When a person’s journey has ended with ALS, close friends and family members will begin a bereavement process through which they will mourn and face a future without their loved one.
The resources below are designed to provide family members with tools, resources, and information about grief and the bereavement process and to assist you during this difficult, emotional and often frightening journey.
Please contact your Care Services Coordinator for additional support and resources.
When you are in the throes of bereavement, you may feel at a loss for ways to process your feelings and move through your grief. The following activities may offer you ways to identify and express your emotions, allow yourself time to remember and honor your loved one, or just have time to be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself and allow time to grieve in whatever manner feels right for you. If you feel overwhelmed or “stuck” in your grief, you may want to contact a professional counselor or therapist or your clergy to talk with about your feelings.
- Take a walk in a local park or just around the block in your neighborhood.
- Write your feelings, concerns, or memories of your loved one in a journal. Do not think too much about what you are writing, but instead just let the words flow onto the paper. Journaling can be quite cathartic and provides you with documentation of where you are and where you have been.
- Create a scrapbook or photo album of you, your loved one and your family.
- Color or draw a mandala.
- Work in your garden. Getting your hands into soil is often very “grounding.”
- Write a letter to your loved one. You can include things you did not get to say before, express your feelings of loss and grief, or reminisce about fond memories.
- Write a letter to your grief. Then, a day or so later, write back to yourself from your grief. This exercise is surprisingly helpful.
- Get some physical exercise. Activity starts to make you feel like “you” again. It can also be cathartic in expressing pent up emotions.
ACTIVITIES FOR GRIEFWORK
- Create a memorial to your loved one in his/her honor. Plant a tree, put favorite framed photographs together on a table, or make a collage of family memories.
- Light a candle in honor of your loved one and take a few minutes of quiet contemplation.
- Pray, spend time at your place of worship, or speak with clergy, if it brings you comfort at this time.
- Join a local grief support group. Most communities offer this service, which provides connection with and support from others who are also grieving. (see grief resources in this section)
- Visit a botanical garden or park. These facilities both offer areas for quiet walking and contemplation while enjoying the beauty of nature.
- Call a friend. Sometimes our friends and family do not know how to help us through our grief. Don’t be afraid to ask others for what you need.
- Take a nap. Grieving is hard work, and you may become physically tired from it. Allow yourself the luxury of an afternoon catnap.
- Create a memory box to hold special tokens and memories of your loved one. Decorate a small wooden box, a small plastic storage box, or a cardboard shoebox. Inside, place pictures, tokens, dried flowers, cut-outs from magazines, a special piece of jewelry or fabric—anything that reminds you of your loved one. Keep this box in a special place in your home.
- Go to the symphony, a local high school concert, or play favorite CD’s or tapes. Immerse yourself in the healing power of music.
- Volunteer. Whether at your local church, food pantry, school, or social service agency, giving of yourself will give you purpose while concentrating on others will help you process your own grief.
- Meditate, practice yoga, or walk a labyrinth. Each of these will offer you time for contemplation and quiet reflection.
- Listen to a guided meditation tape.
- Do something every day that gives you pleasure. Even in grief, you have the right to look forward to something or feel small moments of happiness each day. Your loved one would want you to do this.
- Let others do things for you. Don’t be afraid to tell others what you need or to ask for assistance. Your friends and family want to help you but may not know how.
- Eat healthy, regular meals. Your body needs support and gentle care while you grieve.
- Allow yourself the luxury of a bubble bath. Or consider getting a massage. These pampering activities can feel rejuvenating and comforting.
- Say “No.” Do not feel obligated to take on responsibilities or projects before you are ready. You also do not have to accept every social invitation.
- Be ready to say “Yes.” Be pro-active in re-engaging yourself into social life. Don’t miss out on life’s pleasures because you are consumed in grief. When you are ready, make an effort to again participate in life’s activities, responsibilities, and joys.
After Caregiving; Picking Up the Pieces
by Brenda Race, R.N.
As a caregiver, we totally commit ourselves to caring for another person who no longer functions as they once did in the normal scheme of life. We move in with them or move them to us. We give up our jobs, our own independence, and very often our family and friends. We become so involved with the care of that person out of love that we ourselves are removed from normal day to day living. Our entire life revolves around comforting and making our loved one feel loved. We protect them at all costs. In a very real sense, we have given our life for another.... not out of obligation but out of LOVE! The ultimate test of LOVE for another! Then one day we wake up and our commitment has been released to a far greater LOVE in a place of no more pain or suffering! We grieve and then the process of finding our way back into the world begins anew.
