Why is Grieving Necessary?

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

Wanting to avoid sorrow and pain is very natural. In fact, people can go to extremes to avoid these and other uncomfortable feelings. However, grieving is a necessary part of loss. It is the only way for you and others you care for to begin to heal.

When you lose someone you love, sadness and pain are natural emotions. When you allow yourself to fully experience them, you are acknowledging how important the person was to you. In addition, when you express your emotions to the other people in your life, and give them the opportunity to do the same, this sharing creates a special bond as well as being an important release.

Although many people are uncomfortable with the emotions of grieving, they should not only be allowed but also encouraged. Young children, especially, need this support when they have lost someone who was dear to them. Whether they express in tears or words, or both, it is as essential to youngsters as it is to the adults. They need to know that what they are feeling is valid, understood, and important.

The funeral service and special time at home are two of the most appropriate settings for sharing the grieving process. You are in a safe place, surrounded by people who care about you, and cared for your loved one as well. They understand what you are going through, and their compassion will make all the difference in the world. The companionship expressed through words or a hug will make this difficult time easier for everyone in your family.

Sharing the grieving process with others is almost always for the best. A time of loss is not the time to be alone. You and your other family members and friends can be there for each other, and be supportive of what each person is going through. When you feel safe and supported, you can express your deepest emotions. This is the essential first step toward healing and being able to move on with your life. The grieving process will not last forever, but the bonds you create with others will.

How To Know You Need Help

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

Grief that accompanies the death of a loved one can cause a painful, emotional and physical journey. As a survivor, your world has taken a sudden turn into unexpected territory. You may have never felt such intense emotional and physical pain, nor experienced the depth of sadness and depression as a result of your loss. During this time, you may even question your sanity.

The following circumstances can make your grieving more intense, complicated or difficult.

  • Your relationship with the deceased was unstable.
  • You have experienced many deaths over a short period of time.
  • The death was unexpected, sudden or violent.
  • You did not view the body.
  • You witnessed the death.
  • You have experienced prior mental or physical illness.
  • You did not receive adequate support.

Even if you have not experienced these situations, you may encounter difficult grief. Given time and support, most people are able to work through the grieving process in a healthy way. When your grief is intense and shows no signs of lessening, however, it may be beneficial to find someone who can help during this difficult time.

Should you consult a professional counselor?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider consulting a professional. The greatest indication of requiring additional assistance comes from your own sense of need. Do you feel your grief is overwhelming?

  • It is important to be able to express yourself. Do you feel you are suppressing your grief by not speaking about it?
  • If you are assuming the role of caregiver, have you put your grief on hold to take care of others? Do the additional responsibilities make you angry or resentful?
  • Are you coping with your grief by drinking alcohol or taking more prescription or over-the-counter drugs? Are you engaging in reckless behaviors?
  • It hurts to lose someone you love. Perhaps you are now fearful of getting too close to anyone again. Does this pervasive fear prevent you from getting close to anyone?
  • It often helps to keep your grief at bay by staying busy. While everyone needs a respite from grief, running away from it is unhealthy. Do you think that by keeping too busy, you are avoiding your grief?
  • Following the death of a loved one, it is normal for your thoughts to focus almost entirely on the person you lost. Have your thoughts over a long period of time been preoccupied constantly with the death of your loved one?

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor

Recognize the Physical Effects of Grief

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

The death of a loved one can affect you in many ways. For example, you are very aware of your emotional reactions such as sadness, loneliness, anger or guilt. While experiencing these feelings, however, you may fail to recognize the physical symptoms of grief.

Often, these symptoms are the side effects of stress. While many of them are normal, if they persist for more than a couple of months or impair your ability to function for long periods, you should contact your physician.

Some normal physical symptoms of grief may include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Forgetfulness
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • Racing heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Panic and anxiety
  • Reduced immune system

Relieving the Physical Symptoms of Grief

Realize the importance of taking care of yourself. You cannot bring back your loved one, but you do have control over your physical well-being.

