Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Grieving Process - How People Deal With Death and Dying

Every one of us is going to die some day; it is the one thing that is common to every human being. Death is not discussed easily, however, even when it involves a family member, a close friend, even a parent.

We have many euphemisms when we want to say someone has died: he 'passed', he 'passed away', he 'lost his wife', and many others.

Typically in western society, when someone dies friends and family members rally, supporting the bereaved person with letters, flowers, phone calls and visits, until the time of the funeral and for a few weeks after. Then frequently everything goes quiet and the bereaved person is left alone to "get over" the death, on their own. The truth is that in the case of a much loved person, be it partner, spouse, parent, child or grandparent, often the lives of those affected by that death are changed forever. You become a different person as you adjust to living without the one who died.

Our attitude can make it very hard for a bereaved person. Take, for example, a man whose wife dies after a long marriage. There will be many aspects of his life that have been taken care of by his partner - starting with cooking meals. Organising a social life - seeing friends and family for outings, dinners etc -is often handled by women and suddenly a man, left on his own, can struggle. He may want to talk to his family and friends, to keep the memory of his wife alive but may fear breaking down and letting others see him cry. He may not be used to confiding in others and may worry about burdening them with his pain. For a woman whose husband dies the situation is similar, although for her the losses could include financial worries and concern over all the things her husband used to see to when he was alive.

When a parent dies, it is common for young children to be told very little and as a result they are afraid to ask questions. Many children are excluded from the funeral and are not given the opportunity to grieve. When a grandparent dies, others in the family may be prepared for the death, particularly if the person was ill or elderly, while a child may have no understanding that the death was likely. Grandparents occupy a vital role for children at times; young people need to be given the opportunity to grieve.

In our society, suicide is still treated as a taboo topic, rarely discussed. As a counsellor I have worked with several young people whose parent committed suicide. No one ever discussed with them what occurred and as a result they were deeply affected, long-term by the experience. Twenty years later in counselling sessions, a number of clients addressed their wounding.

The loss of a child is always a traumatic event and sometimes leads to the parents' separation, as they struggle with pain and guilt.

As a society we need to learn how to discuss death, openly and with compassion, to help those around us, whoever they are. We need to be brave; simply being there for someone and letting them talk is often all it takes. Death is something we will all experience as part of being human.

No comments:

Post a Comment