For Bereaved Persons

After the death of your loved one, you may find that there are areas of your life that has changed and now require adjustments. These can include the practical affairs related to day-to-day living, and roles within the family, on top of the possible emotions that come with the loss.

Is what I am experiencing “normal"?

Grief can sometimes be so painful that it seems overwhelming. This can be a frightening experience for some of us, especially if we are experiencing it for the first time. Many people worry about whether they are grieving the “right” way, if there is a timeline to “move on”, or if their reactions are “normal”.

Grief is a unique experience for every individual. There is no one, or right way to grieve.

Grief responses come and go. We do not actually “move on” from grief – rather, we learn how to live our lives differently, without the physical presence of our loved one. However, time can help us to better adjust to the changes in our lives. Years down the road, anniversaries, things and places may still remind us of our loved one, and trigger different thoughts and feelings. These emotions are likely to take on a different intensity as compared to the earlier days of the loss.

Common grief reactions

Grief may be experienced as emotional, physical, cognitive or behavioural reactions. The following table lists possible grief reactions that one may experience from the different domains.

Different grief reactions

Emotional

Shock
Anguish
Yearning
Disbelief
Sadness
Numbness
Anger
Guilt
Blame
Fear
Emptiness
Helplessness
Worry
Irritation
Anxiety
Loneliness
Relief
At peace
Acceptance

Physical

Headaches
Muscle tensions
Stomach discomfort
Heart palpitations
Tightness in chest
Fatigue
Difficulty sleeping
Sleeping too much
Loss of appetite
Restlessness
Numbness

Cognitive

Confusion
Thinking deeply on certain perspectives
Thoughts of self-blame
Recollection of memories
Problems concentrating
Thoughts of injustice

Behavioural

Crying
Preoccupation with personal belongings of loved one
Difficulty organising daily tasks
Withdrawal from others
Poor self-care
Loss of interest in enjoyable activities

Credit: Singapore Hospice Council

Tips for coping with grief

It is important to set realistic expectations for yourself. If a task seems large and difficult, break it down into smaller, achievable steps. If simultaneously coping with your loss and managing school/work feels overwhelming, you can consider reducing your responsibilities at school/work until a time when you feel better able to manage these responsibilities.

Losing a loved one is a big change in your life. Try not to make any major or irreversible decisions too soon. Instead, try to establish a routine so that you have a sense of rhythm and predictability.

Start from the simple things and try to take care of your health by eating, sleeping, and exercising regularly.

In general, there are two main ways of coping with grief: expressing emotions or focusing on tasks. Persons who are grieving can be more inclined to use one of these two ways or a blend of them.

Persons who grieve by expressing emotions could be more comfortable with tears and talking about their emotions.

  • Reminiscing by going through photos or belongings that remind you of your deceased loved one or going to the places where you and your loved one have frequented.
  • Expressing feelings through creative avenues such as writing poetry, journaling, scrapbooking, playing a musical instrument, painting, and so on.
  • Having a trusted group to talk to when needed. Choosing the appropriate support persons will go a long way in helping you manage and process your grief.

People who grieve by focusing on tasks could be more focused on identifying the issues after the loss and looking for ways to solve them.

  • Compile a to-do list to manage tasks. There are possibly many practical arrangements to make and errands to run after the death of a loved one. Making a to-do list could be a good way to keep track of what needs to be done and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Gather information and resources to manage your grief and loss. You can look for services or resources that can help you adapt to the loss, such as domestic helpers, childcare arrangements, financial assistance, or grief support.
  • Enlist the help of trusted persons for different tasks. Help and support can come in many forms. If you do not feel comfortable with talking about your grief, you can ask for support from your family and friends in the practical aspects instead, such as researching for resources, running errands, or simply accompanying you in doing these tasks.

When should I seek professional help?

If you notice that you or others are exhibiting the following signs after losing a significant person, having the opportunity to speak to a professional about your grief experience can be helpful, even if it is just for someone to provide that reassurance that you are on the right track.

  • Prolonged difficulty in managing daily activities
  • Neglect of personal care and grooming
  • Extreme preoccupation on the loss of the person
  • Extreme anger or bitterness
  • Increased use of intoxicants
  • Hallucinations related to the loss
  • Prolonged withdrawal from social activities
  • Inability to enjoy hobbies or interests
  • Persistent thought of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Worsening of existing mental health conditions

To contact us for an appointment, please call Grief Matters Helpline at 8181 0448 or email us at griefmatters@montfortcare.org.sg