How do we pick up the pieces and start to live again? I guess there is no so-called normal pattern that each of us has to follow. It seems to come down to taking one step at a time...some walk slower than others and some speed their way back out into the world! Often we take one step forward and two backwards ... it is not an easy process but there is a life after caregiving! We just have to look forward and find opportunities that are once again there for us. Renew old friendships, find a job that you feel good doing, do volunteer work (we already know you are a caring concerned person!), find a new or renew an old hobby.... but begin to take a few small steps towards living again! One of the best therapies is finding a friend you can talk to...one who will listen and support you as you ease back into the world! Soon you will find that life does still exist, and you are a part of it! Butterflies are still flying, and the birds are still singing. The light of another day is showing through the clouds, and all that you gave up was well worth it in the end! We are better than ever for our commitment. We are forever changed in a good way.... no one can ever take that total love away from us as we again join the world.
Brenda Race, R.N. was caregiver to her mother.
(Let's Talk About) Feeling Angry (Sad, Frustrated etc.) [series on feelings for ages 3-6] by Maggie Smith
Being a kid isn't always easy. These fun stories, along with colorful, humorous illustrations, help young children deal with tough situations and emotions, and learn about being responsible for themselves and their own actions.
The Dandelion’s Tale by Kevin Sheehan [ages 3-7]
In this poignant story about the friendship between a dandelion and a sparrow, young readers are given a reassuring, yet emotionally powerful introduction to the natural cycle of life. One fine summer day, when Sparrow meets a dandelion with only 10 seed pods left, he asks how he can help. Dandelion laments that a short while ago, she was the brightest yellow, but now a strong wind could blow away her remaining pods and no one will remember her. Together, they decide to write Dandelion's story in the dirt, and so Dandelion tells Sparrow all the things she has seen and loved. Later that night, a storm changes everything. . . . But the tale of Dandelion lives on.
From Here to There [ages 4-8] by Ben Keckler
This well-written and beautifully illustrated book is dedicated to Christopher Morrison...His incredible journey through grief and illness was the inspiration for this beautiful book that gently takes the reader From Here To There. Every page encourages the reader to explore the roller coaster of feelings that range from fear, anger, sadness to happiness and peace that come from ...learning about the eternal... This book reminds all who are grieving and transitioning through life's challenges that the journey has to be undertaken if one wants to find healing.
Gentle Willow [age 4 & up] By Joyce C. Mills
Amanda and Little Tree discover that their friend Gentle Willow isn't feeling well. Amanda summons the Tree Wizards, who visit Gentle Willow and determine that they can't fix her. Amanda is angry at first, but eventually she listens to the Tree Wizards as they explain that death is a transformation and journey into the unknown. They also counsel Amanda that the medicine she can give Gentle Willow is love. In a final act of love, Amanda comforts Gentle Willow, who is afraid, with a story about the caterpillar who transforms into a butterfly.
My Grieving Journey [age 5 & up] By Donna & Eve Shavatt
Children from all belief systems and all family situations can use this proven manual for working through the pain of loss. Unlike most other titles, this is neither story nor didactic text; it's a hands-on activity book so children can work their way through the process of grief to find healing.
I'll Always Love You [ages 4-8] by Hans Wilhelm
"In this gentle, moving story, Elfie, a dachshund, and her special boy progress happily through life together. One morning Elfie does not wake up. The family grieves and buries her. The watercolor illustrations, tender and warm in color and mood, suit the simple text perfectly."--School Library Journal.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children [ages 4-8] by Bryan Mellonie
A pet . . . a friend . . . or a relative dies, and it must be explained to a child. This sensitive book is a useful tool in explaining to children that death is a part of life and that, eventually, all living things reach the end of their own special lifetimes.
Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs [ages 4-8] by Tomie De Paola
Tommy is four years old, and he loves visiting the home of his grandmother, Nana Downstairs, and his great-grandmother, Nana Upstairs. But one day Tommy's mother tells him Nana
Upstairs won't be there anymore, and Tommy must struggle with saying good-bye to someone he loves.
The Next Place [ages 4 & up] By Warren Hansen
"It is quite simply, a treasure! It is one of those rare books that will sell & sell & sell...plus, it will enrich the lives of those who give it and receive it." (Bookstore Owner ) "The concept of timelessness, perfection, love...eternity are all brilliantly and literally portrayed." (Hospice Chaplain )
Sad Isn't Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing With Loss [ages 4-8] by Michaelene Mundy
Loaded with positive, life-affirming advice for coping with loss as a child, this guide tells children what they need to know after a loss--that the world is still safe; life is good; and hurting hearts do mend. Written by a school counselor, this book helps comfort children facing of the worst and hardest kind of reality.