  • Do not neglect your body. The healthier you are physically, the better you will be able to cope emotionally. If you have existing health problems, see your doctor to monitor your condition. Make sure that stress does not cause problems. Eat properly and get enough rest and exercise.
  • Maintain your daily routines. Make lists to help you remember what you need to do.
  • Seek out family members, friends or your pastor to help you through the difficult times. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Support groups are available in most areas. Check with your local hospice, hospitals or churches for grief support groups.
  • Allow yourself time to remember. Although memories of your loved one may be painful to recall, you may find that, in time, they will bring a sense of comfort.
  • Take a break from your grief and do something you enjoy. Finding a moment of joy does not mean you are disloyal to the memory of your loved one.
  • Learn some relaxation techniques.
  • If you have trouble concentrating, take extra precautions if you must drive.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor

Dealing with Social Situations Following a Loss

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

Following the loss of a loved one, it’s comforting to know you are not alone. It is customary for friends, neighbors, and loved ones to provide many types of support to the family during their difficult time. From delivering a meal, to a phone call or visit, expressing their support and care is only normal. And while they mean well, often the family is not in a place emotionally to deal with these unexpected guests.

How do I manage?

The first thing to keep in mind when facing the influx of phone calls and guests is to not apologize for the fact that you are grieving. If you need some time alone, insist on it. Don’t feel that you are not being rude, but rather you are finding a way to deal with the pain you are going through. Remember, your real friends will not be offended, and they will be there for you when you are ready. When you don’t feel like talking, let the answering machine do its job. Consider having a room in your home that is not available to visitors. Make it your sanctuary where you can retreat when you need to have some time by yourself.

Sometimes those who are visiting are grieving just as much as you are. Remember this, and try to avoid making judgments or becoming angry at things they might say. Let them grieve alongside you, and try to remember they are feeling many of the same emotions that you are. You may indeed find that spending time together remembering and reflecting can benefit everyone who is grieving the loss.

At the funeral you will need to greet guests and accept their condolences. They may not know what to say, and you may feel uncomfortable. If someone tries to spend too much time with you making polite conversation, it is perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself. Having a trusted family member or friend at your side can be a valuable resource in case you do become overwhelmed. This person can quickly take over the conversation or help you navigate through the crowd and bring you to a quiet place.

After the funeral, you may find that you become lonely, particularly if the person you lost was a part of your day-to-day life. Many of your friends will not know whether they should come to your home to visit or give you space so that you can grieve. If you are feeling the need for companionship, invite someone over. Your friends are going to respect your privacy and will likely not call you during this time. It does not mean that they do not care for you, but rather that they want to give you time to grieve. So when you need them, let them know.

Give yourself time to go through the grieving process. After a loved one dies, you may face many of the common emotions that follow a loss, such as shock, denial and anger. Give yourself enough time to work through your feelings. Place people around you who will help you through the grieving process. The death of someone you love is never easy, but understanding how to deal with the people around you will make it a little more bearable.

Saying I’m Sorry To Those Who Grieve

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

Offering condolences and comfort to those who grieve is difficult for many. While you may want to extend comfort and compassion, you may not know how to approach a grieving person. Perhaps you fear you will say or do something that will hurt them, or maybe you feel unequipped to handle the strong emotions that accompany grief.

Though you may feel uncomfortable approaching the bereaved, understand two things: First, if the individual cries or shows emotion, you are not the cause—this is a normal part of the grieving process. Second, most grieving people enjoy talking about their loved one and hearing the stories you have to tell. A good story about the loved one can bring comfort to a grieving individual.

The best thing you can do is to take time to learn about the grieving process. Grieving is a long and difficult path. It does not end when the funeral service is over. Many factors will determine the depth of a person’s grief. While one’s grief may lessen over time, it will never disappear.

Offering Condolences

The following are some suggestions for offering your condolences. Consider these ideas before approaching a person who has lost a loved one.

  • Do not offer advice, even if you have experienced a similar loss. Instead, offer suggestions. Your grieving process is different and what helped you may not necessarily help others.
  • Avoid saying, “I know what you are going through,” because you do not.
  • Keep your words simple. “I’m sorry for your loss,” can say it all.
  • Sometimes words are not enough. A hug or holding a person’s hand can convey concern and sympathy.
  • Remember, you can neither take away a person’s grief nor make a person return to the way he or she was before the loss.
  • If you choose to write your condolences, do not put it off. You are more likely to effectively convey your sincerity if you write immediately.
  • Always mention the deceased by name.
  • Offer assistance only if you are prepared to follow through with actions.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor

Death of A Spouse

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

The death of a spouse changes everything from your daily routines and responsibilities to your social life. After sharing an intimate relationship with another person, adjusting to life without him or her may seem to be a daunting challenge.

