It can be very difficult to know where to turn when someone you love has passed away, whether unexpectedly or after a long battle. We hope the resources we've compiled here will help give you a place to start looking for the solace you need to get through this tough time.
We provide information for ongoing grief support groups, resource material and individual counseling sessions with our licensed psychotherapist, Susan M. Rose, MFCC, which may be arranged through the mortuary.
For anyone seeking counseling services, a recommendation, or resources, please contact our staff counselor Susan M. Rose, MFCC. She is a licensed California therapist in private practice over the past 21 years. In addition to several areas of expertise she is a grief specialist and will gladly assist you during your time of loss adjustment and with the difficulties of the process.
The following is a list of helpful hints for getting through a difficult period following a loss, such as the Holidays. There are also general tips for dealing with and getting through the grieving process.
Thoughts on Grief - Understanding Grief and BereavementDeath and bereavement are choice-less events. The feelings that are experienced are not chosen, but come from within. Webster's defines Grief as "extreme sorrow caused by a loss; deep distress." These feelings and emotions have no morality, no right or wrong, they are simply feelings that must be accepted and validated.
Supporting Those Who Grieve
Who qualifies as a "caregiver" to the bereaved? A caregiver can be anyone who shows concern and involves themselves in the well-being of a grieving friend or family member. A caregiver can be a friend, relative, neighbor, clergy, nurse, or volunteer.
Sympathetic or Empathetic?
The caregiver to a bereaved individual needs to realize his/her status as caregiver. Next, this person needs to examine their actions - "Am I sympathetic or empathetic?"
When a caregiver is sympathetic, he/she feels sorry for the bereaved and wants to change everything they're facing. Sympathetic caregivers are quick to tell the bereaved how to do something. They also tend to take it upon themselves to try and do everything for the bereaved person.
Caregivers should strive to be empathetic. An empathetic caregiver feels sorry that the bereaved individual is hurting, but recognizes that there may not be a way to fix it.
Being empathetic means accepting and supporting the bereaved's feelings and emotions.
The bereaved must develop their own path through the trials of grief. In grief, many questions arise to which there are no answers and many situations over which you have no control.
A bereaved individual needs an empathetic caregiver - a companion who is supportive, but does not try to come up with all the answers or solve every problem, but allows them to find their own way.
Theories on Grief
Many theories on grief have come and gone over the years. Some theories that were once accepted as gospel are now considered merely as suggestions that certain stages of grief may appear at times. Each theory outlines the grief process in a different way, which proves that grief is unique to each individual and that nobody will grieve in the same way in the same frame of time.
No Time Frame For Grief
There is no time frame for grief. There are no 1,2,3 steps to follow in order to complete grieving. Grief over the loss of a loved one will remain a part of us until our own death.
The Spider Web
Thomas Attig, Ph.D., president of the Association for Death, Education and Counseling, discusses grieving as a process of the grievant rebuilding their world without the physical presence of their loved one.
He uses the spider web to illustrate that we are each unique, just as no two spider webs are exactly alike. The fibers of the web are interlocked together. Likewise, we are connected to family, friends, acquaintances,co-workers. As long as the spider web remains intact, it is a work of art; and a strong, stable home for the spider. Our family units often remain strong and stable as long as the mesh of human lives which surround and support us go undisturbed.
When a loved one is lost,it is a devastating experience. Lives become a shambles, just as a spider web would be if a section were torn away.
Re-Weaving the Web
Slowly, the grievant must re-weave the spider web of their life, as the learn to live a new life without the physical presence of their loved one. The spider web will never look the same, but in time it can be beautiful and strong again. The pattern of a new life, the pathways taken, and the proper timing for each of these things must all be determined by the grievant. ONLY he/she can determine the proper timing and correct way to rebuild. What must never be replaced is the spirit and memory of your loved one.
A Special Place in the Heart
Another writer describes the feeling of the heart exploding when a loved one dies. The pain in indescribable and the damage is seemingly irreparable. Somehow the grievant tolerates the pain and slowly repairs the four precious chambers of the heart. As the grievant repairs the last chamber, they may designate it as a special chamber, with a special door that only he/she can open. Within that special place they can keep the spirit of their loved one to visit anytime they choose. It becomes a special place that nobody can take away.
