long as you wanted, what would you choose? There is a time that comes when death is a kindness and a pathway that leads to the end of suffering. Understanding that old age is associated with frailty and often suffering, allows us to view death with respect and helps reduce bereavement and bereaved people..

When someone is liberated from a body of suffering, this is a reason to celebrate. Bereavement is lessened by the relief of death.

how to cope with bereavement - glass ball

Move Towards Acceptance

We all have to face death one day, either as spectators and family members to those we love or as the main character.

Death brings complicated grief. The first line of defence against death is often denial: it won’t happen, it cannot be happening. Dame Kubler- Ross describes that loss and grief come in phases. It begins with shock and denial and quickly progresses through various levels and intensity of emotions such as anger, bargaining, and depression.

We often ask ourselves “How can this be happening?”, “Someone must be at fault” and “Why me?”. Hopelessness and sadness are normal feelings through this transition period. For some people, this wild and rapid – ride of emotions never end, and for others, there is calm water ahead.

It is important to not bottle your emotions. Do not to fight the rapids if you want to get to the calm waters ahead. Accepting death also means accepting grief and bereavement.

how to cope with bereavement - couple on beach

Aim For Peace

Bereavement is over-whelming and painful beyond measure. It is the realisation that you will never see or talk to your loved one again.

Not everyone gets to plan and prepare for their death. For some people, life is snatched away. With this comes great loss and bereavement. Those who get to plan for their death have an opportunity to make peace and this helps reduce bereavement for those close to them.

For Peace in Death and Bereavement:
• Aim for peace with your self
• Aim for peace with your mortality
• Aim for peace in your relationships
• Aim for peace with God

how to cope with bereavement - feather

Do What it Takes

Preparing for death and dying takes courage.

When death is on its way, there are many practical things to prepare for like wills, funerals and advanced directives. However, preparing for death does not need to be filled with papers and official decisions. There are also various fun things to do like photoshoots and celebratory events that make dying a little easier. However, there are also the most difficult things to do, such as saying our goodbyes and imparting our final thoughts and blessings on those we love.

It is always crucial to do these early and in writing so that if time catches us off guard, we have something in place. Always do what it takes to say your goodbyes early and to regularly tell those close to you, that you love them. Make the time to keep in contact with friends and family. Hugs and Love are remembered forever.

Doing what it takes to make the landing softer for those anticipating grief and bereavement is a gift for those who remain and can make grief a little easier.

how to cope with bereavement - mountain climbing

Go With The Flow

When the time comes to die, go where the flow takes you. Much like childbirth, death is a process. Fighting it will not make a difference. Instead, it uses up invaluable energy and causes more stress for all involved.

Work to be at Peace, to die in peace and rest in peace. Accept the time when it comes. Respect death and be thankful for the gift of life.

After death has occurred, there are many emotions associated with bereavement for those left behind. These include numbness, shock, anger, a daze, poor sleeping, poor thinking and emotional ups and downs. When experiencing grief it is also important to go with the flow. We may be masters of pushing these feelings away, but it will make grief all the more painful when that built-up wave of emotions come crashing down.

It may seem as if the pain and loneliness will never end. However, if you take one day at a time the grief that is felt gets better, often without realisation.

how to cope with bereavement - boat on water

Don’t Rush

There is no set handbook to managing bereavement. It is a deeply personal process that takes time to work through and process.

There is no timetable for how long we experience grief, or how we should feel after a particular time. A year may have passed and our emotions may feel as if everything happened yesterday, or it may feel like it happened a lifetime ago.

Grief cannot be rushed. Sadness and loss can be triggered by a multitude of everyday things- smells, sights, sounds, songs, conversations and even dreams. There will be moments of profound loneliness and sadness for those left behind. However, with time and without notice, we will feel ourselves moving forward.

It is never beneficial to rush these feelings. Studies have shown that bottling your grief is detrimental to both mental and physical health. A stiff upper lip will not help a broken heart. Although time can heal the feelings of loss and bereavement, it will always leave a scar.

how to cope with bereavement - wheelchair on pavement

Be Thankful

It may sound ironic but be thankful that loss is painful! It is a sign of a life well-loved and lived.