Perhaps your spouse was your closest friend. Your spouse helped you make decisions and was your constant companion. When your spouse dies, it seems you have lost more than that person—you have lost everything that person meant to you, a part of yourself and your identity as well. You may ask yourself, “What do I do now?”

As you reconstruct your life, you must understand that common changes occur when you are grieving the loss of your loved one. Grief causes physical, emotional, spiritual and behavioral changes. Physical changes include general aches and pains as well as numbness and exhaustion. Emotionally, you may experience feelings of confusion, guilt, anger or depression. Grief may also alter your usual sleeping or eating behaviors.

While this process may take months or years, eventually you will learn to live with the grief. It is not something you will conquer quickly. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Helping Yourself Through Grief

Each person grieves differently. Though there are no easy answers, here are some suggestions to help you cope with both your grief and your new life.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor

  • Be patient and accept that the grieving process takes time. Give yourself as much time as you need to grieve your loss.
  • Try to maintain your daily routines.
  • Your emotions may make you feel like you are riding a roller coaster—steady one minute and completely off balance the next. Realize that this is a normal response to grief.
  • It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help from others. Find those who will listen to you talk about your grief. Support groups are available in most areas. Check with your local hospice, hospitals or churches for such groups.
  • Memories of your loved one may be painful to recall, but you need to allow yourself to remember. You may find these memories bring a sense of comfort.
  • Take a break from your grief to do something you enjoy. Finding a moment of joy does not mean you are disloyal to the memory of your loved one.
  • Do not neglect your body. You will be able to cope better emotionally if you take care of yourself physically. Try to eat properly; get enough rest and exercise. It is also a good idea to have a physical exam to ensure stress is not causing problems.

Helping a Grieving Child

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

Children grieve differently than adults do. Age and maturity level play important roles in how children understand death and how they express their feelings of grief. The following conditions may affect the intensity, duration and direction of a child’s grief:

  • The quality of his or her relationship with the deceased
  • The amount of time the child spent with the deceased and the experiences they shared
  • The nature of the death—was it sudden, anticipated or violent
  • The behavior of surrounding adults—are they supportive and open or secretive
  • The child’s involvement in family conversations and activities
  • The child’s contact and relationship with siblings and peers
  • The family’s cultural, ethnic and religious heritage

Children usually express their emotions through their behavior. Some will grieve intensely for a period of time and then act as though nothing has occurred. Others become overwhelmed by intense emotions, including longing for the loved one, anger, sadness, loneliness or helplessness. Some withdraw from friends and family or lose interest in activities they once found enjoyable. Following the death of a loved one, a child can also experience sleeplessness or nightmares.

You play an important role throughout a child’s grief journey. In addition to supporting the child, encourage him or her to express himself or herself in healthy ways. Though most children recover from the acute phase of grief because of strong support and patience, understand that a child will grieve the loss for the rest of his or her life.

Things That Can Help

  • Keep routines and schedules consistent.
  • Answer questions honestly and directly, using clear, age-appropriate language.
  • Provide unconditional love, affection and encouragement.
  • Never force a child to attend a funeral service. After explaining what will take place, allow the child to decide if he or she wants to attend.
  • Maintain contact with the child’s teachers, coaches and ministers.
  • Encourage questions.
  • Work with a competent counselor.
  • Enroll the child in a camp or support group for grieving children.
  • Let the child know that his or her emotions are normal.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor

The Loss of an Infant

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

No one expects an infant to die. Though you know this tragedy has occurred, you may have a difficult time accepting it.

Often, it is hard for parents to understand why their baby has died. You might find yourself wondering if you could have prevented your child’s death. You may believe that you caused the death or that your baby’s death is punishment for your past actions. These are normal reactions for parents. Grief is a physical, emotional and spiritual journey.

Fathers and mothers grieve differently. A mother’s grief might be more intense and last longer than that of other relatives. Realize that grandparents’ grief is often overlooked. As your parents, they grieve for you as well as for the loss of their grandchild.

