If you have suffered the loss of someone you are close to, there is a good chance that you have experienced what I am about to describe.
At first, you may be overwhelmed at the reactions of others towards the loss. Work-mates, friends, neighbours, maybe even people in local shops, all want to say how sorry they are for you. They will have lovely, kind words about the person and why they liked them. There may be people go out of their way to pass on their condolences who you didn't even realise knew the person that's died. They will agree what a shame it is that they're gone and tell you they hope you are ok. They might also remind you to 'let them know if you need anything' or that 'they are always there if you need to talk'. The number of sympathy cards you receive might surprise you too.
I am sure that a vast majority of these sentiments are genuine and the people that are doing and saying these things truly mean it at that time.
However, as a little more time passes, maybe a few weeks after the funeral, things start to change. It can start to feel like your loss is 'old news' to all those people. You don't get stopped in the street anymore by someone wanting to check you're ok. You don't have neighbours offering to do things to help you in your difficult time. Maybe work colleagues are a little less sympathetic towards you. Even some of your friends may be a little impatient that you're not going out as often or seem a little off and don't speak to them as much as you used to. They have all gone back to their lives, that still contain all the same people, and carried on as before.
You, however, do not have that luxury.
This is the time that it can get hardest. The reality of what it means to have lost that person starts to hit home, just as all the kind words and offers of help become a distant memory.
It's cruel that when you need people the most seems to be when they are there the least. In reality, it's entirely possible that the help and support could still, in fact, be there, but it just doesn't feel like it. And too many people will be reluctant to turn to that friend who offered to be there, for fear of "being a burden or annoying".
So how do you deal with this situation that feels so sad and lonely. Especially if there is any part of you that is under the misapprehension that "you should feel better by now".
You cannot force yourself to grieve faster so you can feel better sooner. It really doesn't work like that. You need time to process what the loss really means to you, how you feel about it and how you are going to deal with it, moving forward. It's not possible to say how long all that takes because every person's situation will be entirely unique. However, it is safe to say that bottling it up, ignoring it and hoping it all goes away is not a good strategy. If you suppress your grief it WILL surface at some point in the future. And don't be surprised if it emerges at a completely inappropriate time and when you are least expecting it. The best approach, if you possibly can, is to work through your grief in real time, as it happens. There will never be a right time to postpone it to.
As an experienced grief, loss and bereavement counsellor, I have noticed a common theme when it comes to people that are struggling with their grief. They tend to have been unable to grieve properly at the time. And this is true for so many people. Grieving people have to return to work, assume responsibilities at home, look after children, take care of the house and generally get back to 'normal life'. But if you're not ready to do that, the grieving has to be set aside. It has to get put on the backburner and returned to when you have more time. But, of course, there never is more time. There is always something to distract or demand your attention and then, after many months or even years, your grief is almost forgotten. You no longer see it as something that you need to get around to, but more like that thing that was horrible and you assume has gone away.
But then something happens to make you realise you are very wrong. You realise you are still very sad. You are not the person you used to be. You cannot seem to shake it. This could be a result of that grief. There could still be unanswered questions surrounding that loss. You may be struggling with unresolved guilt, anger, frustration, disbelief or any number of things.
So what's the answer?
You have to talk. You have to express how you feel. You have to allow the emotions you're experiencing to come to the surface and then acknowledge them. Try to accept that how you are feeling is ok and that it is appropriate and entirely understandable. If you have someone you trust with these feelings then use them. Talk it through. Talking about what happened is a vital part of the whole process of grief.
If you don't have that sort of person then counselling could be the answer. You will have the time and space to say how you feel and what you are experiencing. You will not be judged. You will be allowed to explore the impact of the loss on your life which could help you find out the best way to move forward. You may find that speaking about the loss allows you to view it differently which can help in reducing some of the guilt, sadness or other strong emotions that you may be struggling with.
Whatever you choose to do, please don't hide it away and cross your fingers.