osing a loved one can be a devastating blow, and the emotion which ensues sometimes becomes overwhelming.
Grief can be a very powerful feeling, and especially in the early weeks or months after the death of a much-loved partner, friend or family member, it can lead to a whole range of negative reactions including lethargy, self-neglect, inability to concentrate, and anger taken out on other people.
All this is a normal response to bereavement, and there is no time-frame for the grieving process. The loss may continue to permeate the bereaved person’s life long after it happens, but the extreme feelings and inability to cope alone will usually come to a natural end with the help and support of other family and friends.
But if bereavement results in solitude, or the extreme feelings go on for a very long time and leave the grieving person unable to function normally, it is important to seek help.
It is all too easy for grief to spiral into depression, which can become a far more wide-reaching problem.
Sorrow, anger, confusion and emptiness are all natural reactions to death, but after a while the feelings come and go, often triggered by a smell, a sound, or a sudden memory. Depression pervades every part of life and can be debilitating.
Plenty of help is available, and if grief is threatening to become unmanageable, it is important to seek it sooner rather than later. Weight loss, insomnia, difficulty with simple everyday tasks, excess alcohol consumption or drug use, reckless or violent behaviour, or, at worst, thoughts of suicide are possible reasons for seeking additional support.
The family doctor or spiritual adviser can be an invaluable source of information about local support groups and bereavement counselling. Alternatively, details of national organisations such as Cruse (www. cruse.org.uk), Macmillan (www.macmillan.org. uk) and the Samaritans (www.samaritans.org) are freely available on the internet.
Cruse offers support and advice to any bereaved person from trained volunteers by phone or e-mail, or faceto-face.
They also run a one-toone counselling service specifically for children and young people who have lost someone close; their website www.rd4u. org is designed to provide both personal support and an outlet for grief for anyone between 12 and 25 years of age.
The Macmillan organisation specialises in cancer care, and provides information and support to families and friends of people who have died from cancer.
The suicide of a friend or family member can be especially traumatic.
The Samaritans are part of the Suicide Bereavement Support Partnership, which is made up of several national organisations committed to offering appropriate support to those bereaved or affected by a death by suicide.
The aim of all bereavement counselling is to move the grieving person towards a point at which they are able to function normally again, and focus on other things while remembering the person they have lost without undue distress.