Grief is an emotional reaction to the loss of someone, or something, that you care about. Whether the death of your loved one was expected or sudden, the pain of losing a loved one can be overwhelming and you might experience a range of difficult and unexpected emotions.

The experience of grief is unique to each person, just as the nature of relationships is unique (to find out more, read our article about some of the emotions you may experience).

You may also experience a period of grieving if you’re significantly affected by a change in your life. For example, if you have subsequently become a carer for a family member, your new responsibilities may prevent you from doing things that you once enjoyed, and you might grieve for the loss of your freedom to get out and about whenever you choose. Equally, your loved one might experience a period of grief following a decline in their health, their retirement from work or having to move out of the family home.

Loss is something that we all experience at some time. But grieving is a highly personal experience. How it affects you, how you deal with it and how long it lasts will depend on many factors. Over time, you’ll gradually learn how to cope with the loss and make the necessary adjustments to your life.

Grief can cross generations. While you’re grieving the loss of a parent, you may have to care for your remaining parent, who is experiencing their own grief and may also be struggling with declining health. You may be grieving for the loss of your partner and have grieving children to care for.

What is anticipatory grief?

It’s common for grief to strike in advance of an impending loss. For example, if someone close to you is diagnosed with an incurable illness, you may begin to mourn in anticipation of what lies ahead. Anticipatory grief can be difficult to deal with, as you may want to stay strong or appear positive so that you can support the person who is ill. Even though it’s very difficult, this extended grieving process can give you time to say goodbye to your loved one and prepare you for a future without them.

These feelings of grief experienced may also be mirrored by the person who is ill. You are both probably going through a range of difficult emotions, as you and they face having to say goodbye as the end of their life approaches.

Grieving over the loss of the home

For some people, moving out of their home can evoke all the emotions experienced when grieving. But sometimes downsizing or moving into sheltered accommodation or a care home might be necessary, especially if the situation with health or finances changes.

The loss of a home following the death of a partner or carer can be particularly hard to cope with. The home may hold precious memories of family life that are woven into the fabric of the home and its contents. This may feel like a double loss.

If you are thinking about moving, it is best to defer any major decisions for several months after the bereavement. During the early days of bereavement, it can be a natural reaction to want to leave the home you shared with your partner. Some people find the reminders of their loved one very painful to live with and others find it comforting to be surrounded by those memories.

Moving to a new house or a new area is something that needs careful consideration. It could feel lonely, especially if the bereaved person is cut off from their normal support networks. These can be especially important if close family live some distance away.

How long does grief last?

There is no simple answer to this. Time alone does not heal and the person who has died will always be missed. However, most people do find that the good days outnumber the bad days. Remembering the shared times becomes easier and looking forward to doing new things is a positive sign of adjusting to loss.   

There is no getting away from the fact that grieving the death of a loved one is very painful and may take far longer than you expect. But the intense period of grief does not last forever, even though it may seem that way at times. Remember it is okay for you to have good days and bad days, and all that comes in between.

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The EPiC Resource Centre is kindly sponsored by Cleenol: working for a cleaner, safer, kinder world.