The Bereavement Cycle™ is the first twelve months after a loved one’s passing. It can be filled with a wide range of emotions as different things remind you of your loved one or which make you feel their absence. But it’s also a cycle that is an important part of the grieving process. For some, like a spouse or child who was very close to the deceased, they never “get over” the loss, but with each cycle, the memories can warm, as they remember special moments and feel fortunate to have had the loved one for as long as they did. It is important to understand that the Bereavement Cycle takes time. In spite of how you may try to press forward with your life in a “normal” fashion, it cannot be accelerated.
Key moments in the Bereavement Cycle™ include:
- The person’s death. For many, the death of a close friend or relative is the start of a process that includes many of the 7 stages of grief.
- The visitation, funeral, burial, and other services. This time gives you a chance to remember your loved one, As executor, you will want to make sure that any final wishes are accommodated in that process out of respect for the loved one who was lost. There is typically a great deal of emotional support at those events as family and friends congregate to celebrate the life of the person who was lost.
- The probate process. As the executor, the pain of losing a loved one can be compounded by the responsibility for handling their final affairs. Depending on the circumstances, this can include anything from selling their home to sifting through old memories. This can be complicated even further if the deceased died intestate (without a will). The difficulty of this process cannot be understated. It is difficult to predict what will trigger emotions, whether it be listening to old messages on a cell phone, reading through old emails, or simply cleaning out the basement, and finding items from your youth. As executor, there will be many requirements that will force you into details of the lives of the deceased person, which can trigger emotions when you least expect it.
- Holidays. Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas morning, Hanukah, 4th of July – these occasions are often spent with family. With each holiday come the traditions of a particular family, and the loved one’s role in those traditions. Even something as simple as an empty seat at the dinner table can really make you feel their absence.
- Birthdays. Their birthday, which used to be a happy occasion, may feel much different now. This day is often a day of remembrance forever, but it will be particularly painful in the first year, in most families. On your own birthday, you may remember how your loved one liked to give you a certain kind of cake or a gift.
- Anniversaries. These may include wedding anniversaries or the anniversaries of other important milestones in their life. The first wedding anniversary after losing a spouse is perhaps the most difficult. Your parents’ wedding anniversary can also be hard when one of them has passed away recently.
- The anniversary of their passing. The cycle concludes on the anniversary of the death of your loved one. For many people, the date on the calendar will never again be an ordinary day – it will always be remembered as the day their loved one passed on.
For some, the Bereavement Cycle™ never really ends. It may get a little easier each year, but some mourners don’t entirely “get over” the death of a loved one. In other cases, a professional grief counselor can be a very helpful way to bring some normalcy through the Bereavement Cycle. But a time passes on and the Bereavement Cycle is completed, many people find that life does indeed go on. The heartache that often accompanies those weeks and months after someone’s death will subside. The void left by their absence is filled by warm memories of the past – and gratitude that they were a part of your life.