- Advance Care Planning
- Complementary Medicine
- Cultural Traditions
- Funeral Planning
- Health Insurance
- Hospice & Palliative Care
- Legal Matters
- Organ Donation
- Other Care & Support
- Pain & Symptom Management
After Death Occurs Checklist
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.
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
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
Growth House, Inc
Navigating Grief: A Guidebook for Grief Awareness & Understanding