CanHOPE is a non-profit cancer counselling and support service provided by Parkway Cancer Centre, Singapore.
Bereavement is a state of loss when someone close to you has passed on. Losing someone dear can be devastating. Each of us experiences grief differently. The way we grieve can be affected by our personalities, cultural background, gender, beliefs, age and other factors. These responses are natural and unique.
Grieving does not mean “getting over” your loved one. On the contrary, it is a process of learning to cope with life without their physical presence, yet maintaining a sense of connection with the memories or values of your loved one.
Grief and bereavement may be the most difficult experience of our lives. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, we hope the information provided can help you and your family, or someone you know, to cope with the loss of a loved one. The following are some possible experiences you may encounter and tips on self-care.
It may take you some time to grasp what has happened. Sometimes it is hard to accept the passing of a loved one, and you may try to numb the pain following their death. This is a way of managing the loss to help you get through the important practical arrangements that have to be made. Numbness may uncouple itself sometime after the loss, and intense emotions may be felt thereafter. It is acceptable to have these feelings even though you may find them uncomfortable to sit with.
Feeling angry may be part of the grieving process as well. You may feel angry towards the health care team who did not prevent the death of your loved one, or even towards relatives or friends whom you think did not do enough. At times, you may feel angry with yourself, the deceased, the world or even God.
Experiencing a sense of guilt is possible too. You may think about what you could have done more or differently for your loved one. Guilt may also arise if a sense of relief is felt when someone has passed on after a long distressing illness. This feeling of relief is understandable given such circumstances.
Sadness and loneliness are inevitable for you and your family when someone who has been a central part of your life dies. While it may take some time for these difficult feelings to diminish, it is still important for you to gently acknowledge these emotions without being judgmental or harsh on yourself and your family. Engaging in some simple activities and talking to someone you trust may help to alleviate sadness and loneliness.
As you grieve the loss of a loved one, you may yearn for the shared experiences you once had with them. Daily routines and familiar places may bring back fond memories of the deceased. Yearning evokes bittersweet emotions, as it is a way of staying connected with them. You may express that yearning in different ways – looking through old photos, talking about your loved one with others, or even writing letters to them about events in your life.
The range of thoughts, emotions and behaviours which you may undergo during this time of loss can be wide. You may have a different experience from the ones mentioned above, and it is all right as these are unique to each individual. It is crucial that you allow yourself space and time to journey through this process.
Changes in eating and sleeping habits during bereavement can be expected. Your day-to-day routines may be disrupted and you may lose interest in things you used to enjoy. Perhaps, you may be prone to falling ill. It is natural for your body to take some time to adjust to these changes. Often, these symptoms are temporary.
It is important that you allow yourself time to grieve. Grief may be lifelong and present differently over time, but its symptoms usually lessen with the passage of time. If you or your family continue to experience difficulty coping with grief over time, it is advisable to seek professional counselling support.
It is a trying time for you and your family as you cope with the loss of your loved one. You may not know who to approach, or perhaps you are worried about how your children or loved ones are coping. Seeking professional support is helpful in coping with grief and bereavement for your family and yourself. To contact our counsellors, please visit www.canhope.org or call (+65) 6738 9333.
Explaining death to children is not an easy task. Depending on the age of your child(ren), it may be difficult for them to understand what death is about. However, sharing the news of a loved one passing away is necessary for them. Breaking such news does not have to be shocking or traumatic. Preparations can be made to help them receive the news more readily.
It is always best to communicate honestly with children, and it will be helpful to provide age-appropriate analogies and examples. As death is often an abstract topic for some children, taking time to listen to them and answer their questions can help to assure them of your affection and understanding.
(Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, 175-186)
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
~ William Wordsworth ~