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf [ages 8 & up] by Leo F. Buscaglia
This story by Leo Buscaglia is a warm, wonderfully wise and strikingly simple story about a leaf names Freddie. How Freddie and his companion leaves change with the passing seasons, finally falling to the ground with winter's snow, is an inspiring allegory illustrating the delicate balance between life and death.
Incredibly Lonely, That’s Me [ages 8 & up] By Ben Keckler
In the very center of our grief, loss or transitional times is the intense feeling of loneliness! Our world is turned upside down. How will I make it through? When, if ever, will this haunting feeling disappear? If it doesn't end, what will I do? Is there hope when dealing with this dark emotion of loneliness? Who am I now?
Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens By Alan D. Wolfelt
With sensitivity and insight, this series offers suggestions for healing activities that can help survivors learn to express their grief and mourn naturally. Acknowledging that death is a painful, ongoing part of life, they explain how people need to slow down, turn inward, embrace their feelings of loss, and seek and accept support when a loved one dies. Each book, geared for mourning adults, teens, or children, provides ideas and action-oriented tips that teach the basic principles of grief and healing. These ideas and activities are aimed at reducing the confusion, anxiety, and huge personal void so that the living can begin their lives again. Included in the books for teens and kids are age-appropriate activities that teach younger people that their thoughts are not only normal but necessary.
How It Feels When A Parent Dies [ages 7 & up] by Jill Krementz, Alfred A. Knopf
18 children from age 7 - 17, speak openly of their experiences and feelings. As they speak, we see them in photos with their surviving parent and with other family members, in the midst of their everyday lives.
Tear Soup [ages 8 & up] By Pat Schweibert
If you are going to buy only one book on grief, this is the one to get! It will validate your grief experience, and you can share it with your children. You can leave it on the coffee table so others will pick it up, read it, and then better appreciate your grieving time. Grand's Cooking Tips section at the back of the book is rich with wisdom and concrete recommendations. Better than a casserole!
When Families Grieve – Sesame Workshop www.sesamestreet.org.
The downloadable program from Sesame Street is designed to help families sort through complex emotions, remember the life of a loved one, and find strength in one another.
Memories Live Forever by Sharon Rugg, et.al
This workbook helps children learn that those who die remain a part of our lives through memory, love, and the stories and actions we develop. The words and the pictures in the book, created by children, are filled with heartfelt wishes and caring intentions.
Provided by Crossroads Hospice
Grieving the loss of a loved one is painful, and at times, can seem overwhelming. Many of us doubt ourselves during this difficult time, and we may wonder if we are “normal.” Sometimes it can be helpful to know of the experiences common to many other people. The following is a list of natural grief responses identified by the National Hospice Organization:
- Feeling emotionally numb and having difficulty believing the death occurred.
- Feeling tightness in your throat, heaviness in your chest or pit of your stomach.
- Having a change in appetite, either eating more or less than usual.
- Having a desire to smoke, drink, or use drugs in greater amounts than before.
- Feeling restless and looking for activity.
- Finding it difficult to concentrate and having difficulty completing tasks.
- Having difficulty sleeping, waking early, and dreaming of your loved one; sometimes nightmares. Feeling exhausted and lacking energy.
- Being overly concerned with your health and developing symptoms similar to those of your loved one (Although, if you have not had a check-up by your doctor recently, it would be a good idea to have one now.).
- Feeling low at times of birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.
- Feeling preoccupied with financial concerns. Spending more than usual.
- Telling and retelling things about your loved one and the experience of his or her illness and death.
- Talking things over with the deceased person.
- Feeling mood changes over the slightest things.
- Feeling guilty for what was said or not said or for not having done enough for your loved one.
- Being irritated at the wrong person, wrong situation, or at the world.
- Feeling angry at your loved one for leaving you.
- Having difficulty making decisions on your own.
- Sensing your loved one’s presence, believing you hear his or her voice, or expecting him or her to come back.
- Experiencing an intense preoccupation with the life of your loved one.
- Assuming mannerisms or traits of your loved one.
- Feeling as though life has no meaning. Crying at unexpected times.
- Not wanting to be with people or having difficulty initiating contact.