As you grieve, understand that mourning has no prescribed length. Expect your grief to resurface on certain days, especially on birthdays, holidays or the anniversary of the death. You may feel a sense of loss and sadness, which will accompany you for the rest of your life. Here are some steps you can take to cope with these emotions.

Coping With Your Grief

  • If necessary, speak with your doctor and ask questions so that you can understand the cause of your baby’s death.
  • Create a support system. Many hospitals have support groups for parents whose infants have died. Organizations such as The Compassionate Friends, SIDS, Candlelighters and Share may be active in your community.
  • Take good care of yourself. Try to eat properly and get plenty of rest and exercise. Help your spouse to do the same.
  • Give yourself time to grieve for your baby before having or adopting another child. When the time is right for another child, he or she will be a special person, not a replacement.
  • If you have other children, maintain open and honest communication with them. They may not fully understand how death can happen to an infant. They may also find it difficult to unders
  • tand your need to grieve. Find other friends or family members who can pay special attention to your children.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor

The Loss of a Grandchild

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

When you become a grandparent, you do not stop being a parent. Your love, care and concern for your child remain constant throughout your lifetime.

Because of this, when a grandparent loses a grandchild, the anguish is doubled. You grieve for both your deceased grandchild and your child. You may even feel you have lost a part of yourself and your future.

At times, you may find it difficult to be a supporting parent to your bereaved child while trying to cope as a bereaved grandparent. You may focus on comforting and caring for your child and neglect your own feelings. Remember that both you and your child need care and support as you move through the grief process.

Suggestions for Grieving Grandparents

  • Try to create a support system for yourself outside of the family circle. Encourage your child to do the same. Check with your local hospice, hospital or church for support groups.
  • Be aware that every member of the family will grieve differently because each has had a different relationship with the child. It is normal to have different grief experiences.
  • Consider spending additional time with your grandchildren and finding grief resources for them. The surviving children in the family may feel neglected or left out. When all of the adults are grieving, they have little energy to give support and attention to a grieving child. Although the parents are physically present, they are often emotionally unavailable to the surviving children.
  • Keep your memories alive. Although they may bring tears and longing for the child, memories can also bring comfort.
  • Remember that grief can affect you physically. Get a thorough checkup from your physician, take your medication, eat nutritious meals, rest and exercise regularly.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor

The Loss of a Child

Created: | Category: Grief Support.

The loss of a child is a profound, unsettling and heartbreaking reality. As a parent, you may believe you have lost a part of yourself. The grief can be overwhelming and, while it will span the course of your life, its intensity and expression will vary over time.

Grieving parents often experience a variety of emotional and physical sensations. You may feel guilty for not being able to prevent the death or even for being alive. You may feel cheated or betrayed. You might be unable to concentrate, experience extreme anxiety, have difficulty sleeping or want to sleep all the time. You may envy other parents or feel a sense of shattered self-esteem or self-confidence.

Some people suffer in silence and avoid facing the reality of the loss. Emotional paralysis can ensue. Understand that coping with grief does not mean forgetting. The healing process helps reduce the intensity of parents’ grief. Working through grief is challenging and requires time, but when parents allow themselves to manage their grief, they invest in their healing process.

Coping With Your Grief

Grieving requires time and patience. You must learn to live without your child, and face your memories of that child. Here are some suggestions to help you cope:

  • If necessary, speak with your doctor and ask questions so that you can understand the circumstances surrounding your child’s death.
  • Take good care of yourself. Eat properly and get plenty of rest and exercise. Help your spouse to do the same.
  • Try to maintain your daily routines and schedules.
  • Express your pain to someone, such as a trusted friend or counselor, who will understand and acknowledge your feelings. Remember to be honest about all of your feelings.
  • Create a support system. Many hospitals have support groups for parents whose children have died, such as The Compassionate Friends, SIDS, Candlelighters and Share.
  • Build your spiritual resources daily with nature walks, poetry, prayer partners, inspirational reading or worship services.
  • Avoid idealizing your child or enshrining him or her.
  • Give yourself time to grieve for your child before having or adopting another child. When the time is right for another baby, he or she will be a special person, not a replacement.
  • If you have other children, maintain open and honest communication with them. They may not fully understand how death can happen to a child. They may also find it difficult to understand your need to grieve.

— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor