Andrea Harrn Counselling Services

Early stages of bereavement symptoms

logoOver the last few months many friends have sadly lost a parent or loved one.    Death and bereavement are a normal part of the life process but when you are faced with a bereavement it can be very hard to know how to cope.  Or indeed if someone close to you is going through it how best do you support them?  I remember when my own father died some 23 years ago it was one of the most difficult times of my life.  I was one of the youngest of my friends to experience this so didn’t have anyone to really go to who had been through it before.    It is a time when you think you know who your real friends are.  However I now realise that some of my friends just didn’t know what to do – so they stayed away for a while or said very little.

From my years as a bereavement counsellor I want to share with you some specific researched information about the first 3 months after bereavement.  You may find you identify with some of the below but not all – we are all different in how we grieve and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

From Death to 2 weeks – Shock, Numbness and Denial

Shock – this stage includes various symptoms such as tears and sobbing, deep sighing, severe physical and emotional pain and anguish, shivering, chest and throat constrictions

Numbness – feelings of depersonalisation or detachment from the situation, a sense of isolation, feeling lost and confused, indecisive and some irrational behaviour, withdrawal from or clinging to others

Denial – telling yourself “It can’t be true”, disbelief, expecting your loved one to come back, constant reminiscing, may hallucinate, hearing voices of their loved one

One to Three months – Yearning, Searching, Anxiety, Anger, Guilt and Loneliness

Yearning – pangs of anguish, sobbing, pining, acute emotional pain, various symptoms of illness, nightmares, disturbed sleep leading to extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate, aimless activity, drifting, no interest beyond yourself, feeling your loved one as present, idealisation of the deceased

Searching – restlessness to fill the void, frustration, nothing pleases, extreme loss, constant seeking out, symbolic seeking – window shopping, overspending to compensate, can regress to childish behaviour

Anxiety – sense of insecurity, fears (often irrational), unusual dependency

Anger – “why me”, the pain and loss is felt as injustice, jealousy of other couples or people, avoiding them, misplacing anger at other things or towards other people, displacement, resentment and anger towards the deceased

Guilt – self-recrimination, “its my fault” “why didn’t I do more” “I wasn’t a good wife/daughter/son” etc.

Loneliness – feelings of sadness, emptiness, rejection – the loss of shared experiences

Please share this information with anyone that might benefit.  See later posts for the next 2 stages (8 – 9 months (variable) and Longer term or sign up to receive my blogs.

The above has been adapted from Colin Murray Parkes 5 stages of grief

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