- Feeling self-pity and not feeling needed.
- Feeling relief after the death is another common response, especially if you were tired. Feeling guilty for feeling relieved is also normal.
Count on grief to increase vulnerability
Human beings are most comfortable when they are in control of their lives and circumstances. Death represents the ultimate “change in plans.” When a loved one dies, our former safety and security no longer seems to exist. Instead, we may experience feelings of helplessness and vulnerability that are frightening, as well as disarming. Yet it is precisely this vulnerability that can break down the walls of resistance to new thought processes and open the way for new perspectives on life in general.
Count on grief to create change
Grieving is a walk through unknown territory. Familiar internal and external stabilities disappear in a whirlwind of changing thoughts, feelings and emotional flux. We are reminded of our pain at odd times and in unexpected ways. Emotions hover near the surface and tears are hard to control. The stress of daily living taxes our protective defenses to the limit. Depression seems to slip in from nowhere and anger erupts without warning. Because grief requires so much emotional energy, our finesse for social game playing is greatly diminished. The bereaved meet the world at a disadvantage, continually surprising themselves and others with unpredictable responses to familiar situations.
Count on grief to change social structure
The bereaved find their social networks changing and transforming around them. Disappointment with family and friends is a common theme. Those we expected to “be there for us” may not be able to meet our needs, and friends we didn’t know we had appear out of nowhere to fill the void. As we come to terms with whatever limitations and expectations, we have for ourselves, we also become aware of the limitations of others. Not everyone we care about will receive what they need from us while we are grieving. Not everyone who cares about us will be able to fully share our pain.
Count on grief to define priorities
The bereaved often find themselves realigning their goals and objectives. For most of us, nothing is easy taken for granted after the loss of a loved one. We understand that “now” is the only time there is and that tomorrow may never come. Relationships are more precious than ever and we are less comfortable with “unfinished business” relating to those we care about. Because the cares and concerns of our busy lives pale in comparison to our loss, the emphasis on people versus things takes on a far greater meaning.
Count of grief to increase spiritual awareness
The pain of grief prompts spiritual investigation in to both the known and the unknown. Answers we were sure of before are not always satisfying in the context of our present reality. God is questioned and religion is held up for examination. Typically, there are many stages of distancing, moving toward, and moving within old and new spiritual concepts and beliefs. Our struggle for inner peace and unity seizes many priorities. In the majority of cases, our connection to ourselves and the universe becomes far more defined.
Count on grief to strengthen compassion
Grief tears down the boundaries between ourselves and others. Bereavement enhances our humanness and strengthens our ties to the world around us. Our loss is a life changing event; we will never again be the same people we were before our loved one’s death. Pain somehow opens us to greater levels of awareness and a greater capacity for compassion and understanding. Bereavement provides the catalyst to become more giving, more loving, and more fully aware.
Count on grief to define the past and open doors to the future
Following the death of a loved one, the world is completely new. The death often becomes a reference point around which we define where we’ve been and how we structure a path for tomorrow. Grief provides a “crash course” in some of the most profound lessons life has to offer. As bereaved individuals, we find ourselves with fewer answers, but far more insights. In time, we learn there is not loss without gain and no sorrow without joy. As death closes doors behind us, new doors open before us.
from Bereavement Magazine
© 2006 TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Inc.
Bereavement: A Magazine of Hope & Healing www.bereavementmag.com
National Library of Medicine: Bereavement www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bereavement.html
Grief and Bereavement www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html
Fatherloss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms With the Deaths of Their Dads, by Neil Chethik; Hyperion, 1991.
Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley; Bantam, Reprint edition, 1997.
Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies, by Marta Felber; Ave Maria Press, 2000.
Healing and Growing Through Grief, by Donna O’Toole; Compassion Press, date unknown.
Healing the Adult Child’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Parent Dies, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.; Companion Press, 2002.
Healing Your Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.; Routledge, 1 edition, 1998.
How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, by Teresa A. Rando, Ph.D.; Bantam, Reprint edition, 1991.
I’m Grieving as Fast as I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal, by Linda Feinberg; New Horizon Press, 1994.
Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, by Hope Edelman; Da Capo Press, (2nd Edition), April, 2006.
The Centering Corporation has numerous books, CD’s, and videos dealing with grief, death, and the bereavement process. They can be contacted at www.centeringcorp.com or 1-866-218-0101.
