Experiencing the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences we will ever have to face.
Sometimes it takes death for one to experience life. Sometimes the person you need most to help you through the grief process is the person who died. Sometimes, when you need the most support, people around you think you should be “all better”. Sometimes your soul screams out to be understood and comforted, but what is perceived by people is that you are strong. Sometimes it takes you (the one having the least amount of motivation and the most amount of pain) to reach out to ask for support. Sometimes life is not fair!
Some people feel so out-of-control when someone dies that their unconscious creates a protective mechanism called denial, which may give them a false sense of control. Some people are just so busy after someone dies that they just don’t have time to grieve----until they crash and suffer what is called a delayed grief reaction. Some people can’t allow themselves to feel, either because the death doesn’t seem real, they would feel a loss of control, because the loss is psychologically complicated with ambivalent feelings toward the deceased, or because they are trying to support everyone else around them.
So, even though the pain and the longing, the loneliness and the heartache may sometimes be there, our hope for each of you is that you are able to acknowledge your pain; sit with it for awhile, processing it; find a healthy release for that pain; then finally find in your heart the strength to go on in spite of the silent sorrow. May you find a way to commemorate the life of your deceased loved one, cherishing the moments you had, honoring the sacred bond that will always be. May you experience an inner peace, allowing yourself to dream new dreams and cherish new hopes.
Our loved ones are gone from our sight, but we can hold onto the fact that their light will shine vividly in our minds and in our hearts -- always!
Common Manifestations of Grief
Grief manifests in many ways. You may find yourself experiencing any of the following:
Extreme fatigue or oversleeping
Lethargy and low energy
Stomach upset and nausea
Loss of appetite
Increase in appetite
Difficulty concentrating or focusing
Joint or muscle pain
Lowered resistance to infection
Feeling emotionally numb
Feeling detached from others
Expecting your loved one to come back
Feelings of loneliness
Guilt and/or Regret
Anger at God, the doctors, yourself, or life in general
Grieving the loss of a loved one is overwhelming and all-consuming. Many of us wonder if we are grieving in the ‘right’ way and worry that our symptoms are not ‘normal.’ People grieve for different amounts of time, experience different emotions, and express their feelings in many different ways. Your grief experience is heavily influenced by your personality, your relationship with the lost loved one, the circumstances of the death, and even previous grief experiences. You may grieve each loss differently. As you go through the roller coaster that is grief, please let go of any expectations of how you should or should not feel. If there was ever a time for you to get really, really good at practicing self-compassion, it is now!
Please do not compare your grieving process what that of other people, and take all the time you need to fully grieve your loss.
When Professional Help May Be Warranted
- Presence of disruption of daily functioning (Sleeplessness; Significant, rapid weight loss; Constant fatigue; Lack of motivation; Complete social withdrawal; Suicidal thoughts; Panic)
- Problems with alcohol or drugs
- Additional stressful life events such as divorce, loss of job, other deaths, critical life changes, loss of income, loss of caregiver to a frail or dependent person
- Traumatic events causing or coinciding with death (Suicide; Accident; Murder; Witnessing death; Being involved in death)
- History of mental illness
- Lack of support system
Tips from a Bereaved
Don’t ignore me because you are uncomfortable with the subject of death.
Acknowledge my pain.
If you haven’t called, and a long time has gone by, tell me that you are sorry, that you just haven’t known what to say. Don’t say you’ve been too busy.
Don’t use platitudes or tell me you know how I feel.
Be available to me.
Don’t try to take my feelings away from me by telling me, “Don’t feel that way”.
Sit with me in silence.
Let me cry…help me laugh…help me remember….help me forget…whatever I need. Take my lead.
Hug me and tell me that you care.
Normal Grief vs. Clinical Depression
The grieving individual usually responds to comfort and support while the depressed individual often rejects support.
The grieving individual is often able to work through feelings of grief while the depressed individual is often more resistant to the “work of grief”.
