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Loss of a loved one changes your life forever, and the grief process is often different from what people expect. The adjustment to life without your loved one can take a long time and considerable emotional effort.
Reactions to grief can be physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. You may experience a range of physical symptoms, including loss of appetite, insomnia, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, or other symptoms in the early weeks after the death. As the days go by, an early sense of shock or numbness may give way to other feelings, including sadness, anger, fear, or guilt.
You are likely to find that you are easily distracted and that you have more difficulty concentrating. You may find yourself searching for answers, feeling hopeless or helpless, questioning your faith, or turning to your faith more strongly. You may find that your assumptions about the world seem changed, and it is common to feel like you are "not yourself."
Reactions to grief are individual and can vary tremendously. Since everyone grieves differently, it is important not to compare yourself to others. Pay attention to your own needs, such as when you need time to yourself and when you need time with others. Trust yourself. You may find it helpful to talk with others who have experienced significant losses.
While there are many aspects of grief that are similar regardless of how the death occurred, there are also reactions common to certain types of loss. Your relationship to the person, including the role he or she played in your life, will influence the grief you feel. Grief after a death that follows a long illness may be different than grief after an unexpected death. After a loved one's long illness, you may be in a state of emotional exhaustion from the demands of caregiving. Yet you may be surprised at the intensity of your feelings even though you felt prepared for the loss. If the death of your loved one was sudden or traumatic, you may find it harder to believe it is real and face a challenging process of working through unexpected feelings and changes in your life.
There are many books available on grief that you may find helpful. Your local library, hospice, or Regional Center for Healthy Communities may be a good resource.
Grieving is hard work and requires considerable emotional effort, so it is often advisable to seek support. Your personal support network, your faith community, support groups, or counseling may be helpful. Pay attention to your own needs. Don't believe that it is a sign of greater strength to "go it alone."
Many different types of community-based support are available. Some are self-help or mutual help groups, which are facilitated by someone who has experienced the same type of loss. Some support groups are run by mental health professionals. These may focus on bereavement in general or on specific losses, such as loss of a spouse or child or loss due to suicide or homicide.
Many communities now have programs geared specifically toward children experiencing loss. Children, like adults, often feel very alone in their grief. Support groups may give children the comfort of being with others like themselves who are experiencing similar feelings.
Many hospices offer bereavement support groups that are open to all members of the community. Religious institutions, senior centers, and funeral homes also may offer support services or know of specific resources in your community. Additionally, community calendars in local newspapers often list bereavement support groups.
Additional information can be found through the resources listed below and in our blog on Understanding Grief.
For other information and resources:
Many hospices offer bereavement support groups that are open to members of the community, not just to hospice families. Religious institutions, senior centers, and funeral homes also may offer support services or know specific resources in your community. Additionally, community calendars in local newspapers often list bereavement support groups.
For help locating a support group in a hospice near you, contact:
Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts
1420 Providence Highway, Suite 277
Norwood, MA 02062
Bereaved Parents of the USA (BPUSA
A national non-profit self-help group that offers support, understanding, compassion and hope to bereaved parents grandparents or siblings struggling to rebuild their lives after the death of their children, grandchildren or siblings.
Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders and Complicated Grief Program at Massachusetts General Hosptial
This website provides information on Complicated Grief and types of treatments available for helping with clinically significant grief reactions that occur following the death of a loved one.
Compassionate Friends (for parents who have had children die, national office provides information on local groups)
P.O Box 3696
Oak Brook, IL 60522-3696
Phone: (630) 990-0010 or toll-free (877) 969-0010
Dougy Center - National center for grieving children & families
The Dougy Center provides a safe place for children, teens, young adults and their families who are grieving a death to share their experiences.
Growth House, Inc
Healing Hearts for Bereaved Parents provides grief support and services to parents who are suffering as the result of the death of their child or children.
Journey of Hearts
Resources and support to help those in the grief process following a loss or a significant life change..
Navigating Grief: A Guidebook for Grief Awareness & Understanding
The MISS Foundation is an international 501(c)3, volunteer based organization providing C.A.R.E. [counseling, advocacy, research, and education] services to families experiencing the death of a child
National Alliance for Grieving Children
The National Alliance for Grieving Children promotes awareness of the needs of children and teens grieving a death and provides education and resources for anyone who wants to support them.