Grief Resources

Adjusting To a Loss:

GRIEF: The emotional response to loss.

MOURNING: The process whereby we work through the loss, regaining a sense of balance and integration in our own lives. Mourning is a functional necessity, not a weakness. It is a form of healing. We need to create the opportunities for families to share their needs with us so we can help them.

BEREAVEMENT: Describes the event of loss - of death itself.

Chart of Critical Time Intervals
28 - 48 Hours     The impact of reality hits.
5 - 7 Days     Mild depressive reaction; feeling of "let down".
6 - 8 Weeks     Most difficult adjustment period. The impact of the loss hits with
acute symptoms of anxiety and depression.

- Loss of sleep and overeating
- Sleep changes
- Weeping
- Fatigue
- Tremors
- Acute mood swings
- Decreased ability to concentrate and remember
- Loss of sex drive or desire
Around 3 months     Irritability and complaining; physical and verbal acting out of anger
and frustration; tears; physical complaints, e.g., headaches, backaches,
diarrhea, etc.
Around 6 months     Depression
Around 12 months     Mild recurrent symptoms associated with the anniversary of the loss;
also occurs on special dates such as birthdays and holidays.
 
12 - 24 months     Acceptance or resolution of the grief.

 

Guidelines For Healing Grief:

1. ACCEPT THE GRIEF:
Roll with the tides of it. Do not try to be brave. Take time
to cry. This also applies to men; strong men can and do cry.

2. TALK ABOUT IT:
Share your grief within the family. Do not attempt to protect them by silence. Find a friend to talk to, someone who will listen without passing judgment. If possible, find someone who has experienced a similar sorrow. Talk often. If the friend tells you to "snap out of it", find another friend.

3. KEEP BUSY:
Do purposeful work that occupies the mind, but avoid frantic activity.

4. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF:
Bereavement can be a threat to your health. At the moment you may feel that you don't care. That will change. You are important - your life is valuable - care for it.

5. EAT WELL:
At this time of emotional and physical depletion, your body needs good nourishment more than ever. If you pick at your food, a vitamin supplement might be helpful, but it will not make up for a poor diet. Be good to yourself.

6. EXERCISE REGULARLY:
Return to your old program or start one as soon as possible. Depression can be lightened by the biochemical changes brought on by exercise, and you will sleep better. An hour long walk every day is ideal for many people.

7. GET RID OF IMAGINED GUILT:
You did the best you could at the time, all things considered. If you are mistaken, learn to accept that we are all imperfect. Only hindsight is 20-20. If you are convinced that you have a real guilt, consider professional or spiritual counseling. If you believe in God, a pastor can help you also believe in God's forgiveness.

8. ACCEPT YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE DEATH:
For the time being. You have probably asked "why" over and over and have finally realized that you will get no acceptable answer. But you probably have some small degree of understanding. Use that as your viewpoint until you are able to work up to another level of understanding.

9. JOIN A GROUP OF OTHERS WHO ARE SORROWING:
Your old circle of friends may change. Even if it does not, you will need new friends who have been through your experience. Bereaved people sometimes form groups for friendship and sharing.

10. ASSOCIATE WITH OLD FRIENDS ALSO:
This may be difficult. Some will be embarrassed by your presence, but they will get over it. If and when you can, talk and act naturally, without avoiding the subject of your loss.

11. POSTPONE MAJOR DECISIONS:
For example, wait before deciding to sell your house or change jobs.

12. RECORD YOUR THOUGHTS IN A JOURNAL:
If you are at all inclined toward writing, it will help to get your feelings out and record your progress.

13. TURN GRIEF INTO CREATIVE ENERGY:
Find a way to help others. Helping to carry someone else's load is guaranteed to lighten your own. If you have writing ability, use it. Great literature has been written as a tribute to someone loved and lost.

14. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION:
If you have one, and you have been inactive in matters of faith, this might be the time to become
involved again. The Bible has much to say about sorrow. Old hymns are relevant. As time passes, you may find you're not so angry at God after all.

