What happens after the funeral?

July 28, 2017   //   No Comments

When someone we love dies, it feels like the world will never be the same again. Accompaniment through a terminal illness, for example, provides some time for preparation and acceptance of the fact that someone is going to die, but it is difficult to imagine how we will feel when all is quiet and they are actually gone.

The feeling of shock that we experience alongside death is often also paired with a sense of immediacy and rush – notifying people of the death, organising the funeral, attending the funeral and burial or cremation.

And then, quietness.

The world appears to carry on as normal, friends return to their daily lives, and even though it’s not intentional, it might feel as though you are alone.

This could especially be the case if you were involved in caring for the person who died. After the intensity of this role, some people feel not just the loss of their loved one, but perhaps also a loss of their own purpose.

People who are bereaved sometimes say that to begin with, there are lots of people around. After the initial grieving period is over, however, they find themselves moving into uncharted territory.

Karen Roberts from Newcastle, who lost her nine-year old son Oliver to a brain tumour, found this time to be a real crunch point.

“After Ollie died, I think we were all in shock. You’re so busy planning the funeral, there is no time to grieve. There are so many people around you and it’s only when life was starting to get back to some semblance of order – I would never say ‘normal’ – and it was on my own that I think I started to process what had happened.”

Coming to terms with the death of someone you love is hard work, and there is no single way to grieve.

Jane Feinmann, writing in How to Have a Good Death, explains: “Grief is a natural reaction to loss. The range of emotions can be shocking: anger, guilt, depression, fear and anxiety create a sense of being unsafe, at sea, empty of love. Understanding the process of bereavement will not prevent this pain. But it can help to chart a path back to some kind of normal life.”

Grief is complicated and takes time. It is painful, and after the funeral is over it might seem a daunting prospect. But grief is not a task, it is a process. Finding your new “normal” will never be easy, but taking it slowly will help you to understand your sense of self in a new context. After the funeral is when this process really begins.

Written by Stephanie MacGillivray from the artofdyingwellorganisation.org