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The Long Journey of Recovery

Bereavement causes a great intensity and variety of emotions which may be felt for many months if not years after the death of someone close. Many of these, you will have already felt. Below are listed some of the other feelings, which often seem to be present during the first two years of bereavement.

You may not experience all of the following. No two bereavements are the same. The amount of distress you feel after the death of someone close is not related to how much you loved them. You may need to grieve less if the relationship was very strong.

This page is not meant to be a checklist of symptoms you should be feeling, but rather a guide to understanding your grief and a reassurance that normal grieving includes a wide spectrum of emotions and physical symptoms.

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Seeing lost relative around the house in a familiar chair or activity.

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Overwhelming sense of loss. Sadness, yearning. Desperate missing of conversation or physical contact – sexual and non-sexual.

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Isolation with grief, no one mentions the dead person for fear of hurting those left behind. Friends and neighbours cross over street to avoid making conversation.

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At being outcast because people cannot cope with those who grieve. Social invitations stop. Awkwardness at no longer being one of a couple.

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Lack of confidence. Inability to deal with people and situations that were no problem before. Agoraphobia. Vulnerability - difficulty in resisting pressure from well-meaning relatives to make important decisions in haste. Helplessness.

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A Questioning of One’s Religious Beliefs

This causes a great many unsettling feelings which may be of intense concern. This is natural as is feeling angry at a deity. Talking to an ‘elder’ can be beneficial.

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Of being alone. Of being in an empty house. Of the dark. Of officialdom or form filling. Of handling jobs always previously done by the deceased person. Of financial insecurity. Of being away from home where memories are so strong, even to the extent of feeling that the dead person is still there. Of the future – there seems to be none. Any of these fears may be so strong as to be paralysing in their effect.

Funerals East Devon The Need to Reminisce

About a past shared with the deceased. About details of death, over and over again. Need for photographs, although these may be too painful to view at first.

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Belief that one is going mad, because so much of what is experienced is new, frightening and very intense. It is all right to talk out aloud with the person you have lost. You are not going mad, but beginning a long adjustment to a drastic change.

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Physical Symptoms

Hollowness in stomach. Tightness in chest and throat. Over-sensitivity to noise. De-personalisation – going through the routine of the day on “automatic pilot” whilst your mind is totally elsewhere. Breathlessness. Weakness. Lack of energy. Dry mouth.


The first 12 months are the hardest, coping with birthdays and anniversaries. The second 12 months are easier, but emotions can still be raw, depressions deep. These are harder to deal with now, because they are less expected and may be seen as a failure to cope.

Talking with others similarly bereaved can be a tremendous help reducing the sense of isolation and despair. It may provide reassurance that what is being experienced is normal and that time does eventually heal. There is no cure. The only relief from grief is time and courage.

An acceptance of death leads to readjustment, new confidence and ability to cope. Memories become less painful and more precious. Life slowly becomes whole again, though never quite the same as it was before.

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