15. GET PROFESSIONAL HELP IF NEEDED:
Don't allow crippling grief to continue. There comes a time to stop crying and live again. Sometimes, a few sessions with a trained counselor will help you resolve anger, guilt and despair that keep you from functioning.

Helping Kids Deal with Death

At different ages, children grasp the concept of death in different ways. Following is what experts say to expect from children at different stages:

Birth to age 3
- Might view death as a loss, separation or abandonment.
- Might have change in sleep, eating and mood patterns.
- Might need constant nurturing.

Ages 3 to 6
- View death as reversible and temporary and believe that people who die will come back.
- Might believe in magical thinking.
- Might think their actions caused the death; that death is punishment for doing something bad.
- Abstract concepts like heaven may be hard to understand.

Ages 6 to 9
- Might begin to view death as final.
- Sees death as accidental or something that happens to old people, but not to them.
- Might have increased curiosity about illness, death and how it affects the body.
- Worries about how the dead person eats and sleeps.

Ages 9 to 12
- Are more aware of the finality of death and their own mortality.
- Might be reluctant to share initially, but late will have a strong grief reaction.
- Are concerned about how the loss will affect them.
- Understand that they, too, will die.
- Interested in the details of goodbye rituals.
- Might have questions about the afterlife.

Adolescents
- Have an adult understanding of death as inevitable, universal and irreversible.
- Might repress sadness, feel confused, responsible, angry and lonely.
- Might see self as invincible.
- Might question the meaning of life and religious beliefs.
- Might want to assume more of an adult role.

Ways to Help Kids

Use concrete terms to describe death. For example, dead people no longer breathe, eat, go to the bathroom or grow.

Avoid saying a dead person is just sleeping or resting, that you have lost them, or that they are taking a trip.

Prepare children for what to expect at the funeral or visitation.

Maintain a childís routine, including school and activities, as much as possible.

Use books on death and loss to aid understanding.

Donít assume older children or teens are able to cope on their own.

Sources:
Mayo Clinic, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and Hospice of the Valley, Phoenix.

Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays

1. DECIDE WHAT YOU CAN HANDLE COMFORTABLY AND LET FAMILY
AND FRIENDS KNOW.
Can I handle the responsibility of the family dinner, etc. or shall I ask someone else to do it?
Do I want to talk about my loved one or not? Shall I stay here for the holidays or go to a completely different environment?

2. MAKE SOME CHANGES IF THEY FEEL COMFORTABLE FOR YOU.
Open presents Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning. Have dinner at a different time or place Let the children take over decorating the house, the tree, baking and food preparation, etc.

3. RE-EXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES: GREETING CARDS, HOLIDAY BAKING,
DECORATING, PUTTING UP A TREE, FAMILY DINNER, ETC.
Do I really enjoy doing this? Is this a task that can be shared?

4. CONSIDER DOING SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR SOMEONE ELSE.
Donate a gift in the memory of your loved one. Donate money you would have spent on your loved one as a gift to charity. Adopt a needy family for the holidays. Invite a guest (foreign student, senior citizen) to share festivities.

5. RECOGNIZE YOUR LOVED ONE'S PRESENCE IN THE FAMILY.
Burn a special candle to quietly include your loved one. Hang a stocking for your loved one in which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings. Listen to music especially liked by the deceased. Look at photographs.

6. IF YOU DECIDE TO DO HOLIDAY SHOPPING, MAKE A LIST AHEAD OF TIME AND KEEP IT HANDY FOR A GOOD DAY, OR SHOP THROUGH A CATALOGUE.

7. OBSERVE THE HOLIDAYS IN WAYS WHICH ARE COMFORTABLE FOR YOU.
There is no right or wrong way of handling holidays. Once you've decided how to observe the time, let others know.

