Adult bereavement 

The death of a loved one can be devastating. Watch how Penny, who was widowed in 2005, coped with the sudden death of her husband. Also get advice from a bereavement counsellor about how to deal with your emotions and where to find support.

Find out how to cope with bereavement

Transcript of Adult bereavement

(woman) Dave and I were taking the girls away camping for the weekend.

All the camping equipment's kept in the loft.

After lunch we jokingly said,

"We'd better start getting the stuff out because we're going in five hours."

Bereavement is a very, very complex issue

because everybody will have their own unique journey

and I think it's really important to know that there's no right or wrong way.

(Penny) The last thing he said to me was, "Can you get another light bulb?"

I went off, got the light bulb, handed it up to him.

I turned my back for about two or three seconds,

heard a scream and yes, that was...

..the bit I can't talk about.

With a very, very sudden death,

from experience I feel that that sense of complete disbelief

and being in a dream

is probably very, very acute.

Then the ambulance crew,

I can't remember how many, two or three of them...

..came in and I was asked to go downstairs.

But I immediately knew that he was dead.

People talk a lot about the stages of bereavement

and I think perhaps the first thing

will be often this sense of complete disbelief,

that this just hasn't happened at all.

It was like a fog had come across...

..and I just couldn't cry, couldn't get angry.

I just wanted to protect the children.

Then comes the time where the reality hits

and for some people that's often after the funeral.

For about two or three years afterwards, with the post-traumatic stress,

I could have sat there and told it without a tear in my eye,

as if I was reading it off a newspaper report.

I think this is the first time I've actually told it crying,

so I suppose it's progress from my viewpoint.

People can find themselves with sometimes overwhelming feelings,

crying, a lot of physical sensations sometimes, feeling very ill.

It's like waves on a beach, it comes and goes.

Everybody's experience is different.

Then you move on eventually to an acceptance

that that person has gone

and that life has changed forever,

and then people talk about perhaps a final stage

where you do move on.

(Penny) I went to the school and said, "I just can't do this any more."

They said, "There's no way you've been a bad mother."

"You're down here because you do care."

"You're looking for help."

And they were very good because they actually got me the help that I needed.

I think what can be really helpful but difficult to do

is to try and talk to somebody.

(Penny) I had a very nice lady who put us into family therapy.

We could all sit there in a room that was neutral...

..and I could put my viewpoint, the children could put their viewpoint

and she was able to look from the outside in.

The stages are useful things to hang feelings on

but people will not go through them in any set order.

Sometimes people will never experience any of them.

(Penny) She said, "It's difficult, your circumstance,

but you need to take back control."

I got a lot of help from there.

If somebody has been ill for a long time,

perhaps with a life-threatening illness,

and there's been time for a lot of talking and some pre-bereavement work,

I think then that certainly the immediate post-bereavement period

would be different to a sudden, very, very traumatic death.

Although there's no set time for these very sad feelings to persist,

if the person themselves or one of their friends or family thinks,

"This is going on too long," perhaps they're not looking after themselves,

then that's the time to go and get some advice from the GP.

They are usually very approachable and very supportive.


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Information and real stories about coping with different types of bereavement

Carers: after the person you look after has died

Advice on your next steps once your caring role ends, following the death of the person you cared for