Supporting someone experiencing depression, sadness, loneliness . . .

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A lovely elderly lady from church who lost her husband a few years ago gave me this little book. I have found it quite helpful and thought I would share a small part of it which really spoke into my situation.

Once the funeral is over and friends and relatives have gone back to their normal lives, the bodies biochemistry begins to allow the reality and foreverness of death to penetrate more deeply. Bereaved people often begin to experience extreme tiredness, lethargy, or feelings of hopelessness and loneliness. As mentioned before, it is easy for bereaved people, and their supporters, to interpret these reactions as ‘getting worse’, ‘going downhill’, ‘going mad’ or depression. Supporters may feel guilty for abandoning them and encourage visits to a doctor for medication, often in an attempt to assuage their guilt. Sadness and loneliness are painfully real – not illnesses that can be cured. It is hard enough to survive from day to day, let alone imagining weeks, months, years – a lifetime of having to live in this state. Anguish and fear can stimulate thoughts like ‘I wish I didn’t have to wake up in the morning’, of ‘If it weren’t for the children/my parents, my work etc., I’d kill myself’.

The loneliness of grief is hard to describe – a feeling that seems to go to the very core of our being. As hard as it might be to imagine, the intensity and constancy of these feelings will not last forever. Grief will change – not be ‘cured’. Most bereaved people learn how to live with ‘it’ if they receive the right kind of help.

Teamwork is needed from this point, because no one person can meet all the needs of someone who is passionately sad. Those who care could phone, write, send frequent emails, or work out a roster for helping with practical tasks. It is important for supporters not to lock themselves into a predictable pattern, for example, by phoning every day or week at the same time. Life may make it impossible to meet rigid commitments, and what is too predictable often looses value. What bereaved people need to be able to count on is that others care, and won’t disappear.

It helps if support people remember times that may be particularly difficult – sunset, weekends, particularly Sundays when non-bereaved people are usually off doing family or couple things. Birthdays, anniversaries, other special occasions and celebratory times can also be particularly difficult…One of the hardest things for most bereaved people is having others avoid mentioning the person who has died – acting as if they never existed. Where children are involved, it is important for them to witness the fact that people can remain as important to us in death as they are in life. In this way, children are reassured that if they die, they will never lose their place in people’s hearts and minds.

The acute phase of grief lasts for months, often up to two years. When we are grieving a relationship that is central to our lives, to our sense of identity, it can take up to five or six years to learn to find comparable meaning again in life, to fully accommodate the experience. This is not meant to frighten anyone who is newly bereaved, or imply that grief will consume your being 24/7 for five years. It is simply acknowledging that it takes a long time to reorganise a world that has been changed forever.

 

I highly recommend this little book to anyone knows someone who is bereaved, or is bereaved themselves.

xx zs

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