Coping Afterwards

When someone close to us dies we can’t help but be changed by the experience and it may even alter the way we perceive the world around us. Adapting to the loss will take time and usually more time than we can first appreciate, but many people are able to make the necessary adjustments and look ahead. The hardest part is when we have to adapt our lifestyle due to the changes in status.

At first the emotions you feel will overwhelm you but you must appreciate that this is a normal response to losing a loved one. Individuals react differently, but many people experience anger, confusion, anxiety or even a numbness. It is usual to cry a lot at this time and many people have difficulty sleeping and lose their appetite for food. No two people’s reactions are the same, even if they are mourning the loss of the same person.

Some will tell you to “get over it” and that “life goes on” which can seem to minimise the situation; and whilst appearing insensitive they are generally well-meaning and are finding it difficult to provide the right support or say the right thing.

Most people find the help of family and friends is enough to support them through the experience of bereavement. However, sometimes it can be helpful to talk with people who have gone through a similar experience or with someone who is trained in supporting people who are bereaved.

Talk to your GP if you are concerned that you are not coping. They can check that there is no physical cause for the way you are feeling and many surgeries have counsellors on their staff. There are also self-help groups set up and run by the bereaved and other organisations, many of them charities which specialise in providing support to the bereaved.

You can find a selection of organisations on the useful contacts page.

Young children can find it most difficult to comprehend what has happened when someone they know dies. They will sense the distress and tension of adults around them without knowing why this is. Depending on what age they are, their personalities and their experiences will determine what they understand and how they respond

It would be advisable to notify their teacher or nursery teacher who will observe them in the immediate days following the death, but they may also be able to advise how to deal with the loss within the classroom. They will also have access to the advice of educational psychologists if they feel this might be helpful.

Some of the important things to remember are:
*  Try and keep the security of familiar routines if you possibly can.
*  Remember children can change mood very quickly – being upset one moment and then playing normally the next. This is part of the way they cope but can be difficult for adults to adjust to.
*  Keep talking about the person who has died.

Remember other children may hear their parents talking about the death if it is known in the local community and speak to your child about what has happened. It is important your child hears information from you first. Do not hide the fact that you are upset and miss the person who has died so that they can feel comfortable showing their feelings too.

There are a number of resources that can support and help children, including specialist organisations and picture and storybooks. There are also helplines and websites for teenagers and young adults wanting to talk with someone about the issues they face after a bereavement.  Answer their questions honestly, using words they will understand.

Living on Your Own

The death of anyone close is tremendously difficult. If you find yourself living on your own for the first time in many years, this will have an impact on your everyday lifestyle and it can take time to get used to this.

You may need to learn to do things that your partner may have done or helped with, such as shopping, cooking or organising the household finances. If you have family or friends who you can ask for help they will often be happy to assist.

Age UK (formerly Age Concern and Help the Aged) has useful information on their website for people living on their own, as well as many free leaflets on a wide variety of topics. Despite the names of the organisation, much of the information is targeted at people over 50. FirstStop is a new free service for older people, their families and carers. Direct.gov is also a useful source of information.

For emotional support and counselling, you can find the contact details of many organisations on the useful contacts sections of this site.

You may need more formal support to be able to continue living in your home, especially if the person who has died was your carer. Contact your local authority’s social services department or your own doctor to ask for additional help. Many services are provided in partnership with the NHS and local and national charities such as the WRVS and Age UK.

If you need help with larger jobs around the home or want to be sure you are employing a reliable tradesperson you can contact Foundations which is the government appointed national body for Home Improvement Agencies which exist to help older and vulnerable people to maintain their independence by providing housing-related support.

If the deceased was a carer for someone else, urgent decisions will need to be made about the care of the surviving person. If you find yourself in the role of carer for the first time, Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Carers UK are good sources of support and information. Both have local centres for supporting carers as well as national profiles.

The Directgov website describes the services available for different people in need that can be provided through Social Services. This includes a search for the Social Services Department in your area. If you need an emergency placement for someone in need of care while a longer term solution is arranged, please contact your social services department as soon as possible.

For more general information Age UK is a very useful source. FirstStop in particular offers advice on the financial aspects and what the entitlements are for someone requiring residential or nursing home care. Contact details for all these organisations can be found on our useful contacts page.

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