Bereavement after a lifetime together – ‘A Good Innings’?

Golden Times Magazine - March/April 2013

You may have shared a lengthy relationship but does it mean you will find grieving easier or death more acceptable than for someone who is bereaved at an earlier age? Kind-hearted people will offer you words of comfort, some may utter the all too familiar term ‘they had a good long life – a good innings’. At this point, you may even agree or, you may feel like screaming.

There are considered to be certain emotional stages that we go through when we are dealing with loss and grief but our experiences are as unique as the relationships we have lost. Sometimes there is intense anger and perhaps a blaming of self, friends, relatives, medical staff and even the person who died. Guilty reflection on what was or wasn’t done or said and maybe some guilt at the relief you feel that their pain or illness is finally over.

If you offer support to the bereaved please do keep in mind that what you think they may feel could be so different to what is really being experienced. Spending time with them is important, so too, is providing some space for them to express their grief. Special events and anniversaries can be a particularly difficult time so try and be available on these occasions. Practical help is also a good way to offer support perhaps with shopping or there could be an overwhelming mound of paperwork that needs attention. Finally, don’t expect the bereaved person to move on too quickly, time is essential.

An extremely important event in the emotional journey of bereavement is the funeral, at which point the intense reality of loss may emerge.

When should you seek professional help?

Death is inevitable and inescapable for us all; however, it remains one of the most difficult things to talk about. If you feel that you are struggling to come to terms with the emotional and practical changes that bereavement brings then maybe you would benefit from some professional counselling support. Bereavement can be extremely painful and unlike a physical condition there is no quick fix to feeling better.