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Unit 3 – Common reactions to bereavement

(provided by Cruse Bereavement Care)

Bereaved people may feel a number of things immediately after a death. All of them are perfectly normal and an awareness of these can help funeral directors to know how to respond – and, where appropriate, how and when to recommend the right professional bereavement care and support.

Below are some of the most common reactions.

Shock: It may take the bereaved person a long time to grasp what has happened. The shock can make them numb, and some people at first carry on as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. Many people feel disorientated – as if they have lost their place and purpose in life or are living in a different world.

Pain: Feelings of pain and distress following bereavement can be overwhelming and very frightening.

Anger: Sometimes bereaved people can feel angry. This anger is a completely natural emotion, typical of the grieving process. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together. We may also feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.

Guilt: Guilt is another common reaction. People who have been bereaved of someone close often say they feel directly or indirectly to blame for the person’s death. They may also feel guilt if they had a difficult or confusing relationship with the person who has died, or if they feel they didn’t do enough to help them when they were alive.

Depression: Many bereaved people experience feelings of depression following the death of someone close. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning and some people say they too want to die.

Longing: Thinking they are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when they least expect it. Some people may find that they can’t stop thinking about the events leading up to the death. “Seeing” the person who has died and hearing their voice can happen because the brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it.

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