What is bereavement?
Bereavement describes the sense of loss and grief we feel after the death of someone we care about.
It’s normal to experience a range of emotions, including anger, sadness, loneliness, guilt and anxiety during bereavement. But there’s no right or wrong way to feel. It affects people in different ways.
Our member Sara Mathews says: “Bereavement is not only a very emotionally distressing experience but can also leave people feeling confused, afraid and dislocated from their sense of who they normally are and how they normally respond.”
Working through your feelings with a therapist can help you come to terms with your loss.
Sara, who is Head of Bereavement Counselling at Teesside Hospice, says that after someone’s death, “feelings of loss are part of what it is to love and care about another.
“These feelings may always be present and although they can change over time, they rarely disappear.”
She adds: “Often people treasure those feelings of loss as they connect them to the loved one in a form of continuing bond.”
How to cope with bereavement
The host of emotions that result from the death of a loved one can be overwhelming.
It’s important to give yourself time to grieve and to remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel. Grief is a unique experience.
There’s no one-size-fits-all way of coping with bereavement and what works will depend on each individual. How long it takes to learn how to cope with grief will also vary between individuals.
Part of learning how to deal with bereavement is adjusting to living in a world that is very different without your loved one. You may have had dreams and plans that you were looking forward to together, that will now not go ahead.
Sara says: “I often find that it’s useful to differentiate between feelings of loss and the necessary adaptions people need to make to find a way to live with the death.”
What is bereavement counselling?
Some people will figure out how to deal with bereavement with the help of family and friends, while others may need the support of a professional counsellor.
Bereavement counsellors are trained and qualified to help you process the feelings you have as you go through the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - and adapt to your new life.
How can bereavement counselling help?
"Counselling provides a safe and supportive space in which clients can allow their most painful feelings to be expressed and witnessed,” says Sara.
“Often the first task of bereavement counselling is to help to normalise what people are feeling.”
A bereavement counsellor can help you understand your complex and painful emotions and reduce the distress you may have about how you are feeling.
Sara adds: “Counselling can help you integrate the feelings of loss into your life and support you as you adapt to life without your loved one.”
More about bereavement
How to find a therapist
How to use the BACP Register and our online therapist directory to find the right counsellor or psychotherapist for you.
What is counselling?
Find out how counselling works, what therapists do and what happens in a therapy session. We also explain some of the key terms and concepts you may hear.
How to get therapy
Where, when and how you can get access to counselling and psychotherapy.