Be appreciative for the time spent together as families and friends. Whether it is good memories, silly situations or times of hardship, it is time spent none-the-less. Consider preserving their history and knowledge through photographs, music and writing.

A journal gives you a safe place to explore your jumbled thoughts and feelings. It helps find ways to remember a loved one and to record the ongoing journey through grief. Share your extraordinary day as though you were speaking to them. Share your Hardships.

Put Pen to paper. Often, it’s comforting to look back to see just how far you’ve come. Death shouldn’t be shameful. Celebrate the life that was lived.

how to cope with bereavement holding hands

Getting Help

Bereavement and grief encompass a spectrum of feelings from deep sadness to anger and frustration. The process of managing loss varies dramatically from one person to another.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are healthy ways to deal with the grieving process. If these emotions become too overwhelming before and after death, consider getting professional help.

Support Groups can prove to be incredibly helpful in dealing with bereavement. They help you realise you are not alone, gives you a safe space to freely speak, helps you move forward and gives hope for the future.

These provide safe and judgment-free spaces for you to fully grieve and express your emotions. There are many skilled people who can help navigate the rapids of bereavement. Don’t do it DIY.

how to cope with bereavement family

How to Cope with Bereavement

Grief and Mourning is Personal

When it comes to dying and bereavement, we are no professionals. We learn how to cope with bereavement our own way and in our own time. It is impossible to defeat death. The pathway to an easier death is to surrender to it on the day it arrives.

Ancient Greek-mythology view the god of death, Thanatos, as a kind old man who liberates the soul of the dying from a suffering body. Thanatos is a God who gently transports the soul to the afterlife.

For the religious, there is compelling evidence to suggest that we continue to live after death. This may offer hope of family reunions and celebrations and, more importantly, to be with God.

What are your wishes for the afterlife? Does God feature in your bereavement plan? If not, please reconsider and get in touch at admin@dyingtounderstand.com

How To Cope With Bereavement: Community and Resources

future change rain on leaf

How to Cope with Bereavement

Our Resources

Don’t let dying be a plane crash disaster. Talking about dying has never killed anyone! If you or someone you know has an incurable illness, it is recommended to have discussions about the fear of dying early.

Looking for more information on the fear of dying? Stickman is an everyday guy who is here to help confront the issues of death and dying.

Dying To Understand is a not-for-profit Charity. Click Below for our Green Page Directory for more Death and Dying Resources.

fear of dying apple

Personal

When it comes to dying, we can never be too prepared. Death has a way of being permanent and anything left undone remains undone. There is a lot to do, but don’t get overwhelmed. Make a list of things that need to be done or organised, and use our tool to help make sure you’ve got it all covered.

Finances of dying mountain climbing

Legal

When it comes to death and dying, expressing your views via legally supported documentation is essential. Usually, these legal documents take the form of testaments and wills, a power of attorney, estate planning and other matters your lawyer may consider. Whatever you do, try to avoid doing it yourself as it won’t survive if the vultures come, as they do, after death. Money spent on good legal documents and advice turns out to be cheap in comparison to drawn-out court cases when someone contests a will.

Financial planning for death hand of coins

Medical

Stay in control even when you are not. When your health is fading, and death is nearer, medical care will undoubtedly increase and your wishes associated with this care are important.

Important things to consider to support the dying process are advanced directives, resuscitation instructions and, most importantly, exploring the benefits of palliative care. It’s important, for living and for dying, to be informed.

how to cope with bereavement - wheelchair on pavement

Estate Planning & Financial Matters

Even though you cannot take it with you when you die, you do want to ensure that your assets are protected. Seeking financial advice about estate planning before dying is essential. Why pay unnecessary tax and fees if you can avoid it. Seeking professional help to ensure your estate and other assets are safe and directed where you want, is of utmost importance for both you and your family or friends.

surviving death feather

Funerals and Cremations

After death comes the funeral or the farewell. Most people think of funerals or cremations negatively. They are not bad, they are events that play an essential function in society and are an important part in the dying process in that they honour the life lived, deal with grief and, most importantly, dispose of the deceased body. 

Man giving a helping hand
Man giving a helping hand

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