How To Cope
The funeral itself will be a sad day but may be countered by feelings of excitement when meeting family and friends that have not been seen for a long time. The ‘Wake’ following the funeral may encourage high spirits as friends exchange fond memories.
This can all change very quickly after the funeral: Friends and even close family members return to their own busy lives and for them a degree of normality returns. Yes, they miss the person who has died but it does not impact upon them every hour of the day. For you the difficult time has just begun and it may well be a lonely place – where there was once a soul-mate to pass the time, their absence is now glaringly apparent.
We often refer to ‘my other half’ and it may well feel that half of you is missing. You may have to suffer some unhelpful clichés from well meaning friends: ‘Time will heal’ or ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘He/she lived to a good age’ – but you know this is not the case.
In the weeks that follow the funeral it is common to find it difficult coping with every day activities: going to the shops, preparing a meal, even just leaving the house. Worse, when you do leave the house there may be anxiety in returning to it knowing that it is empty. We recommend that you try to take small steps at a time; ask a relative or friend to support you in your first attempts at things you find difficult.
Some people may advise that you should keep yourself busy; it will keep your mind off your troubles. This is all very well, but making life busy in an artificial manner may bring its own hazards and repercussions. We suggest making subtle changes to life, expanding upon the things that work and dropping those that don’t. If you go to the shops once a week but enjoy doing so, change your routine to go twice a week or more, but buy less when you are there to compensate.
There will be some difficult times ahead but these can be managed to a degree by some careful planning. There will be important dates during the year that need to be addressed: birthday, Christmas, anniversaries, Mother’s/Father’s Day etc. You may predict that some dates in particular will be low points for you and your family. Don’t shut yourself away and dread the day - try to turn this around in your favour. In advance, talk about the day among family and friends; what can you do to make the day more bearable? There is no point in pretending nothing has changed so focus on it instead. Perhaps there should be an empty chair at the meal table; perhaps a candle should be lit for the day. Retain the family tradition of an important day, to support those around you, but change the usual pattern subtly to acknowledge the absence of the deceased and pursue a new direction.
You may experience some unusual and unwanted sensations: Difficulty in sleeping, feeling numb and unable to participate, bad or unwanted dreams, visions of the person who has died, relief (especially if the loved one had suffered). You may also suffer a loss of belief. These and others are often quoted by people who are recently bereaved. This may be very uncomfortable if it happens to you but will hopefully pass quite quickly. There is nothing wrong with you unless the problem persists over a long period and if it does you should certainly consult your doctor. If you can, try to avoid remedies such as anti-depressants and in particular avoid excessive alcohol. These are not easy answers and may make things worse in the long run.
Moving forward will be slow and progress difficult with many set backs along the way. We hope you will read on to other pages that may help you.