Mental Health Matters – COVID – Bereavement, Grief and Loss

COVID has brought a lot of physical hurdles and has had an enormous impact on our lives, it is also affecting our mental health in so many ways. This week we will be highlighting one of the ways COVID has affected our mental health, with the focus on Bereavement, Grief and Loss.

As with anything of this nature, please be kind to yourself and mindful of your limits. If you find any of this challenging to read, please be patient with yourself and know that it is OK. If you, or someone you know is displaying any of the following issues, please do seek support and medical guidance.

When looking at bereavement and grief due to COVID or other life changing illnesses, it isn’t just the physical absence of a loved one that can trigger these emotional responses. If someone important to you has suffered an illness, it can change the way they are from the person you once knew.

Limitations and restrictions to their physical abilities, appearance and emotional responses can lead to you having to adjust to the change in your life, this can also be experienced through grief for the loss of the person you once were or the person you once knew. Recovering from an illness can take time, patience, and a lot of courage, you fight for the person you were whilst discovering who you are now. Frustrations can run high, and the feeling of loss will be encountered during this process.

Bereavement is the experience of losing someone important to us whether that be a partner, family member, friend, or pet. Losing someone can be emotionally devastating and it is natural to go through a range of physical and emotional reactions as you gradually come to terms with the loss.

Bereavement, grief, and loss can affect everyone differently and our ways of coping can vary. It takes time to process and confront the loss of a loved one and it is something you learn to live with. A sense of loss can also be experienced following the end of a relationship or job and there is no right or wrong way to deal with these feelings.

Symptoms can vary from person to person but here are some common symptoms of grief or bereavement experienced:

- Shock and numbness often as a result of the news and your first reaction to it

- Overwhelming sadness with lots of crying

- Physical and emotional exhaustion

- Anger

- Guilt

Experts believe that we all experience different stages of grief or bereavement. Feelings of grief or bereavement can come in waves and can feel overwhelming initially but in time, can settle:

- Acceptance of the loss and the reality it brings

- Experiencing the pain or grief of the loss

- Adjusting to life without the person or thing that you have lost

- Adjusting emotionally and using this for something new

Anticipatory grief:

This is aspect of grief is when you are prepared for the death of someone. You might experience many of the same reactions and feelings as those after a death has occurred; it does not replace or diminish the sense of loss or grief. For some, anticipatory grief can provide the chance to prepare for the loss and for what they future might look like for them.

Secondary loss:

After any loss, you might experience a "secondary loss" which comes after the initial shock of losing a loved one. You might find thinking about the future challenging as that person will not be there or share the experiences with you. There is no right or wrong way to approach and respond to grief and bereavement. All feelings are justified, and you need to allow yourself time and patience to recover and learn to come to terms with the loss.

Things you can do to help with your grief or bereavement:

- Try to talk to a friend or family member about the loss. There are also bereavement support lines if you would feel more reaching out this way.

- Be patient with yourself. Set small and achievable targets. - Focus your energy and thoughts in to helping yourself feel better rather than focusing on things that can't be changed.

- Remind yourself that you are not alone; most people experience grief after a loss and there are support lines you can reach out to.

- Try to rest and get some sleep. Mindfulness can be a good way to ease the mind and allow your body to rest.

Things you can do to help someone with their grief or bereavement:

- Be there for the person who is grieving. Remind them that you are there when they need you, you can call or make contact by sending an email or writing a letter.

- Accept and understand that everyone experiences grief in their own way.

- Encourage them to talk to you and make sure that you are able to listen and allow them uninterrupted time. Ensure that they are comfortable and are able to open up to you without having to put on a “brave face”

- Contact them at difficult times or milestones such as birthdays or special anniversaries to let them know they are not alone.

- Ask what they feel would help them and be ready to suggest support lines or practical ideas to help.

- It is important to look after yourself too: Supporting someone with their grief can be emotionally challenging so make sure you give yourself some time too.

If you or someone you know is struggling to come to terms with a loss, know that you are not alone. Seek support from those around you and, if you are able to, professional guidance and advice.

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