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Bereavement: What is Normal?

Funeral Services

A Funeral Service is an important event, enabling us to recognise the life and death of our loved one and to make our formal goodbye.

Sometimes, a church funeral is not appropriate, and does not allow us to mark the death of our loved one as we would like to. As an Independent Celebrant, I offer a personalised and intimate ceremony around the graveside or at the funeral parlour, with friends and family. You can draw on music, literature, symbolism and ritual from spiritual, religious or non-religious sources to create a meaningful ceremony that allows you to mark the life and death of your loved one in the right way for you.  

Memorial Services

Maybe you want to recognise the anniversary or untimely death of someone close to you, or feel that you never got the chance to say goodbye properly. I can create a beautiful memorial ceremony for you, recalling key moments of your loved-one’s life with carefully selected music, readings or poetry of your choice, helping you to let go and be more at peace with yourself for the future.

Stages of Grieving

There is no ‘right’ or normal way to grieve. Grief is an individual experience and grieving follows many different patterns. However, there are common feelings and stages which many bereaved people go through.

Grieving takes place after any sort of loss, but most powerfully after the death of someone we love. It is a whole succession of feelings, which can take a while to get through and which cannot be hurried. The order in which bereaved people experience these feelings is often similar; however, we are all individuals, and stages we thought we had passed through can re-occur.

Grief is most commonly experienced after the death of someone we have known for some time. However, people who have had stillbirths, miscarriages, or who have lost young babies suffer a similar experience of grieving.

In the few hours or days following the death of a close relative or friend, most people feel simply stunned, as though they cannot believe it has actually happened. They may feel like this even if the death has been expected.

This sense of emotional numbness can be helpful in getting through all the important practical arrangements that have to be made, such as organising the funeral. However this feeling of unreality may become a problem if it goes on for too long. Seeing the body of the dead person may be, for some, an important way of beginning to overcome this. For many people, the funeral or memorial service can be helpful ways of saying goodbye to those we love.

Soon, this numbness may be replaced by a dreadful sense of agitation, or yearning for the dead person. There is a feeling of wanting to find them, even though this is clearly impossible. This makes it hard to relax or concentrate and it may be difficult to sleep properly. Dreams may be extremely disturbing. Some people feel that they ‘see’ their loved one everywhere they go.

People often feel very angry at this time, towards doctors and nurses, towards friends and relatives, or even towards the person who has left them.

Another common feeling is guilt. People find themselves going over in their minds all the things they would have liked to have said and done. Guilt may also arise if a sense of relief is felt when someone has died after a particularly painful or distressing illness. This feeling of relief is natural, extremely understandable and very common.

The state of agitation is usually strongest about two weeks after the death but is often followed by times of quiet sadness or depression, withdrawal and silence. These sudden changes of emotion are just part of the normal way of passing through the different stages of grief. Although the agitation lessens, the periods of low mood can become more frequent and often reach their peak between four and six weeks later.  

Spasms of grief can occur at any time, sparked off by people, places or things that bring back memories of the person who has died. During this time it may appear to others as though the bereaved person is spending a lot of time just sitting doing nothing. In fact they are usually thinking about the person they have lost, going over again and again both the good times and the bad times they had together. This is a quiet but essential part of coming to terms with death.

As time passes, the fierce pain of early bereavement begins to fade. The deep sadness lessens and it is possible to think about other things - even to look again to the future. However the sense of having lost a part of oneself never goes away entirely. After some time the bereaved person can start to feel whole again, even though a part is missing.


These stages of mourning often overlap and show themselves in different ways for different people. Many find that the pain of a major bereavement eases within one to two years. Eventually, the deep sadness lifts, sleep improves and energy returns to normal.

Having said all this there is no ‘normal’ way to grieve and the process can take much longer. We are all individuals and have our own particular ways of grieving.


Grief That’s Unresolved

Some people seem hardly to grieve at all and return to their normal life remarkably quickly. Others may suffer from strange physical symptoms or repeated spells of depression over the following years.

Sometimes the problem is that the loss is not perceived by others as a ‘proper’ bereavement. This happens often, but not always, to those who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. Again frequent periods of deep sadness may follow.

Some may start to grieve but get stuck. The early sense of shock and disbelief goes on and on. Others may carry on being unable to think of anything else. Occasionally sleepless nights continue for so long as to become a serious problem.

Bereavement Support

Getting support to help you through the grieving processes may be what is needed to get you through a difficult time towards coping on your own again and should never be seen as a sign of weakness. Your doctor or local Bereavement group can provide support.

Bereavement Coaching

Bereavement coaching is often helpful some months after the initial period of grieving. Here the focus is on helping you overcome barriers to moving forward, re-gaining your confidence and helping you look to the future in a positive way. Do not hesitate to call me to discuss whether or not Bereavement Coaching would be appropriate for you, on Tel: 9907 8545.

Who am I?

I am an Independent Celebrant and a Bereavement Coach. I was ordained as a Baptist Minister in 1997 and worked in Hospital Chaplaincy in the UK. I have many years’ experience of conducting funeral services and supporting bereaved people. I am not limited to any liturgy or creed and can work with you to create a ceremony that says just what you want it to say. I can also coach you towards a brighter future.

For more information, please get in touch.