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Understanding Grief

Grief Work

"Working through the deep pain of grief is one of life's most real and difficult challenges; that's the hard news," says Kevin Henry, Forbes Hospice Bereavement Care Coordinator. "But there is also good news: Our resources of courage, and of resilience, and of potential for healing are no less real-and they are trustworthy."

The process of recovering from such a loss is often called grief work, and with good reason. It is a difficult job requiring time, energy and concentrated effort. However, Forbes Hospice is committed to helping families through this process. Below are certain tasks that need to be accomplished during the mourning process:

  • Accept the reality of the loss. Denial of the loss is normal and can be greater in cases of sudden death. But at some point, the grieving person must accept that the loved one is gone and will not return.
  • Experience the pain of grief. This is a task most people would like to avoid. Unfortunately, there is no way out of the pain except through it. Those who manage to short-cut this stage will find that the pain comes back to them later or in some indirect way, such as through physical illness.
  • Adjusting to an environment without your loved one. This involves changing roles, acquiring new skills and making new relationships. You may resent all the changes that have to be made, but life cannot move on without them.
  • Emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life. Many people are afraid they will lose or dishonor the memory of their loved one if they move on to new relationships or activities. However, not to move on at some point means abandoning love and hope.

Grief Responses

Because grief can be so painful and overwhelming, it frightens us. Many people worry if they are grieving the “right” way and wonder if their feelings are normal. People who suffer a loss may experience several different reactions. Following are some normal and natural grief responses:

  • A feeling of tightness in the throat or heaviness in the chest
  • An empty feeling in the stomach with a loss or increase of appetite
  • Feeling guilty at times, angry at others
  • Feeling restless and looking for activity, then finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Feeling as though the loss is not real, that it did not actually happen
  • Sensing the loved one’s presence, such as expecting the person to walk into the room, hearing his or her voice or seeing the person’s face
  • Wandering aimlessly and forgetting to finish tasks already begun around the house
  • Having difficulty sleeping, and dreaming frequently of the loved one
  • Feeling guilty or angry about past events from the relationship with the deceased
  • Experiencing unexpected mood changes, crying at unexpected times
  • Feeling uncomfortable in groups of people and/or when alone.

You can do many things to help yourself through the grief process:

  • Honor your individuality. Everyone grieves in his or her own way.
  • Give yourself time. It may take months or years to heal from your loss. Even when the funeral is over and your friends and neighbors are feeling better, you may still have a lot of work to do.
  • Talk as much as you need. Find a friend, counselor, minister, rabbi or support group with whom to share your thoughts and feelings.
  • Cry by yourself or with other people. Tears are healing. Although it sometimes feels they will go on forever, they will stop in time.
  • Allow others to help you. Don't hesitate to ask for or accept help with your needs.
  • Remember that mourning is a highly emotional time, and it is normal to feel “crazy.”
  • Take care of your body. Studies show that grieving people have depressed immune systems. Poor appetite, lack of sound sleep and a highly emotional state make grieving people more prone to illness or accidents.
  • Do not hesitate to seek professional help if you are feeling “stuck” proceeding through your
  • grief process.

For more information on bereavement support through Forbes Hospice, call 1.800.381.8080 or 412.325.7200