The grieving individual is often openly angry while the depressed individual may complain and be irritable but may not directly express anger.
The grieving individual will usually connect depressed feelings to the death while the depressed individual often does not relate their feelings to any life event.
The grieving individual can still experience moments of joy in life while the depressed individual often projects a pervasive sense of doom.
The grieving individual is more likely to have transient physical symptoms while the depressed individual is more likely to have chronic physical complaints.
The grieving individual may express guilt over some aspect of the loss while the depressed individual will often have generalized feelings of guilt.
If concerned about whether or not your grief reactions are normal/healthy, please consult your doctor.
Children need a safe place to share feelings that may be bottled up. We can teach them healthy ways to deal with those difficult feelings and find special ways to remember their loved one.
- Be honest.
- Use language that is developmentally appropriate.
- Invite your child to ask questions.
- Take their lead as to how much they want to know.
- Model healthy grief expressions.
- Young children express their feelings through play.
- Encourage your child to participate in remembrances.
- Be short on word answers and long on hugs of comfort.
- Include children of all ages in the family rituals.
- Let children grieve at their own pace and in their own way.
- Encourage your teen to engage with friends.
- Teach your teen about the grieving process. Talk about what they can expect.
- Be a good role model by allowing yourself to express your own feelings of sadness and loss in ways that are appropriate.
- Listen to your teen. Resist the urge to offer advice. Let them use their own problem-solving skills. Know the value of silence. Don’t try to fill the void by talking about things that are irrelevant and seemingly unimportant.
- Let your teen react to the loss in his/her own way. Some teens are naturally quiet and may need to express grief in private, others may be more intense. They may need reassurance that their intense feelings are normal reactions to a stressful situation.
- Give your teen time to adjust to the loss. Teens vary in their ability to adjust to major life changes. Do not force your teen to grieve according to your timetable.
- Set reasonable limits on your teen’s behavior. When a major loss occurs, rebellious behaviors may become more dramatic. Teens usually feel more comfortable when clear boundaries are set.
- Allow the full range of emotions. Don’t tell your teen that they need to “be strong” or imply that they need to “mask their true feelings”.
For Kids... Questions and Answers About Death
Death is probably the most confusing part of life. All living things eventually die, but it is hard to accept this fact when it is a person, especially someone we love. You have probably seen things die, like a plant or an animal, and we can say that this is nature. We may even become sad but when someone we love dies, it becomes even more confusing. We may feel many different emotions. We may be angry, sad, afraid, lonely, or guilty, yet if we begin to understand death we can begin to feel better.
What does it mean to be dead?
All living things die. Living things (people, plants, and animals) eat, breathe, and grow. Like all living things, people eventually die. When people die, they stop breathing, eating and growing.
Why do people die?
People die for many reasons. Sometimes people grow old, and their bodies stop working. Some people are involved in tragic accidents, and some people develop diseases and illnesses. When this happens, their bodies shut down and stop working.
What is death like?
When someone dies, they don’t come back to life. It is not like sleeping or resting. Their bodies never work again. Death is forever.
Does it hurt to die?
Death is usually not painful. When someone is old, dying is almost always quiet. When someone dies in an accident, they often feel no pain because deaths comes so quickly. Even for people that are very sick, doctors can prescribe medications that usually take away all the pain.
Why do people that we love die?
It seems so unfair when someone we love dies. Everyone will lose someone that they love at some time in their lives. Death happens to everyone, and everyone is loved by someone. It helps to know that we are not alone.
Why do I have so many mixed-up feelings?
It is natural to have mixed-up feelings when someone you love dies. You may feel sad, lonely, guilty, confused, angry, glad, etc., Everyone has some of these different feelings. It is natural to feel the pain. It hurts very much, but as time goes by it begins to hurt less. Your feelings are normal. Don’t be afraid of them. What helps most is to talk about them.
Is it my fault that the person died?
Death is almost always natural. There is never anything you can say, feel, or do to make someone die. It is not your fault, their fault, or God’s fault. A person dies when their bodies stop working. It has nothing to do with anything you may have done.
