Mind-matters: Coping with grief
As a new survey reveals more than a quarter of people grieve alone, Ella Walker asks the experts how best to cope with loneliness after loss
LOSS and grief are an inevitable part of life – especially as we get older – but that doesn't make it any less devastating.
While taking away the pain of grief is impossible, and it's perfectly normal to feel heartbroken and bereft after the loss of a close loved one, there are coping mechanisms that might help people get through this difficult stage and adapt to the change.
According to a new survey by Independent Age (Independentage.org), the older people's charity, more than a quarter of people don't turn to anyone for emotional or practical support after the death of someone close to them.
On average, people aged 65 and over feel lonely for around eight months after a bereavement, while those aged 81 to 85 feel lonely for around one year.
So what can be done to ease feelings of loneliness following a personal loss?
Lucy Harmer, director of services at Independent Age, shares her tips...
GRIEVE IN YOUR OWN WAY
There is no one way of grieving, and everybody takes different amounts of time to deal with a bereavement, so don't put pressure on yourself to feel a certain way by a certain time.
TALK TO OTHERS
Bottling things up could make it harder in the long run, so it's a good idea to talk to someone about what you're feeling and draw on their support. Sharing your memories and talking about the person who died can be very helpful.
BE AWARE OF THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF GRIEF
Many people will have physical symptoms of grief, as well as emotional ones. These can include exhaustion, loss of appetite or comfort eating, panic attacks, aches and pains and disturbed sleep. These are common symptoms, but if they persist, speak to your GP.
FIND SUPPORT AFTER THE FUNERAL
Planning a funeral can keep you busy and you're likely to have lots of people around you. After this is over, the reality of the death may hit you. Remember that you're still grieving and you may need to find different ways to cope with your feelings. Reach out to friends and family to get the practical and emotional support you need to help you through this time.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
It's important to be kind to yourself and do things that help you. Allow yourself to feel sad and give yourself time to grieve. Simple practical steps will also help, such as trying to get plenty of sleep, eating healthily, sticking to a routine and finding small things that make you feel better, such as listening to music.
KEEP YOUR MEMORIES ALIVE
Finding your own way to remember the person you've lost can help you to cope with the death by allowing you to keep a connection to them. You might like to do this by displaying a photograph of them, making a donation to a cause they cared about or planting a tree in their memory.
GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT
Over time, your feelings of grief should become less intense and you can find hope and ways to adapt to life without the person you've lost. Remember, this will take a different amount of time for everybody and if you feel you need support, help is available. Try talking to your GP or a bereavement counselling organisation such as Cruse (www.cruse.org.uk).
:: Independent Age's free advice guide Coping With Bereavement: Living With Grief And Loss can be downloaded via independentage.org/guide-bereavement.