Grief Support

Death hurts. It is so difficult to say good bye. You may feel as though you have been struck by a tidal wave, cut loose from your moorings. You may be drowning in the sea of your private sorrow. No one can tell you how to grieve. There is no normal time span during which healing takes place.

Some may vehemently protest that the death has occurred; others may quietly resign themselves to the reality. Some may refuse to think about the death at all; others may think of nothing else. Some may cry hysterically; others may remain outwardly impassive and emotionless. Some may even blame themselves for the death; others may project the guilt upon God, the physician, the nurse, the clergy, a friend, or even another member of the family.

The grief process is never the same for any two people. Don't compare yourself with others in similar situations. Their smiles may not reveal the depth of their sorrow.

Be your own timekeeper. Heal in your own way and in your own time.

Accept Your Emotions

Death brings so many reactions in widely contrasting combination. These emotions are a natural response to the death of a loved one. Allow yourself to feel these normal emotions so that you can go through the grief.

In the beginning, you may be in shock. You are bewildered, literally stunned. "I feel like a spectator in a play. But the drama is about me and the person I loved." You may feel numb all over, almost paralyzed in a world of unreality.

You don't want to believe it. "It's a bad dream. When I wake up, I'll find it really didn't happen." Denial is when you secretly think or pretend your loved one will return and life will go on as before. It is so strange. You feel as if the death has not really occurred, even though you know it has. Many people need time before they can face the harsh truth. It is so hard to realize that in your lifetime you will never see or touch your loved one again.

Panic may set in. "What will happen to me? I'll never make it alone?" You feel like you are losing control, panicking over things you used to do with confidence. You are grieving and your loved one is not there to comfort you.

Emotional suffering often brings physical distress. Inside your chest you may feel a sharp pain as if a jagged rock is pressed against your ribs. You collapse in bed but cannot sleep the long nights. Food may have little taste for you. You eat only because you think you should. Or else, you just cannot stop eating. Your stomach may be tied in knots. Your back may be hurting. The pain is not imagined. It is real. Your body is feeling your emotional loss.

Many people become angry when a loved one dies. Hostility is one of the most difficult emotions to handle. Some of us are taught as children that anger is a wrong feeling. We tend to hold it inside at a very early age. But feelings of rage do not magically go away.

Expressing your anger helps you to release your anguish and your frustrations. A life that is so precious to you has been taken away and there is nothing you can do about it. Resentment is a normal part of the grief process.

You may feel guilty, angry with yourself. You keep asking yourself: "If only I had spent more time with my beloved, if only I was more understanding, if only I had called the doctor sooner, if only I had done this, if only I had done that..."

You have enough pain. You don't solve problems with if only. Blaming yourself will not bring your loved one back to life. Guilt may result in depression. You may feel alone and unprotected. You may feel overwhelmed and drained. Give yourself time, time to be hurt, grieve, to cry, to scream.

Grief is a process. Your loved one has died and part of you has died.

Express Your Feelings:
The mourning period is a time to share your feelings. An emotion that is denied expression is not destroyed. You only prolong the agony and delay the grief process. Find a good listener, a friend who will understand that your many feelings are normal reactions to your bitter grief.

Allow the Entire Family to Share in the Grief Process:
All members of the family should participate if possible in the funeral arrangements. For many, the presence of the casket at the funeral service makes the experience more real. Thereby, denial is gradually transformed into an acceptance of reality. The public funeral gives the community an opportunity to offer the strength of friendship and support, and to share their grief. Yes, your loved one has died, but family and friends still remain. You need not walk this lonely road alone.

Help and Self-Help Groups:
Working through the loss of a loved one is a complex and disturbing task. Even well-intentioned friends are not always adequate. They are not trained in this field and may themselves be emotionally involved with the loss. Seeking help or advice from a professional counselor is not an admission of weakness. It is a demonstration of your determination to help yourself during this critical period of adjustment. You may also seek comfort from organizations formed and run by people who have suffered similar bereavement. They will understand your fears and frustrations. They have been there before. Grief shared is grief diminished.

Helping A Friend in Grief

How Can You Help: A friend has experienced the death of someone loved. You want to help,but you are not sure how to go about it. The next few paragraphs will guide you in ways to turn your cares and concerns into positive actions.

Listen With Your Heart:
Helping begins with your ability to be an active listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools. Don't worry so much about what you will say just concentrate on listening to the words that are being shared with you.

Be Compassionate:
Give your friend permission to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism. Learn from your friend; don't instruct or set expectations about how he or she should respond. Never say "I know just how you feel." You don't think about your helper role as someone who"walks with," not "behind" or "in front of" the one who is bereaved.

Avoid Cliches:
Words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for a grieving friend. Clichés are trite comments often intended to diminish the loss by providing simple solutions to difficult realities. Comments like"You are holding up so well," "Time will heal all wounds," "Think of all you still have to be thankful for" or "Just be happy that he's out of his pain" are not constructive. Instead, they hurt and make a friend's journey through grief more difficult. Try asking, "What can I do for you?" or "I'd like to stop by and visit with your next week, would that be okay?"

Understanding the Uniqueness of Grief:
Keep in mind that your friend's grief is unique. No one will respond to the death of someone loved in exactly the same way. While it may be possible to talk about similar phases shared by grieving people, everyone is different and shaped by experiences in his or her life.

Offer Practical Help:
Preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning the house or answering the telephone are just a few of the practical ways of showing you care.And, just as with your presence, this support is needed at the time of the death and in the weeks and months ahead.

Make Contact:
Your presence at the funeral is important. As a ritual, the funeral provides an opportunity for you to express your love and concern at this time of need. As you pay tribute to a life that is now passed, you have a chance to support grieving friends and family. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye or even a hug often communicates more than any words could ever say.

Write a Personal Note:
Sympathy cards express your concern, but there is no substitute for your personal written words. What do you say? Share a favorite memory of the person who died. Relate the special qualities that you valued about him or her. These words will often be a loving gift to your grieving friend, words that will be reread and remembered for years.

Be Aware of Holidays and Anniversaries:
Your friend may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died. Respect this pain as a natural extension of the grief process. And, most importantly, never try to take away the hurt.

Understanding the Importance of the Loss:
Remember that the death of someone loved is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend's life is under reconstruction. Considering the significance of the loss, be gentle and compassionate in all of your helping efforts.