The death of a loved one is an incredibly difficult life experience with grief taking many forms and lasting for very different periods of time.  Everyone will grieve in their own different ways; there is no right or wrong way.  At some point in the grieving process you may find yourself in need of support.

Support from the hospital

Social worker – the social worker allocated to the deceased patient will be able to give you support and information following bereavement.  You will be able to contact them through the clinical team who looked after the patient, however if you have their name and telephone number already you will be able to ring them directly. They will be able to help you with coping strategies and practical advice about how to manage after the death.

Chaplaincy – the chaplaincy service in the hospital where the deceased was treated will be able to give you spiritual support.  Hospital chaplains are available to offer personalised and confidential pastoral support for patient and carers during end of life care.  They can also offer prayer and ritual from a range of faith traditions, where appropriate.

Bereavement Office – most hospitals have a bereavement office and they will provide:

  • Information about practicalities after a death.
  • The medical certificate.
  • Advice about where to get further help in coping with bereavement.

The Bereavement Office in St. James’s Hospital is located on Level 4, Gledhow Wing, their telephone number is 0113 206 4162.

Local support

Friends and family – sometimes you find that someone in your family or one of your friends is particularly empathetic and a good listener for when you are feeling particularly low or want to talk about the deceased.

GP – Your GP will also be able to help you and may make a referral for further emotional support such as counselling.

Faith – your own faith leaders will be available to give you support at the time of bereavement.

Support groups – your local library would have details of support groups in your area or you could explore the internet.

Counsellor – you could arrange to see a counsellor privately without going to your GP but you should check that they are registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).  Charges can vary so you may wish to compare a few counsellors before committing.

Organisations and websites

Bereavement Advice Centre – can give information about every aspect of bereavement such as:

  • What to do first when someone dies
  • Medical certificates, the coroner and post mortem examinations
  • Registering a death
  • The funeral
  • Probate and other legal procedures
  • Money and tax issues
  • Coping afterwards
  • Unanswered questions and complaints
  • Useful contacts
  • Who’s who after a death

There are many procedures that will need to be undertaken. What needs to happen first will depend on the circumstances of the death and whether the person died in hospital, at home, a public place or overseas. This will also affect the type of documentation that you will be given.

There are also many people who will need to be informed of the death – individuals, companies and organisations.

To find out more information please go to their website at www.bereavementadvice.org

Macmillan Cancer Support – has a bereavement section which includes:

  • Talking to someone
  • Finding information
  • Setting up a tribute fund
  • Donating in memory

To find out more please go to their website at http://www.macmillan.org.uk/HowWeCanHelp/Bereavement/Bereavement.aspx

Cruse Bereavement Care – promotes the well-being of bereaved people and enables anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss. As well providing free care to all bereaved people, the charity also offers information, support and training services to those who are looking after them.

http://www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk/

The Natural Death Centre – is a social entrepreneurial, educational charity that gives advice on all aspects of dying, bereavement and consumer rights in this area. They give support on family-organised and environmentally-friendly funerals and run the Association Natural Burial Grounds. Although green, they promote choice and education not just environmental issues.

http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk/

Important points to remember in grief

  • Everyone is individual and there is no right or wrong way to grieve
  • You are likely to go through an array of emotions
  • Feelings of overwhelming sadness may occur when you are least expecting them
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it
  • Grief may last varying periods of time from a few weeks to years
  • Allow yourself to express the grief, talk about the person you have lost
  • Look after yourself, eat well, exercise, rest and if you can, socialise
  • Make plans for something good to look forward to

It is quite normal to experience grief after the death of a loved one but after a while your emotions should become less intense as acceptance starts to form.  If, however, you are not feeling better over time or even perhaps that your grief is getting worse it might indicate that you have developed complicated grief or depression.

Complicated grief is where the feelings of sadness at losing your loved one preoccupy you constantly, affects your other relationships and interferes with day to day life.

Symptoms of complicated grief include:

  • Strong yearning for the deceased
  • Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one
  • Denial of the death or a feeling of disbelief
  • Imagining that your loved one is alive
  • Searching for the person in familiar places
  • Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one
  • Extreme anger or bitterness over the loss
  • Feeling that life is empty or meaningless

Telling the difference between grief and depression is not always straightforward as they can have similar symptoms, however in grief there are good and bad days where you will have some happy times but in depression the feelings of despair are constant.

Signs of depression:

  • Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Slow speech and body movements
  • Inability to function at work and at home
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there

If you experience any signs of complicated grief or depression you will need to make an appointment with your GP.

If it’s not treated, complicated grief or depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. But treatment can help you get better.

Also see your GP if you:

  • Feel like life isn’t worth living
  • Wish you had died with your loved one
  • Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
  • Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
  • Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss
  • Are unable to perform your normal daily activities

These symptoms are rare and the chances are that you are going/ will go through a normal grieving process.  If this is the first time that someone close to you has died you will be surprised at the intensity of the feelings of loss.  It may be useful to talk to your GP or someone who you trust that has been through the process of losing someone dear to them in order to check if what your feeling is normal.

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