19th May 2020

Bereavement and its effect on mental health

The difficulties facing society as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. The way of life previously taken for granted by so many of us has altered to such an extent that we will undoubtedly find ourselves having to adapt to a new and, for now at least, uncertain ‘normal’ in the future. Whilst we all do our utmost to cope with these uncertainties, the cruelty of the COVID-19 virus has harshly put the spotlight on an unavoidable part of life – death and bereavement.

Suffering the loss of a loved one, a bereavement, is one of life’s most stressful events which can undoubtedly have an adverse impact on mental health. The current restrictions present further challenges to those aspects of life considered to be conducive to maintaining good mental health whether it be, for example, as a result of social distancing or shielding. We worry about how the virus and the restrictions are affecting not only our own lives, but those of our loved ones.

The outward expression of such a loss manifests itself in the form of our grief and, as individuals, it is only natural that we will each be affected differently by the loss. There is no timetable to the grieving process, no limit to its intensity or duration, no ‘right or wrong’ way to grieve. The range of emotions we go through whilst adjusting to the loss may potentially impact us on a number of levels, whether it be physically, emotionally or psychologically. A bereavement may be the catalyst for someone who has, to that point, enjoyed good mental health. For those already struggling with their mental health, the severity of their grief may lead to a worsening of their existing condition. However, that being said, the grieving process brings with it a myriad of emotions that need to be resolved, and it is important that neither the process or these emotions are ignored.

Of course, the pain of losing a loved one never leaves us; it simply eases over time. We learn to live with the grief, to cope with it, which is vital to helping us maintain our mental health. From the initial numbness following a loss may come a period of denial, or even disbelief, which may perhaps be something of an instinctive defence mechanism to prevent us from becoming overwhelmed and unable to cope with the loss. There will be sadness, and even depression, which may lead us to isolate ourselves from others. A sense of panic is not uncommon for a bereaved person when contemplating the prospect of a future without their loved one. These emotions are unpleasant but they are part of the grieving process; they will affect each of us uniquely.

As difficult as though it may seem, we should be patient and allow ourselves time to fully process the effects of suffering a major personal loss. These emotions, and experiencing the pain of grief, are completely natural but each of them could lead to a shift in our own wellbeing and mental health. It is how we cope with grief, and how we adjust to life without our loved one, that will be vital to our ongoing mental health. It is important to realise that we are not alone during these times of loss. There is a range of emotional support readily available from a variety of sources and, in time, less of our emotional energy will be consumed by the grieving process.

As a firm, Blackadders are committed to supporting clients, both professionally and emotionally, during times of bereavement. Having suffered such a significant personal loss, a bereaved family may simply feel that they are not ready to deal with everything at once. Our team of experienced estate solicitors remain on hand, and are available to guide and reassure clients who have suffered a bereavement.

Claire Newton, Director
Private Client
Blackadders LLP




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