Why do we need to grieve?
The death of someone we love is emotionally devastating. It may be the greatest loss that we will ever have to contend with. Yet death is an unavoidable part of life, however little we like it. One in four adults will have experienced the death of someone close to them within the past five years. For some people, this will be one of many experiences of bereavement; for others it will be their first encounter with death.
Its impact can vary from the bearably painful to the emotionally catastrophic.
Mourning is the way we come to terms with bereavement. It's about letting go of the person we have lost; gradually changing the nature of the bonds that attached us to them. We have to come to accept that we will never see that person again in this life.
If we try to avoid this natural process, we will be unable to live fully for the rest of our lives, and could be storing up trouble for ourselves later on.
The funeral, marking the end of the first few days, is an important part of the grieving process. Funerals offer the best chance to remember the life of the person who has died, to say goodbye to them and to share that farewell with other mourners.
In acknowledging death we affirm life. In marking the passing of the one we have loved, in the company of friends and family, we also affirm the values of our community and strengthen the bonds between those left alive. These bonds are necessary to life and to the process of mourning.
The funeral is very important, but it is only the first part of the grieving process. Grieving is not much understood or acknowledged in our society.
We are often discouraged from 'being morbid', and death and grieving have become a subject that is avoided. Yet acknowledging the emotions surrounding death is important to our emotional wellbeing.
Why do people react differently?
There are no rules about the natural process of grieving, it's a different experience for everyone and reactions will vary. They will usually depend on your previous relationship with the dead person and how you felt about them, as well as on your own personal history.