It is important to understand the various experiences of grief. Each person has his or her own timetable and his or her own style of grief. You may struggle with several feelings at the same time. The depth and duration of each experience is different for everyone. You may experience a feeling briefly, intermittently or struggle with it daily. Understanding the various phases helps you to cope. Knowing that others have gone through this pain and have eventually been able to reinvest themselves in life gives one a sense of hope.


You may find that you are saying almost the same things to the same people. The same thoughts keep running through your head. In saying the words and hearing ourselves over and over again, it helps us to believe what has happened. It is important to find friends who will listen, especially someone who has experienced a similar sorrow.

Reality of Death

‘It’s true.’ ‘It really happened.’ This is a frightening time. We feel that we are getting worse. Often this happens after people who have been so helpful have left. It seems as if we are going backwards. Actually, this reality has to ‘hit’. The best advice is to ‘lean into the pain’. As much as we don’t want to hurt, we must.


‘I can’t think.’ ‘I forget what I am saying halfway through a sentence.’ The simplest decisions seem impossible. It is difficult to concentrate and follow through on things. You feel disorganised and error-prone. Bereaved often feel impatient and want to do something, but feel unclear as to what to do. Sometimes motivation to do something may be very low and basic survival needs may not even be met. Confusion abounds because you are using all your emotional energy to grieve and there is very little left over for anything else. The weariness due to grief may affect thinking and concentration.


Af first, you may only focus on the best qualities - seeing your loved one as perfect. It is a very normal reaction, but it is important to be aware of others in the family. They may compare themselves to the ‘perfect’ loved one and feel that they are not as loved - that it would be better if they had died instead.

Anxiety/Panic (Fear of Losing Control)

Many people seek to identify with their loved one who has died by wearing their clothes, taking up a sport they liked, planning to follow in their footsteps, etc. It is a way of ‘staying close’.

At first you may fear being alone. You worry about the future and may be afraid that something else will happen to another loved one. You often panic at the approach of special dates (birthdays, holidays, anniversary of the death). Usually they are not as difficult as the days prior to the special days. This is due to our unbelievable panic and apprehension. You may feel as if you are ‘Going Crazy’. It may seem as if you are losing control of yourself. Usually we don’t tell anyone that we think that we are ‘going insane’. Sometimes bereaved have thoughts of suicide as the only way to escape the physical and emotional pain. We panic at the prospect of ‘always feeling like this’. We feel that we should be doing better and panic when we don’t. Our situation may seem hopeless and our thinking becomes jumbled. Panic is normal. If panic seems intolerable, you need to do something about it. Talking about out feelings, getting busy with something, sobbing, screaming, exercise - all may help to release the ‘panicky’ feelings. Emotional and physical fatigue contribute to our panic. Good nutrition and rest are vital.


Anger may be directed at ourselves; other (including the family members, spouse, doctors, nurses, person who caused accident); the person who died; God; or we may experience a general irritability. We may feel angry towards people who push us to accept our loss too soon, or who pretend that nothing happened. Anger is normal. Pushing down anger is harmful and may cause things like ulcers, high blood pressure, or depression. Unacknowledged anger may be directed at innocent people and unrelated events. It will come out one way or another. It is often difficult to admit being angry. Erroneously we may think, ‘nice people don’t get angry’. It is important to recognise our anger. It is helpful to find ways to express our anger, such as screaming in a private place, walking, swimming, aerobic classes, tennis, golf - even installing a punching a bag in our home. Talking about our anger also helps us to define, understand, and learn how to handle it. To suppress anger can lead to deeper than normal depression and bitterness. It is important to acknowledge our anger and to take steps to handle it.


Many people are tortured by ‘if only,’ and ‘what ifs.’ ‘If only I had called;’ ‘If only we hadn’t let him/her take the car that night;’ or ‘If only I had taken time to listen and visit.’ We tend to blame ourselves for something we did/didn’t do that may have contributed to the death, or for things that we wish we had done for our loved one. Feelings of guilt are normal, though often not realistic. It is best not to push down the guilt. Talk about it until you can let it go. Hopefully, in time, you will realise that you did the best you could under the circumstances. None of us are perfect. The past is behind us. All we can do with guilt is to learn from it for the other people in our lives. When the death is by suicide, it is especially important to remember we can’t control the behaviour of another person.


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