University of Washington
people are likely to experience grief in the same way. The way we think
and feel, the way our body functions, and the way we interact with
others may all be affected. Some of the more common experiences
our reactions are so changeable, intense, or irrational that we fear we
be going crazy. Often grieving people are afraid to confront their
grief for fear that if they open the door they will be drowned in a
flood of tears or rage. Though this is very unlikely, allowing others
to help us in our
grieving is good 'insurance' that we will keep our balance.
Anger -- at those responsible, at the deceased, at ourselves, at God,
at any handy target
Guilt -- "If only I had done . . ."
Loss of appetite
Withdrawal from others
Intense sadness or tears when a memory is triggered
Loneliness, or a sense of separateness from others
Loss of life's meaning
matter what our intense experiences of grief may be they are temporary.
There IS life after grief -- if we acknowledge and work through our
reactions, rather than trying to stop them.
How Do You Do Grief Work?
much of the process of healthy grieving seems to be 'built into' our
genes. Acknowledging and growing from losses is such a natural process
that much of it will happen without our direction -- if we relax our
how we "should" grieve and give up some of our need to be in control.
healthy grieving is an active process; it is NOT true that, "You just
give it time." One way of understanding the work to be done is to think
of grieving as a series of tasks we need to complete (not necessarily
friends, family members, or a personal counselor can all be helpful in
this vital work. You can also do a good deal to help yourself.
accept the finality of the loss;
To acknowledge and express the full range of feelings we experience as
a result of the loss;
To adjust to a life in which the lost person, object, or experience is
To 'say good-bye,' to ritualize our movement to a new peace with the
Helping Yourself Through Grief
healthy grieving requires balance -- balancing the time you spend
directly working on your grief with the time you spend coping with your
day-to-day life; balancing the amount of time you spend with others
with the time you spend along; balancing seeking help from others with
caring for yourself. Focusing too strongly on any single side of these
pairings is getting off-track.
some things others have found useful in their healthy grieving. Choose
ones that fit for you, or make up your own methods of self-care.
Remember that grieving is an active process, it takes energy that will
likely have to be temporarily withdrawn from the usual pursuits of your
life. Treat yourself
with the same care, tolerance, and affection you would extend to a
friend in a similar situation.
gently -- take whatever time it needs, rather than giving yourself a
deadline for when you should be "over it";
Expect and accept some reduction in your usual efficiency and
Try to avoid taking on new responsibilities or making major life
decisions for a time;
Talk regularly about your grief and your memories with someone you
Accept help and support when offered;
Be particularly attentive to maintaining healthy eating and sleeping
Exercise moderately and regularly;
Keep a journal;
Read -- there are many helpful books on grief; some are listed below.
If grief is understood it is easier to handle;
Plan, and allow yourself to enjoy without guilt, some GOOD TIMES. The
goal is balance, not martyrdom;
Carry or wear a linking object -- a keepsake that symbolically reminds
you of your loss. Anticipate the time in the future when you no longer
to carry this reminder and gently let it go;
Tell those around you what helps you and what doesn't. Most people
would like to help if they knew how;
Take warm, leisurely baths;
See a grief counselor;
Get a massage regularly;
Set aside a specific private time daily to remember and experience
whatever feelings arise with the memories;
Choose your entertainment carefully -- some movies, TV shows, or books
can only over-intensify already strong feelings;
Join a support group -- there are hundreds of such groups and people
have a wonderful capacity to help each other;
Plan for 'special days' such as holidays or anniversaries. Feelings can
be particularly intense at these times;
Take a yoga class;
Connect on the Internet. There are many resources for people in grief,
as well as opportunities to chat with fellow grievers;
Vent your anger in healthy ways, rather than holding it in. A brisk
walk or a game of tennis can help;
Speak to a member of the clergy;
Plant yourself in nature;
Do something to help someone else;
Write down your lessons. Healthy grieving will have much to teach you.
more information on the grieving process and how to help yourself or
in grief, here are a few excellent resources:
How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies. Rando,
Grief's Courageous Journey: A Workbook. Caplan S. & Lang G. (1995).
- No Time to Say Goodbye:
Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One. Fine, C. (1997).
- Men Don't Cry. . .
Women Do. Marin, T.L. & Doka, K.J. (1999).
Loss. Boss, P. (1998).
- The Art of
Living Single. Broder, M.S. (1990).
From the Loss of a Sibling. Donnelly, K.F. & Toomey,
- Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends. Fischer,
B., Alberti, R.E., & Satir, V. (2000).
Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending
of Yours. Kingma D.R.(1987).
- When Parents Die.
Myers, E. (1997).
- Father Loss: Daughters
Discuss the Man That Got Away. Wakerman, E. (1984).
- The Grief Recovery
Handbook: A Step-by-Step Program for Moving Beyond Loss.
James, J.W. & Cherry, F. (1989).
- Never Too Young to
Know: Death in Children's Lives. Silverman, P.R. (2000)
© 2005 UW Counseling Center