Grief is sometimes something that you may not be used to and so we have included some general comments in this section in the hope that they are helpful.
The different stages of grief are now fairly well recognised and include:
- Shock and disbelief
- Expressions of grief
- Depression and apathy
- Signs of recovery
Each stage will vary with each individual and you won't necessarily progress through each stage in a logical fashion, or indeed through all of them. Your own personality and strength may help you cope with one stage better than another; you may find yourself see-sawing through bouts of misery, anger and depression all in one day, possibly even at a time when you - or friends and relatives - hoped you were showing signs of recovery. That's the sort of reversal that can happen in the grieving process.
Initial shock at the loss is often described as numbness, a sense of disbelief; sometimes the fact of "death" and the meaning of loss may be denied by people who have been bereaved. This is a natural reaction. It cushions you against the loss and allows you to feel it more slowly. Don't try to block your feelings as this can delay healing.
Expressions of Grief
Grief is not a constant depression, but acute pangs of severe loss and pining which in time may come up less often or only when they are jogged by a recollection - a photograph for example. These periods of sudden anxious yearning can make us restless and moody. They come because, without being fully aware of it, we are searching for the child we have lost. This phase can be distressing and bewildering because we cannot, in a physical sense, get back the child we love.
Another painful expression of grief is guilt. Many of us blame ourselves because with hindsight, we wish that we had done things differently and now there's no chance to put matters right nor any opportunity of "being forgiven"; we may feel that we could have prevented or postponed the death if we had acted differently. These feelings of guilt may need to be talked through many times before any peace of mind can be reached - this is part of the healing process.
Anger and aggression can also be expressions of grief:
- Anger at what has happened and the injustice of the loss
- Anger at what seems like the lack of proper understanding in others
- Anger at those who allowed the loved one to die
The source of the anger is usually death itself and our helplessness in the face of it. The child who died may become the focus for this anger but because it wouldn't be seemly to rage against the dead, the hostility is shifted to others - family, friends and hospital staff for instance. Anger shouldn't be bottled up; if it is, it can gnaw away for years and rob you of peace of mind. Try to work through your feelings with someone you can confide in, preferably someone not emotionally involved in your own loss.
Remembering and re-living first the immediate past and then gradually more distant memories is part of the yearning period of grief. Remembering is painful because it can bring back many sad memories, perhaps re-awakening the grief of former losses or periods of distress or unhappiness; but remembering is needed in healing, and can bring back happy memories too, which are greatly comforting. One effect of this remembering is that your relationship with the child who has died begins to change. As you establish clear and satisfactory memories of the past you begin to realise fully that your child will not come back, but later you will begin to feel that he or she is, in a special way, part of your life again.
Depression and Apathy
The acute feelings of anxiety, guilt and anger will gradually give way to feelings of depression and apathy. This depression can be a reaction to too much emotion; it is a badly needed period of low emotion, a time when the spirit is at its lowest ebb and for some time it spells hopeless despair, at other times, it seems like a joyless monotony. This is also the time when we probably begin to realise that we cannot now change things and bring the dead child back. At this point, people who have been bereaved often feel loss of identity and lack of self-confidence. A painful aspect of losing someone close to you is the way in which others regard us. Our social taboo of death means that it is often ignored, and because people are embarrassed to talk about death, they may shun the newly bereaved. That can be an additional hurt, but sharing this hurt with others who have travelled this difficult road can bring relief.
Signs of Recovery
In your own time you will come to accept the reality that the child you mourn is dead. This is perhaps difficult to believe while you suffer the early stages of the agony and bitterness of grief.
Feelings of misery and pain will grow less acute as you accept that your situation has changed and you will take up your life again without the child you loved. Here again, the experience and support of others, including those who have suffered a similar loss, will help you work your way through to recovery. If the depression seems endless, if each day brings only sadness and there are no better times when the pain and darkness lift, then do contact your doctor. Clinical depression is treatable and it would be a pity to suffer needlessly.