8. TRY TO GET ENOUGH REST -- HOLIDAYS CAN BE EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY DRAINING.

9. ALLOW YOURSELF TO EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS.
Holidays often magnify feelings of loss. It is natural to feel sadness. Share concerns, apprehensions, feelings with a friend. The need for support is often greater during holidays.

10. KEEP IN MIND THAT THE EXPERIENCE OF MANY BEREAVED PERSONS IS THAT THEY DO COME TO ENJOY HOLIDAYS AGAIN. THERE WILL BE OTHER HOLIDAY SEASONS TO CELEBRATE.

11. DON'T BE AFRAID TO HAVE FUN.
Laughter and joy are not disrespectful. Give yourself and your family members permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the holidays.

Recommended Resources

DON'T TAKE MY GRIEF AWAY FROM ME
Doug Manning, Harper & Row
(Loss of a Child)

DECEMBER'S SONG
Marilyn Willett Heavilin, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(Deals with multiple loss. Especially good for caregivers.)

ROSES IN DECEMBER
Marilyn Willett Heavilin, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(Christian approach on grief )

EMPTY ARMS
Pam Vredevelt, Multnomah Press
(Stillborn or newborn death)

IT MUST HURT A LOT
Doris Sanford, Graci Evans, Multnomah Press
( A child's book about death)

MOURNING AND MITZVAH
Ann Brener, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vt.
(Grief workbook from the Jewish perspective)

SURVIVAL HANDBOOK FOR WIDOWS
Ruth Jean Loewinsohn AARP Books, Scott, Foresman and Company

WHEN HELLO MEANS GOODBYE
Pat Schwiebert, RN and Paul Kirk, MD
2116 NC 18th Avenue, Portland, OR 97212
(Perinatal Loss)

WHEN PARENTS DIE
Edward Myers, Penguin Books
(A guide for adults)

WHEN PREGNANCY FAILS
Susan Borg and Judith Lasker, Beacon Press
(Families coping with miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death)

WHEN YOUR DREAMS DIE
Marilyn Willett Heavilin, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(Christian approach to all types of traumatic losses, including divorce, family, financial, health and death)

The following titles are from the FORUM BOOK CATALOG, Great Lakes Book Service, 208 Montgomery Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103 ( 313.665.8351):

AFTER SUICIDE
John H. Hewett
(informative guide for dealing with the aftermath of suicide; deals with feelings, explaining to children)

THE BEREAVED PARENT
Harriet Sarnoff Schiff
(a practical and comforting book written by a bereaved parent)

THE COURAGE TO GRIEVE
Judy Tatelbaum
(clearly written book on all aspects of grief and grief resolution)

DON'T TAKE MY GRIEF AWAY
Doug Manning
(what to do when you lose a love one)

EXPLAINING DEATH TO CHILDREN
Earl A. Grollman, ed.
(collection of articles)

GETTING THROUGH THE NIGHT
Eugenia Price
(short stories for "finding your way" after the loss of a loved one)

GRIEF OBSERVED
C. S. Lewis
(the journal of a famous author written after the death of his wife)

LEARNING TO SAY GOODBYE
Eda LeShan
(when a parent dies)

LETTING GO WITH LOVE
Nancy O'Conner
(a practical and supportive approach to facing loss and change)

LIFETIMES
Mellonie and Ingpen
(a beautiful way to explain death to children, about beginnings and endings in plants, animals and people)

ON DEATH AND DYING
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
(classic book outlining the five stages of death - for lay people and professionals)

TELLING A CHILD ABOUT DEATH
Edgar N. Jackson
(a book for adults about when, how and what to tell children about death)

WHAT HELPED ME WHEN MY LOVED ONE DIED
Earl A. Grollman
(a collection of personal stories from people who have lost a loved one)

HOW TO LIVE FOREVER
Greg Laurie, harvest.org

GETTING THROUGH THE STORMS OF LIFE
Greg Laurie, harvest.org

WHY BELIEVE?
Greg Laurie, harvest.org