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May 10th, 2019

Coping with bereavement

By Ms Susi Curzons (Assistant psychologist)

  • Anxiety
  • Grief and Bereavement
  • Depression
  • Happiness
  • Life Changes
  • Self-esteem
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Therapy

The death of someone close can be understandably difficult and distressing. Periods of grief following a bereavement is a completely normal response experienced by many. Grief can materialise in different ways for people and can share some symptoms with depression such as an intense feeling of sadness and a tendency to withdraw. However, grief and depression are not the same thing and it can be difficult to distinguish between them at times.

We can distinguish depression and grief in the following ways:

  • Grief following a loss is often characterised by painful feelings which tend to come and go, intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In depression it is more common for a person to experience ongoing low mood and negative thinking.
  • Individuals experiencing grief tend to preserve their self-esteem, whereas in depression a person may experience feelings of worthlessness.
  • A diagnosis of depression for everyone in the context of bereavement would be inaccurate, and for many this would be incorrectly labelling a normal process.

When we experience a bereavement, it’s common to be left feeling anxious, helpless, and sad by the situation. It can also be common to feel anger, even towards the individual you have lost. There is no set period of time in which you should or could recover from grief and some individuals can feel like they never fully recover from losing a loved one. However, it is important to remember that the intensity of feelings will fade and can become less prominent over time. It may take some individuals longer than others, and some may need some extra support from a health professional such as their GP, a therapist or counsellor to come to terms with their loss and continue on with life.

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, the NHS guidelines recommend the following tips for coping with grief:

  • Try to express how you are feeling to a friend, family member or healthcare professional.
  • Allow yourself time to grieve and feel sad.
  • Maintain your routine if you can. Keeping up with things could help you to avoid additional stress which could make you feel worse.
  • Try to get some sleep. Sleeping may be difficult at a time like this, but never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep in maintaining your overall well-being.
  • Eat healthily. A balanced diet can aid you in maintaining your energy levels, help maintain your mood up and in turn will help you to cope.
  • Avoid depressants such as drugs or alcohol. Drowning your sorrows may improve your mood in the short term, but it will make you feel worse in the long-run.
  • Ask for help. If you feel like you’re struggling to cope, speak to your GP or a therapist for additional support.
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