More people die in January than during any other month of the year, with
the first full week of the new year marking the peak time for deaths in
the UK. Last January memorably saw us bid farewell to national
treasures David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Terry Wogan. A combination of
physical and psychological factors is thought to be at play (including
temperature drops, thought to worsen the symptoms of certain health
conditions, and the Christmas comedown). Whenever and however you lose a loved one, though, dealing with grief is always tough.
We’ve compiled a list of resources and expert advice that might help if you have suffered a loss. We hope that it can provide you with a glimmer of hope amidst the thick fog of grief.
Accept your feelings
It’s tempting to try to push your emotions to one side, but accepting and even embracing them can help you to cope with the trauma you’ve experienced.
In its excellent guide to dealing with bereavement, the NHS outlines some emotions you might feel. These include:
Shock and numbness (a common initial reaction to death – people often speak of being ‘in a daze’)
Overwhelming sadness and tearfulness
Tiredness or exhaustion
Anger e.g. towards the person who died, their illness or God
Guilt e.g. about feeling angry, something you did or
didn’t say, or not being able to stop your loved one dying
It’s important to accept these feelings and acknowledge them – without entirely abandoning yourself to them. This isn’t always easy to accomplish without help…
Talk to someone
It’s normal, and natural, for thoughts of your lost loved one to be
uppermost in your mind for up to 18 months to two years after their
death. Talking about them and sharing memories of them
with others who loved them can help you get through it. You never know, you might still hear new stories
and find new ways of connecting with them, even after they’re gone.
friends and relatives to write their favourite anecdotes in a memory
book – you’ll be able to re-visit them later on, if you ever feel like
you’re losing touch with the person you’ve lost.
Some people prefer to talk to family and friends, but if you feel isolated or overwhelmed, are drinking more than usual, or it has become a struggle to sustain friendships and other relationships, or simply to ‘go through the motions’ of everyday life, you should seek outside help.
It might not necessarily appeal to you, but it’s often helpful to speak to trained professionals or volunteers about what you’re going through. Your GP should be able to point you in the right direction, but Cruse Bereavement Care offers free counselling and telephone support (0844 477 9400). The Samaritans are also on hand to offer 24 hour support (116 123). If your loved one died of cancer, you might like to try calling Marie Curie‘s specialist helpline (0800 090 2309).
Alternatively, you might like to try a bereavement support group.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
It’s easy to think that you should be coping with things in a specific way or that you should be ‘back to normal’ by a certain date, but there’s no right way to grieve.
The famous ‘five stages of grief’ model was devised by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She believed that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance were the five pillars of all kinds of grief. However, new research suggests that grieving patterns can vary considerably. Everyone does it differently.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have a ‘bad day’. Be as kind to yourself as you can. Life can feel unjust, unkind and downright cruel, but you still have the capacity to care for yourself, and to show the people around you how much you love them.