ADVICE FROM HOSPICE FOUNDATION OF AMERICA
In order to effectively cope with loss, and to help others who are struggling, it is important to get past some of the common misconceptions about grief. In discussing grief and bereavement during HFA’s National Bereavement Teleconference, Cokie Roberts, of ABC News, commented, “Over time, people learn to live with the loss, but it’s not something you get over. The grieving process is a series of ups and downs, and often it’s more intense in the early years. The thing that we need to remember is that you never have to like a loss. You just have to learn to accept it and deal with it.”
A more accurate understanding of the way grief affects us can facilitate healing.
Myth 1: We only grieve deaths.
Reality: We grieve all losses.
Myth 2: Only family members grieve.
Reality: All who are attached grieve.
Myth 3: Grief is an emotional reaction.
Reality: Grief is manifested in many ways.
Myth 4: Individuals should leave grieving at home.
Reality: We cannot control where we grieve.
Myth 5: We slowly and predictably recover from grief.
Reality: Grief is an uneven process, a roller coaster with no timeline.
Myth 6: Grieving means letting go of the person who died.
Reality: We never fully detach from those who have died.
Myth 7: Grief finally ends.
Reality: Over time most people learn to live with loss.
Myth 8: Grievers are best left alone.
Reality: Grievers need opportunities to share their memories and grief, and to receive support.
For more information about grief and available resources, please contact HFA at 1-800-854-3402, www.hospicefoundation.org
THE GRIEVING PROCESS
BY JONATHON NIERENGARTEN
How long does grief last? This is probably the most common question asked by the bereaved. Because every griever is a unique personality, there is no single answer to this question. In most cases, the pain associated with grieving begins to subside considerably in the second and third years following loss. This means that there are more good days than bad ones; that the heavy, depressive feelings in earlier months begin to break up with more hopeful, optimistic feelings replacing them. Many bereavement authorities believe that most grief adjustments take between two and four years to be completed. Of course, some adjustments are shorter and some are longer, depending upon personality factors and the nature of the relationship with the deceased.
What are the signs of grief? On the emotional level, the bereaved experience some of the following: disbelief, shock, numbness, denial, sadness, anxiety, guilt, depression, anger, loneliness or frustration. The physical symptoms of grief can include tightness of the chest or throat, pain in the heart area, panic attacks, dizziness or trembling. Grievers also report sleep disturbance, as in either too much or not enough sleeping.
All of these emotional and physical symptoms fall within the normal range of response to the loss of a loved one. I feel like I am going crazy. Is this normal? This is perfectly normal. Indeed, grief can be accurately described as a "crazy" time in one's life. In her book, Nobody's Child Anymore, Barbara Bartocci writes: "The important thing to realize about mourning is that it's normal to feel slightly crazy. You will forget things. You will drive your car as if on autopilot. You will stare at the papers on your desk and feel paralyzed to get any work done." Bartocci offers this simple and practical advice: "This might be a good time to carry a small notebook with you. Write down things you need to remember. Don't rely on your memory. Let your boss know why you're not functioning at your usual one-hundred percent. Be patient with yourself. Be as understanding of you during this time as you would like others to be." Will I ever stop crying? Even though it may be difficult to believe, the tears will come to an end. This will not happen abruptly but gradually, and even after the intense crying ceases, there may be times when hearing a favorite song or seeing a favored place will bring a moment of sadness along with a tear. Keep in mind that crying is healthy because it is an emotional and physical release. Writing centuries earlier, Shakespeare had it right: "To weep is to make less the depth of grief."
Do all people grieve in the same way? While many aspects of grieving are universal —feelings of sadness, numbness, confusion, depression — there is no single prescribed way to grieve. Grieving is an individual endeavor. Some want to have many people around with whom they can share and explore their feelings. Others prefer to deal with loss more privately. Most people report that grieving is much like being on an emotional roller coaster. It is worth noting that the "ride" down is usually the prelude to the "ride" up.
Do men and women grieve differently? The cultural stereotypes of women and men in grief are inaccurate. Generally, they portray women as being expressive with their grief while men are the "strong and silent" type. The reality is that some men need and want to express and share their feelings, while some women prefer to do their grief work in a more low-key way. Bereavement styles have less to do with gender and more to do with basic personality traits. Grieve in ways that are most helpful and healing for you. The holidays are coming. How can I cope with them? It is not only holidays that are difficult because there is an "empty chair," but also anniversaries, birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day and so on.
Here are some effective ways to manage these special days:
- Plan ahead. How will you spend the day? With whom?
