Coping with grief after the loss of a loved one

After appearing in public for the first time since the death of his beloved wife in April, Sir Tom Jones has vowed to return to stage, insisting that it will provide him with the strength he needs to work through his grief.

In an emotional interview, the 75-year-old said that recovering from the death of his wife, Linda, was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life”.

While it was thought that Sir Tom would cancel a forthcoming European tour, he has declared that he will keep on performing.

He said: “I have to do it. When Linda passed away it hit me so hard I didn’t know whether I could or not, I really didn’t. [When she was diagnosed] I said, ‘Linda, I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ She could see I was devastated, and I was. She said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be alright. Don’t worry about it. Just go forward.’"

Grief, like death, is a natural part of life. Something happens when you lose someone. It’s something internal that nobody else can see. The psychological toll it takes on you is unquestionable. Understanding what to expect and engaging in coping strategies can help ease you through the pain of the grieving process.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a ground-breaking psychiatrist who ignited public conversation about death at a time when it was seen as a taboo subject. In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, she outlined a series of emotions typically experienced by survivors of a loved one’s death. The five stages, also known as DABDA, are:

  1. Denial: You will probably react to learning of the loss with disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. Though confusing, these feelings help us to slowly come to terms with the reality of the loss, rather than dealing with all of our emotions up front.
  2. Anger: Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotions.
  3. Bargaining: You may find yourself asking “what if” questions, thinking about what you could have done to save your loved one, and perhaps bargaining with God or the world. Bargaining is often accompanied by guilt. This can be our way of negotiating with the hurt and pain of the loss.
  4. Depression: Depression, like anger, also surfaces in many different forms. You may find you are lethargic, constantly on the verge of tears, and that you have trouble sleeping or are perhaps sleeping too much. You may even lose your appetite or feel the urge to overeat.
  5. Acceptance: After a while you will learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness but eventually you will be able to think about your lost loved one without the same heart-wrenching pain. You will once again be able to look forward to the future and find joy in the living again.

There is, of course, no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone experiences it differently. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your faith, and the nature of the loss.

While some people start to feel better in weeks or months, for others it can take years. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things anyone can go through so it’s important to allow yourself as much time as you need to grieve.