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Bereavement and grief counselling

There are few events in life more distressing than the death of a friend or family member. Bereavement or grief relates to the period of time after we’ve lost people we love, and describes how we adjust to the significant amount of change that usually follows.

While we may grieve after other types of loss such as the end of a relationship, retirement, losing a pet or loss of health, the intense range of emotions felt after losing a person we love often affects us most profoundly.

Bereavement counselling is advised if you are struggling to come to terms with your loss, especially if you believe the mental and emotional effects of a person’s death is affecting your ability to function during the day.

Covid-19: click here for more information on how we’re currently delivering services.

Dr Radu Iosub, Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Bristol, offers practical advice and support for managing feelings of grief during 'lockdown'. He explains the links between this and PTSD and talks about the different help & support available for those who may have suffered loss during this very difficult time.

What is bereavement?

Bereavement is used to describe the range of feelings associated with grief after a loved one has passed away. An overwhelming sense of loss accompanied by emotions including sadness, anger, guilt, frustration and anxiety often follow immediately after the death, with this period described as being ‘in mourning’ and is categorised as acute bereavement or grieving.

When you are experiencing bereavement, allowing yourself to come to terms with your own emotions within your own timescale is imperative when learning to cope with such a life changing situation. Initially, it may seem as though finding peace or acceptance after a person you love has died represents an immense challenge, although the more intense feelings of loss tend to subside after you have worked through your emotions over a period of time.

It is important to remember that grief is a perfectly normal and healthy response to loss. As many of us are living longer, it can be some time before we experience profound sadness of losing a loved one in our lives, and every individual will cope with the associated emotions in different ways.

The way in which a person died can also have an impact on the type of emotions felt after their death. If they were battling a terminal illness for example, the death might have been expected, in which case you may already had chance to begin the grieving process and say your goodbyes. If the death of the person close to you was particularly sudden, accidental, or violent, then it may take longer to reach the stage of acceptance, as there are often more complex patterns of emotion felt in this case.

Stages of Grief

There are five most widely recognised stages of grief, although there have been some studies that have asserted there may actually be as many as seven.

It is important to understand that these are not sequential. They can occur in any order and people can experience several stages at the same time.

Here are the most well-known stages of grief:

  • Denial – this is a common initial response to coping with the emotional pain and processing the disbelief, to avoid accepting the loss before being ready
  • Anger – this serves as a natural outlet for the hurt and distress, because it becomes a form of self-protection when someone feels vulnerable
  • Bargaining – this stage involves a helpless desperation to relieve the pain in any way possible, often by praying, hoping or imagining theoretical scenarios
  • Depression – when someone finally starts facing up to their loss, it can feel overwhelming to realise there is no escape from it and they often withdraw from others
  • Acceptance – this is when the person has stopped trying to change what happened, with more of an understanding around it, though sadness can remain. This involves adjustment to life with the loss.
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Specialist bereavement counsellors at Priory

Priory understands that the loss of someone you love is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through, which is why our team of highly experienced bereavement counsellors and therapists work with you to understand the nature of your loss. We can then create a personalised treatment plan to help you cope with your grief and prepare for the future, allowing you to find acceptance and enabling you to continue with your life towards eventually reaching acceptance.

Depending on your individual circumstances, such as whether the person’s death was sudden or expected, your response to the death of a loved one can affect you in unexpected ways. You may experience feelings of anger, alterations to your personality, or a numbness which can affect your view of reality, while more serious mental health conditions can form over time such as depression.

It is important to remember that there is no definitive length of time for mourning, or a particular way you are ‘supposed’ to feel during the grieving process. The emotional difficulties felt after the death of someone you cared about are completely normal, particularly if they played an important role in your daily life.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych) in June 2020, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in June 2022. To view all Priory bereavement specialists, please click here.

Treatment for bereavement at Priory
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Signs and symptoms of bereavement
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Causes of bereavement
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