Grief Energy Wheel
It is no theory that grief takes a tremendous amount of energy. Donna Williams and JoAnn Sturzl, co-authors of Grief Ministry - Helping Others Mourn, describe what they call a "Grief Energy Wheel."
Williams and Sturzl utilize a wheel to illustrate the energy exerted initially to survive loss, and what is used to build a new life. They describe energy being used in three categories:
- Grieving Readjustment
- Life Enhancement
Grieve Your Way
Whether it is explained as expanding life enhancement activities, re-weaving a web, or repairing the heart, grief is a process that takes its traveler down many different paths. There is no definite pattern, no time frame, no right way or wrong way to grieve. The only way to grieve is simply your way.
There is a widow who sets an empty plate at dinner for her deceased husband of 40 years.
Clothes remain in the closet, because he can still smell her.
He visits the cemetery frequently, just to talk to her.
The tools he used remain untouched - he is still alive in that room.
What You Are Doing Is Important
Widows and widowers may be considered "stuck in their grief", or not progressing. What you are not doing is not nearly as important as what you are doing. What you are not doing is allowing the spirit within you to die. You have your own way of keeping in touch with your loved one - use it, no matter what anyone else says.
Keep Their Spirit Alive in You!
We all must experience grief at some point in life. Sometimes we are the grievant, other times we comfort those who grieve. Whatever our position in the grief process, it is important to understand that grief is natural and unique to each individual. It is done in each person's own time. Above all, keep the spirit of your loved one alive in you. Talk about them, remember precious memories, keep some of their things if it helps. Keep their spirit alive in you!
Attig, Thomas Ph.D., "Grief and Bereavement." Bowling Green State University, Philosophy 395/595, June-July 1994.
Williams,Donna Reilly and JoAnn Sturzl, "Grief Ministry, Helping Others Mourn." Resource Publications, Inc., San Jose, CA., pp. 58-61.
Ways To Survive
- Acknowledge that there is no magical solution for eliminating the pain you are feeling.
- Accept that you have definite limitations this year, and that is now "wrong", it just is.
- Realize that you must look at your true priorities and determine what is truly meaningful for you and for friends and family.
- Give yourself permission to let go of the "shoulds" and "have-tos" this year.
- Many changes in your life are painful and unwelcome and you are entitled to grieve over them. Give yourself permission to do so, and then try to see if some of the changes can be transformed into challenges. The challenge is to survive--and find a new approach to life. This includes the holidays.
- Know that it's okay to say, "No, I can't this year."
- Do not feel guilty.
- Make your needs around the holidays known--to friends, family, anyone who may be able to provide support, especially emotional support.
- Try to find constructive things to do, at least some of the time.
- Remember,those around you are also struggling with their own pain. You are responsible for taking care of you, just as they are responsible for taking care of themselves.
- Talk with your family and/or friends about personal choices. Sometimes, exploring together can bring creative ideas about how to survive.
- Avoid over-indulgence in alcohol or drugs. In the end they only make matters worse.
- Don't hide your feelings. Talk about them with those who care.
- Let others support you this holiday.
- Do something loving for someone else. It can make you feel better.
- Do simple things for yourself: Talk a walk in the park, Call a friend just to talk and connect, Buy yourself some flowers.
- CHOOSE, consciously, how you will celebrate, or NOT celebrate, the holidays this year.
Symbolic Ways To Honor Our Loved Ones
- Purchase a special remembrance candle. Place it in a prominent place in your home. Burn all day, or at special selected times.
- Place a special flower or bouquet of flowers on a table by a photograph.
- Attend a religious service.
- Spend spiritual quiet time alone.
- Visit the cemetery.
- Have family members or friends write a special card or note, or buy a special ornament. Or, you do it.
- Light several candles for loved ones and special people throughout the holiday season. It is important to honor the living, as well as those we have lost.
- Purchase a new, special frame for your loved one's photograph and display the newly mounted picture in a prominent place.
- Make a memorial contribution in his/her name.
- Share photo albums with family members and friends, recalling happy memories.
- Buy a gift to or from your loved one.
- Plant a living memorial tree or shrub.
- Give a toast at the holiday meal, or ask someone else to do so.
- Help someone less fortunate than you.