First Reactions

By Michael Hope | Posted: Wednesday February 21, 2018

In the first hours, days and weeks after a loss, people often find it difficult to take it all in – what’s happened, how it happened and what will happen next and in the future.

In the early days after someone you love has died, you (and perhaps others around you) may experience some very strong first reactions. Notice that they’re not just emotional things. That’s because grief affects our whole being – physically, mentally and spiritually, as well as emotionally. In other words, grief can knock us off balance in a whole lot of ways.

People are often surprised by the numbness they feel, but this enables people to be cushioned from the first shock and crisis until they have regrouped a bit and can begin to feel more. Numbness can last quite some time . Many bereaved people find they can go through daily routines automatically and wonder why it’s possible.

People are also often surprised how many things they can think and feel in one day – or all at once.

It can be very hard telling family and friends that someone you love has died.

Other people’s reactions can be difficult to handle, especially when you’re still coping with your own first reactions. You may like to find a sentence or phrase that you can repeat about what’s happened so it becomes a little easier. After the funeral, it’s not uncommon to meet people who haven’t heard the news. This can also happen at points much later on.

The death of your loved one will affect all kinds of people – family, friends, neighbours, workmates and perhaps even just acquaintances. We’ve both experienced people wanting to express their shock, sadness and support to us. While we found such responses mostly loving and supportive, it also could get overwhelming at times and tiring.

Remember, you get to choose...

  • to speak to or see people or not - perhaps you might feel more able to respond to them later on.
  • what information you do or don't want others to know
  • if there's someone you could ask to tell people the news for you - be clear with them what information is OK to share with others and what's not.
  • if it could help to sometimes use an answer phone or to put a sign on your door to let visitors know you aren't available right now
  • if you want to accept offers of help or not - maybe letting others do some chores, bring food around, take calls, run messages or perhaps babysit could make things a little easier for a while, but it's up to you.

Just keep thinking about what will work best for you.

Funeral-Link members are in each region throughout New Zealand. They share each others values and are able to support families through the journey of change. see: for your local member.  

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