Loss and bereavement

Everyone in their life experiences loss and this is associated with varying degrees of sadness

From a very early age, nearly all of us begin to learn about loss, how it makes us feel and how to manage those feelings. For a young child, it might be help to understand the upset over losing a favourite cuddly toy. These experiences lay the foundation for how we respond to more significant losses as we get older. We change teachers, we leave the school that has been a safe haven, a best friend may move away.

The most significant loss that we face is when someone close to us or someone that we know well has died. No matter how much we have learnt about loss and sadness, few things have prepared us for the feelings that accompany bereavement. Psychologists have now spent years studying the impact of loss and bereavement from early childhood and right across the life span.

There are developmental differences; for instance, a five-year-old experiences bereavement differently from an eight-year-old. At all ages, there is a large variation in emotional responses and how we cope. There is at least one thing in common: far and away, most people have feelings that are outside their usual range of feelings. In the main, as psychologists have shown, these feelings are a normal response to an exceptional loss. They may seem extreme because they are outside our usual range of feelings.

Psychologists have also shown that most of us, as painful as our feelings might be, are helped to cope by the people around us and it is important to emphasise that this help is the best help. Educational psychologists in Hampshire and Isle of Wight Psychology have a key role to play on behalf of the county council in responding when there has been a critical incident, a sad event or bereavement.