Archive for Sunday, December 9, 2001

Finding your way through grief

December 9, 2001

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Here are some questions and answers to help you through the death of a loved one:

  • What influences how we grieve? It depends not only on the age of the person who died, your relationship with him or her and the circumstances of death, but also on your own age and life experience, how much support you have, your beliefs and your personality.

  • What does it feel like to grieve? You may experience any or all of the following: guilt or anger, restlessness, a sense of unreality about the loss, difficulty sleeping, eating and concentrating, mood changes, a loss of energy, constant thoughts of the person who died and a need to talk about him or her.

  • How do we "get over" grief? Grief is not an illness or disease to conquer. It is the response to loss. There is no timetable for grief. How soon you integrate the loss and learn to live with it depends on your relationship to the person who died and your own adjustment to the empty space he or she left behind. Be prepared for the fact that grief changes you.

  • What is the best way to support someone who is grieving? Acknowledge the importance of the loss by attending the funeral or with calls, notes, visits or memorial donations. Offer practical help of meals, rides or babysitting. Be available to listen. Talk about the person who died, remembering personal qualities, stories or moments shared.

  • What should you never say to a person who has lost a loved one? Never tell the person to think of things to be grateful for (no more suffering, remaining children, years shared, etc.) Never tell the person to hide grief, stop feeling grief or that it's time to "get back to normal."

  • What steps should an employer take when an employee loses a spouse or child? Employers can help by inquiring about the loss, listening and being open to negotiating time off during the first year following the death.

  • What are some ways to help children grieve? Depending on their developmental stage, they may have a hard time grasping the concept of death's permanence. Children also tend to move in and out of grief; one minute they seem fine and the next they don't. In general, explain as much as you can in a way they will understand. Don't lie or hide the truth. Let them ask questions and give them plenty of time to talk.

Try to maintain your family routines and rules. Tell your child that you feel sad and are grieving, and that it is OK if they feel the same way. But don't lean on him or her for support. Get counseling for yourself, so you can be stronger for your child. Tell your child's teacher what has happened. And try to make sure many caring people are available to your child.

  • Are there resources on the Web that can help grieving people? Yes, but do not let Web-based grief sites substitute for personal interaction with others. Also, be wary of Web sites that try to take advantage of your bereavement, particularly ones that want to sell you something memory quilts made out of the loved one's clothes, candles, journals, commemorative lighted portraits, memorial trees or vanity press biographies. If you see the words "A Treasured Gift for Those Who Mourn," hold on to your wallet.

  • Where can I get help? Look for bereavement support close to home first. Contact your church, synagogue or mosque; hospices and hospitals; mental health or counseling centers; funeral homes or local aging organizations.

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