- Talk about your deceased loved one. This will let others know that you want to hear his/her name and to talk about that person.
- Establish personal priorities. Decide what you want to do, how you wish to celebrate, and with whom you wish to spend time. Follow your instincts.
- Express your feelings. If the holidays make you more weepy, then cry. If you feel the need to talk about the loss, then find a good friend who will listen.
- Value your memories. You loved, and the price of losing a loved one is pain. Cherish the time you had together and value your precious memories, which can never be taken away from you.
- Reach out to others. Take the focus off yourself and your pain by volunteering to help others.
- Avoid isolating yourself in grief. Just because you are in pain, do not cut yourself off from others.
- Stay in touch. Keep communication open with family, friends and colleagues.
- Accept invitations for social events, even if you do not feel like it.
- Be patient with yourself.
A loss to death inflicts a deep wound but the wound will heal. I feel very angry. Why is this and what can I do with the anger? It is not unusual to feel angry. Sometimes the anger is directed at the deceased loved one, sometimes toward other family members, sometimes at medical staff, or sometimes toward God. The anger will subside, but you can take the edge off it through exercise, hard physical activity, such as housework or gardening, and by talking about the angry feelings.
What helps the grieving process?
Even though grievers often feel helpless, there are important steps and actions they can take to make the grieving process flow more smoothly and toward a more rapid resolution. Here are some ways to cope with the pain of loss:
- Seek out supportive people. Find a relative, friend, neighbor or spiritual leader who will listen non- judgmentally and provide you with support as you sort your way through grief.
- Join a support group. Being with others who have had a similar loss is therapeutic.
- Express your feelings. Do this by confiding in a trusted friend or by writing in a journal. Feelings expressed are often feelings diminished.
- Take care of your health. Eat balanced, nutritious meals. Rest properly. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly. If you have physical problems, consult with your physician promptly.
- Find outside help when necessary. If your bereavement feels too heavy for you to bear, find a counselor or therapist trained in grief issues to offer you some guidance.
"I have an opportunity to relocate. Would this be good for me?"
After a death, the temptation to make changes can be acute. Such changes can include selling off your home, taking a new position, or making a career change. Unless there is some pressing reason for the change, a good rule is to postpone any major change for at least one year following the loss.
Grief authority Rabbi Earl Grollman advises: "You may be tempted to make a radical change in your life—to sell your house, to move someplace different, to make a fresh start, away from your familiar home and all the painful memories. Wait awhile. The time is not right for major decisions. Your judgment is still uncertain. You are still in horrible pain. Getting used to a new life takes time, thought and patience."
THE MOURNER’S BILL OF RIGHTS
BY ALAN D. WOLFELT, PH.D.
Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.
The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.
You have the right to experience your own unique grief.
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.
You have the right to talk about your grief.
Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.
You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.
Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.
You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
You have the right to make use of ritual.
The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.
You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
You have the right to search for meaning.
You may find yourself asking, "Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, "It was God's will" or "Think of what you have to be thankful for" are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
You have the right to treasure your memories.
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always
remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.
You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.
Retrieved on 6/19/2013 from www.healgrief.org
It’s normal to feel numb, angry, sad or even depressed following a loss. But as time passes those emotions should lessen in their severity.
If you aren’t feeling any better over time or are experiencing any of the following, you may be suffering from a condition called “complicated grief” or you may be experiencing actual depression. If left untreated, both complicated grief and depression can lead to significant health problems, emotional damage and more.
Signs of Complicated Grief
Grief never goes away completely, but it should abate with time. But some people may have a lot of difficulty accepting a death long after it has occurred. You may be so preoccupied with the person who died that it disrupts your daily routine and undermines your other relationships. That can be a clear sign of complicated grief; symptoms include:
Intense longing and yearning for the deceased
Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one
Denial of the death or sense of disbelief
Imagining that your loved one is alive
Searching for the person in familiar places
Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one
Extreme anger or bitterness over the death
Feeling that life is empty or meaningless.
Signs of Depression
Pervasive sense of guilt
Thoughts of suicide
Preoccupation with dying
Feeling hopeless or worthless
Feeling numb or disconnected for more than a few weeks
Unable to perform normal daily activities
If you think you may be experiencing complicated grief or depression, reach out to a mental health professional to assess your emotional health. While sadness and grief go hand-in-hand, you should not be in unremitting emotional pain; a professional will help you ease the pain you may be experiencing daily.
Retrieved 6/19/2013 from: http://www.healgrief.org