Some Characteristics of Bereavement

  • All bereavements are unique because the relationship between the bereaved and the deceased is always different
  • Not only has the bereaved person lost someone precious but they have usually lost a way of life
  • Bereavement takes many forms, and there is no definitive time frame for the healing process
  • Bereaved people can come for help whenever it suits them, and can sometimes be years after their loss
  • Many emotions are experienced within grief, the most common are shock, guilt, despair, resentment, loneliness, fear, isolation, anger, numbness, relief
  • Other emotions experienced within grief can be feeling inadequate, feeling lost, lacking in purpose, and many more besides
  • There is no set path through grief, and in reality the bereaved will experience some or all of these emotions, jump backwards and forwards between them
  • Bereaved people often find they are judged by others close to them, usually out of love, which is not helpful
  • People around the bereaved often believe that the bereaved person is ‘ok’ or ‘over it’ if they are not showing outward emotions, e.g. crying
  • It can be normal for bereaved people to want to spend time on their own to reflect; they do not always need to be in company. If in doubt - ask
  • A lot of additional stuff usually comes out around the time of bereavement as things are being sorted out.
  • Traumatic and sudden death are extremely difficult to deal with, and bring additional issues and emotions
  • It brings our own mortality into focus
  • The emotions and thoughts, however weird, are a normal expression of grief, and need not be suppressed
  • It is possible for humour to be present, and the bereaved person is allowed to have fun and to laugh
  • Approach

  • It is important to let someone who is grieving to express their loss in whatever way is appropriate to them.
  • Give the bereaved person time and don’t rush things
  • Showing emotion is not a weakness, so allow the bereaved person to cry.
  • Allow the bereaved to sit in silence as they reflect if that is what they want to do
  • Bereaved people can get comfort from numerous things, which the counsellor can use in their healing, e.g. poetry, memory boxes, music, letters, photos
  • Getting support from family, friends, and local support groups can be useful
  • It is important to have a network of trusted individuals to provide support between counselling sessions, and also afterwards
  • Assist the bereaved in exploring new ways in which they can rebuild their lives
  • Share in the bereaved person’s loss without question
  • If in doubt what the bereaved person wants or is feeling then ask.
  • Openly share your own emotions towards the bereaved
  • Share the memories of the lost loved one with the bereaved person
  • Introducing therapeutic writing to some bereaved people can be helpful as it allows self expression of their innermost thoughts
  • Both talking and writing things down helps and is more powerful than some might imagine