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Bereavement



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Bereavement: The death of a loved one

The death of a loved one is an experience we may all have to cope with at some time or the other in our lives, particularly as we grow older.

It is likely that you may have already suffered the death of your parents, a brother or a sister, husband or wife, a good friend or even a child or grandchild. The death of someone you share your life with is one of the severest forms of stress. In later life it can mean the end of a loving relationship which has lasted for many years.
There may be other problems of your own life: lack of mobility, the problem of living alone, infirmity or ill-health, the distance you live away from your children, or the possibility that you may have no family left.

Bereavement is a highly personal and traumatic event. There is no standard measure of the pain of loss and each one of us will experience bereavement in our own way. Nevertheless, there is a recognized pattern to grieving and this chapter leads you through the usual stages of grief to show how healing can take place.

Our worst fears are always of the unknown, but if you know that grief needs to be worked through and the sort of things which people are likely to experience, it may help you to be more prepared for the death of a loved one.
In olden times, there was more formality in mourning and rituals of grief were part of life. Nowadays, with the rituals having become ultra-short, we may overlook the need to mourn, though it is essential to our well-being and recovery. We need to allow ourselves time to mourn and to grieve and we should allow it in others and seek to help them. Many can find additional solace through religion. If you have always had strong religious beliefs you may find that your faith is shaken when someone you love dies. If you do not regularly worship, you can start afresh. Personal faith and philosophy of outlook can be of enormous comfort in bereavement.

The stress of grief puts enormous physical and emotional demands on us. Stress also makes us accident-prone. That is why it is very important to take extra care of yourself. Extra rest, nourishing food, fresh air and exercise are of greater value than drugs and alcohol to tide over this period. However, if you are worried about your health in any way or you have a persistent complaint, you should consult your doctor.


Share your fears

As we grow older we may be burdened with fears. In bereavement we may experience the return of childhood fears as well as new fears: fear of darkness; fear of the unknown future; fear of having to move house; fear of not being able to cope with household chores and finances; and the fear of being alone after many years of loving companionship. Perhaps the greatest fear of all is having to face our own death. Fears are real but can be shared; the support of your family and friends will help to quell these fears.


Preparing for the death of a loved one

It is not morbid to talk about death but it is very sensible to be prepared for it as far as possible, both emotionally and practically. Not knowing how to do things leads to anger and frustration during grief. Being able to do the day-to-day work can also bring a measure of relief in the midst of emotional upset and a sense that your loved one would be pleased that you are coping.


Things that need to be done when there is a death

In case the death occurs at home, call your doctor who will sign a medical certificate confirming the cause of death, unless it is decided to refer the matter to the police. In case of death in hospital the doctor there will issue the certificate. The medical certificate must be taken to the local Registrar of Births and Deaths within a stipulated period of the death.


Sudden death

If the death is sudden or unusual your doctor has a duty to tell the police, who may call for a post-mortem and may arrange for an inquiry to find out the cause of death. In most cases it is merely a technicality so do not be too alarmed.


Death Notice

You may wish to put an announcement about the death in the newspapers, giving the date, time and place of the funeral. The classified advertisement department of the newspaper generally helps you with the wording and gives you an idea of the cost. For security reasons, you may decide not to include your address.


Practical dos and don’ts
  • Do try to prepare yourself in advance of a death.
  • Do express your emotions; it won’t help to hide your feelings. Talk about what has happened with your family, a close friend or a sympathetic group.
  • Do take great care of yourself: eat properly and rest.
  • Do try to guard against accidents in the home and ensure that your home is secure.
  • Ensure to consult your doctor if your health is a worry.
  • Don’t let family or friends hurry you into making decisions.
  • Don’t enter into any financial arrangement you don’t understand.
  • Don’t allow the funeral rituals to be expensive Don’t turn to drugs, alcohol or smoke to excess.
  • Don’t move home while you are still grieving. You will need time to adjust to your changed circumstances.
  • Don’t hurry the healing process; take it at your own pace.
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