Bereavement refers to the experience of losing someone important to you. This loss may happen due to a relationship ending, through illness or due to death. This article focuses on losing someone through death, but much of the information can be applied to bereavement more generally.
Bereavement is characterised by a whole host of emotions, such as grief, sadness, guilt and anger. What makes bereavement more difficult to deal with, is that as a society and as a community, we rarely discuss death and we are not taught how to mourn the death of a loved one.
To help you cope and get through this difficult experience, Sikh Helpline have put together some practical guidance. This guidance is written by a Sikh Helpline volunteer and comes from a combination of personal experience of having lost a loved one at a young age and their professional background in psychology and from a developing spiritual practice.
1. The pain will pass
Whilst this is a distressing and painful time, it is important to know that this pain is temporary. Pain and difficult emotions have a way of making us believe that we will feel like this forever. You won’t. The pain will pass.
2. Everyone grieves differently.
We are all unique. We have different ways of expressing ourselves, varying levels of sensitivity and different life experiences. All of these factors and more, influence how you will grieve. At times you may want to cry, at other times you may need to talk to others and sometimes you may need to be on your own. Give yourself permission to do what is right for you, at your own pace. Do not compare your grieving process to that of others. Equally, tell others to give you space and time as you need it.
3. This is a normal part of life
Bereavement is an inevitable part of life. Without death there can be no life. Know that what you are going through is normal, people are not meant to be with us forever. It is something that will affect all of us at some point. You are not on your own.
4. The way out is through your emotions.
The pain and discomfort associated with bereavement means people often engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid feeling pain. This can include turning to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, over-focusing on things like work to distract oneself or completely suppressing and pushing emotions away. These behaviours may seem like a helpful way to cope, but ultimately, you are delaying your healing. Neuroscience shows that difficult emotions are stored in the body until you release them. That means to heal, you must feel your emotions and then release them.
5. Express your anger in a healthy way.
Anger is a common emotion to feel when we lose someone we love. We may experience deep feelings of anger at what has happened and have questions and thoughts like “why has this happened to me?”, ”this isn’t fair”, “how could you leave?”. Know that it is okay to feel angry, do not feel guilty about it. A healthy way of expressing anger would be; writing about your feelings in a journal, speaking to a trusted therapist or friend, or shouting into a pillow. The aim is to feel and express whatever emotions come to you in a constructive way. Do not let it build up as this will result in you exploding (with others) or imploding (internally).
6. You are stronger than you think.
Know that you are born with all the strength and courage you will ever need. You may not have experienced something like this before, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get through this – you will.
7. Make the decision to learn and grow from this experience.
Every difficult situation in life is an opportunity to grow wiser. There is a deeper lesson in this situation. Ask yourself what this is. The answer may not come to you for months or even years down the line, but it will come to you eventually if you ask the question.
8. Trust in a higher power.
At times like now, you may question your faith and belief in God/Waheguru. Whether you realise it or not, there is something far greater than you always on your side. Take the time to connect with your faith during this time, whether you do it silently or whether you choose to go to the Gurdwara. It doesn’t matter how you do it, create this space consistently and it will give you peace in the longer term.
9. Lean into support from others.
Humans are born to connect with other people. Grieving as a community, whether that be with friends or family, is a powerful way to heal. If you feel you do not have a support network or need greater support, contact us at the Sikh Helpline. We are here to support you, with compassion and without judgement.
If you or a loved one is grieving due to bereavement and would like support please call our 24/7 confidential helpline on 0845 644 0704 or 07999 00 4363.