Where do people go when they die?
Most people believe that when someone dies, a part of that person lives on and goes to heaven. The part of us that lives on is the part that lets us feel our feelings. It is called our spirit or our soul. Our spirit/soul never dies. We cannot see someone’s spirit/soul, nor can we see Heaven, but we have faith in them. To have faith is to believe in something we cannot see.
Will I ever again see the person who has died?
You probably miss the person who has died. This is most likely what makes you sad. You may always miss them, but you won’t always feel sad. Someday, a long, long time from now, you may be with that person in Heaven.
Will anyone else I love die soon?
We know that people don’t live forever. As people get older, death gets closer. This is probably something you won’t have to worry about for a long, long time.
While grief support comes in many forms, you may never have thought about the internet as a place to find solace after the death of a loved one. There is a wealth of information out there, and while we have to be careful (some of it is trash), much of it is useful, insightful information.
You may be amazed and touched by the creative ideas, inspiring stories, advice of experts, and the helpful interchange of helpful messages from people who have lived with or are living with some of the same painful manifestations of grief.
The internet won’t be comfortable for everyone. There are some who prefer the face-to-face exchange that meeting in support groups or social groups can offer. Many others find it safe and comfortable to be able to access information in the privacy of their own home (while remaining anonymous). Whichever your preferred style, we encourage you to browse different sites simply to make yourself more aware of what is out there.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but below you can find a sampling of great sites. Explore on your own. We would love to hear from you if you find a particularly helpful site, as we would love to be able to share the wisdom. Thank you.
General Grief Issues
- www.whatsyourgrief.com Provides a grief tutorial; sections for professionals, as well as the lay person; education about grief for all populations; e-courses; blog—great resource to meet your needs.
- www.griefnet.org (Grief Net) Internet community of people dealing with grief. Includes online support groups, a newsletter, bookstore, memorial pages, and much more.
- www.AARP.org/griefandloss Designed to help widows, widowers, parents, professionals, employers, etc. This site has lists of other online resources. It is an excellent source of practical information about the grieving process.
- www.healingheart.net Includes articles and personal stories, a prayer page, a resource list, and educational information.
- www.compassionatefriends.org Assists families following the death of a child. With specialized sites conveniently cataloging grief resources in one place, this site provides a repertoire of support for anyone who grieves.
- www.missfoundation.org Mothers in Sympathy and Support-provides support to parents after the death of a baby.
- www.aplacetoremember.com Cyber-remembrance pages and gift items.
- www.grievingchildren.net Information to help children cope with the death of a loved one. Includes excerpts from books written by Linda Goldman. Also includes sections on special issues raised by suicide, murder, and accidents.
- www.hellogrief.org/topics/teens/ Resources, various articles, and sites focused on helping teens.
- https://www.teenagegriefsucks.com/ Open conversations about teen grief.
Children and Teens and Families
- www.dougy.org National Center for Grieving Children and Families. Resources, support group, articles, and so much more!
- www.grasphelp.org Grief Recovery After Substance Passing GRASP is for those who have lost someone due to substance use. Great information, support, and local groups.
- www.allianceofhope.org/alliance-of-hope-for-suic/support-groups The Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors, a charitable nonprofit, provides healing support for people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Blog, Bookstore, Online support.
- petloss.com/newchat.htm Grief support chat room for those grieving the death of a furry family member.
I seem to be falling apart.
My attention span can be measured in seconds,
My patience in minutes,
I cry at the drop of a hat
I forget things constantly
The morning toast burns daily.
I forget to sign checks; half of everything in the house is misplaced.
Feelings of anxiety and restlessness are my constant companions.
Rainy days seem extra dreary
Sunny days seem an outrage,
Other people’s pain and frustrations seem insignificant.
Laughing, happy people seem out of place in my world.
It has become routine to feel half crazy.
“I am normal,” I am told.
“I am a newly grieving person.”