Understanding Why Bereavement Is Both Traumatic and Personal

January 8, 2022

Written by Diney Bindman

Love, loss, and grief are basic to human life. Bereavement is both massively traumatic and highly personal, as the piercing loss felt is unique to each individual. Many people go through various standard emotions and responses when someone close to them dies, such as shock, numbness, and disbelief. Grief literally knocks one off-kilter mentally, physically, and emotionally, but realizing that these feelings are normal can be helpful, even though each person must find a way to deal with it in their own way. 

“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve” (Earl Grollman)

The various emotions and responses to bereavement 

The dark, empty feeling that you can’t replace that one person who has died can bring on panic, for now, it’s just you who has to cope in a world without them, a world which seems to have imploded around you, suffocating you, frightening you. It can be lonely, dark, and overwhelming. Some feel anger for their loss. Some may feel guilt at not doing something to change the situation that led to that person’s death. There may suddenly be less money available, or perhaps more money which, in itself, can cause stress, or you may be eating and sleeping alone for the first time in years, perhaps be faced with household chores and bills which used to be shared, if it is a life partner who has died. Sleep can be disturbed by vivid dreams and periods of wakefulness, leading to exhaustion. Some may react by eating less or stopping entirely, and therefore lose weight drastically, or start eating more as a form of “comfort eating,” and so put on weight, which can lead to more anxiety and a feeling of sluggishness. Others still may start to drink more and try to push the pain away by drinking to excess. 

“It is very easy to see the allure of alcohol to dull the pain and the temptation to punish myself for something that is not my fault.  But the sobering truth is that if I step onto the path of self-destruction, I know I will never come back.” (Bill Jenkins, What To Do When The Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss)

Realities and realizations of the grieving process 

Part of the grieving journey is trying to process and face the reality that you may have lost the one person who really understood you, or who really loved you more than anyone else in the world. Suddenly, there is no one with whom to share that private joke or to talk with about shared memories. Everything you have taken for granted is now gone in just a moment. This can often lead to the despair of unrelenting loneliness, and the feeling that nothing will ever make sense again. Maybe you’ll even feel that you don’t care if you live or die, as you cannot imagine life without them. Feelings of meaninglessness and depression can hit hard when the cold truth bites, and you panic as you realize that this person will never come back. 

At this moment, although you will have begun the natural grieving process, such dark reality finally striking can make life seem totally unbearable. But allowing yourself to acknowledge the realization that you are never going to see that person again, the absolute loss of it, and moving through it by crying, talking, or even by angrily shouting, can help you to slowly come to terms with your loss. Talking about the death and, importantly, about the person who died, and dealing with the practicalities of a new life situation can help you acclimatize to the new reality and get you through some of the anguish. 

“The reality is that we don’t forget, move on, and have closure, but rather we honour, we remember, and incorporate our deceased into our lives in a new way. In fact, keeping memories of your loved one alive in your mind and heart is an important part of your healing journey.” (Harriet Schiff, The Bereaved Parent)

Move towards healthy life habits to refresh the body and mind

The emotional rollercoaster following a loss may well include resorting to extreme measures to dull the deep pain, like feeling anger, resentment, or extreme use of alcohol, antidepressants, food disorders, self-harm, or extreme exercise. It can be a difficult cycle to change, but it can be done, and it’s important to remember that life will get better, although it will never be the same, and it’s not an easy or quick journey. 

Break the cycle of debilitating grief and anger

The stress of grief makes enormous physical demands, so it is important to try to break the cycle and start to eat well and rest, take gentle, not extreme, exercise, and don’t try to overdo anything too quickly. If you manage to do this, you will probably, albeit slowly, begin finding a way of living without that person you’ve lost, although they will always be with you in your thoughts and memories. 

By building up consistent healthy habits which you can sustain, you will be able to rewire your brain to incorporate these habits into your daily routine. This is fundamental to recovering from any trauma to your mind and body.

“There has been a shift away from the idea that successful grieving requires ‘letting go’ of the deceased, and a move towards a recognition of the potentially healthy role of maintaining continued bonds with the deceased.” (Christopher Hall, Director, Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement)

Oberit rewards healthy habits and makes recovery possible

During the grieving process, you are likely to feel fearful, vulnerable, and anxious, with little control over your life, thoughts, and feelings churning inside. Once the realization of your loss has triggered the starting point to recovery, you can hopefully reach some acceptance of your loss and move towards a more fruitful present. Oberit was developed with the approach of converting daily habits into a digital currency, to then spend on healthy products and services in our marketplace, which is designed to encourage a substance-free, healthy, and sustainable lifestyle. 

Moving forward, step by step, after losing someone you love isn’t easy, but it is possible to return to a different life with memories of that person still alive within you, where you will feel happy, stable, and healthy. Let Oberit give you the incentive of rewards to keep your motivation going during weak moments, for we are all human and have our frailties.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without and your heart will be badly broken; the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through.” (Anne Lamott, novelist)

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