Coping with Grief and Bereavement
Bereavement is one of life's most painful and difficult experiences. Please let us know if there is any additional help that the hospital staff can offer you. The following information may be of help to you: Bereavement Officer The Bereavement Officer will be able to help you find the support you need. They will contact the deceased patient's GP to inform them that the death has occurred. Your own GP will also be able to provide appropriate support for you.
Medical and Nursing Staff
If it would be helpful, the Bereavement Officer can make arrangements for you to see a doctor or nurse who was involved in the care of the person who has died. Such a meeting would usually have to take place at a later date.
Chaplains are available 24 hours at both hospitals. The nursing staff can contact a Chaplain for you or you can get in touch with them through the switchboard (Ashford Hospital 01784 884488 or St. Peter's Hospital 01932 872000). The Chaplains can also help you to make contact with a priest or other religious leader of your choice.
There are Chapels and Prayer Rooms at both hospitals. These are separate from the Chapels of Rest / Viewing Rooms and you may use the Chapels / Prayer Room for quiet and reflection, whether or not you belong to a particular denomination or faith. The Ashford Hospital Chapel is close to the main entrance of the hospital. The St. Peter's Hospital Chapel is on the level 2 corridor, beside the Accident and Emergency Department. Both areas are open all day and security staff can unlock them at night if you wish to use them then.
The Chaplaincy also offers a very informal 'listening service' to those who have been bereaved. This is not a religious or long-term counselling service, but it could help you if you wish to talk with someone outside your immediate circle of family and friends. Please contact the Chaplaincy on: 01932 723324.
Services of Thanksgiving
A Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving is held every two Monday’s in the St. Peter's Hospital Chapel for people who have died at either Ashford or St. Peter's. The Bereavement Officer will give you an invitation to the Service, which is held on a Sunday afternoon at 4:00 pm. You are warmly invited to attend and the names of those who have died and are represented will be especially remembered then. Please contact the Bereavement Officer, (01932 722319) if you are unable to be present but would still like the person who has died to be included in this simple act of remembrance.
A Ceremony of Remembrance is held annually, usually in June, to remember children who have died at any age, from early pregnancy to adulthood. For further details please contact the Hospital Chaplain on 01932 723324, or the Bereavement Midwife on 01932 722879.
Other Support Agencies
On these webpages, we have also included a list of some local support agencies, which may help you to know where to begin when you are seeking additional help.
What if I have a Problem or Concern?
You may wish to address issues relating to the overall care of the person who has died. It may be helpful, in the first instance, to discuss this briefly with the Bereavement Officer.
The Trust also has a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), which can be contacted on 01932 723553 (Monday to Friday 9-4pm). PALS can listen to your concerns and offer help and guidance. For further information, PALS leaflets are available in the Bereavement Office.
Compliments, Gifts and Donations
Our Staff always appreciate your thanks when you are happy with the care received. The Trust also has an appreciation awards scheme and, if you feel that a particular member of staff or the team has provided exceptional care, you can nominate them for an award. Please ask a member of staff for a nomination form.
Gifts: No gifts of money can be accepted by individual hospital staff. However, small tokens such as fruit or chocolates are permitted.
Donations: Donations can be made to wards or hospital trust funds. These are used to improve facilities or provide "extras" for the wellbeing of patients or staff. If you would like to make a donation, please do one of the following;
- Ask ward staff to contact the Head of Nursing
- Write to the Chief Nurse (details below).
Cheques should be made payable to: Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. If you wish you can ask that your donation is used to benefit a particular ward or department, or a particular group of staff.
Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Telephone: 01932 872000
A checklist for young adults
For independent young people this is a checklist of people you may need to notify:
Legal / Financial
- Bank / Building Society
- Department of Work & Pensions (form BD8)
- Inland Revenue
- Council Offices / Housing Department
- Household utilities (water, gas, electric, etc.)
- Royal Mail Deliveries
Items that may need to be returned / cancelled:
- Benefit books
- Season tickets
- Clubs / Associations
- Insurance Companies DVLA (Vehicle licensing)
- TV Licensing
- Driving Licence
- Library books / tickets, National Insurance Card