Reactions to Death (back
certain reactions to the death of a loved one
are quite common and you can expect to experience
some of them. You may go into shock. If the death
was unexpected, you may even find yourself denying
at first that the person has died. "You
feel numb, you feel like a spectator watching
what's going on," explains
Dr. Earl Groliman. Dr. Grollman says this response
is nature's way of protecting you, of insulating
you from what is happening. Another immediate
reaction to a death is anger. You may feel anger
toward the doctors or nurses who couldn't save
your loved one, toward the funeral director and
toward God. You may even feel anger toward the
person who died for leaving you. Unfortunately,
most of us were taught as children that anger
is something to be avoided; you may therefore
feel guilty when your anger will not go away.
In fact, you could find yourself
feeling guilty for a number of reasons. It is
common for a bereaved person to feel guilty simply
for being alive when someone else has died. You
may believe you somehow should have prevented
the death, or should have been present to say
goodbye if you weren't. You may dwell on an argument
you had with the deceased. "Human relationships
always contain some ambivalence, and no matter
how wonderful we may have been to our mother,
for example, we'll remember the one time we didn't
go out and get the mail for her," Dr. Rando
As the reality of a death sinks
in, it is common for the bereaved to slip into
depression. Even if you are normally a committed,
caring person, you could find that you don't
care about anything or anyone.
You may also feel helpless and
childlike. Dr. Rando points out that when you
lose someone close, you also experience "secondary
losses" that accrue because of the death.
A woman who is widowed, for example, "didn't
just lose her husband. She lost a friend, a confidant,
someone to take vacations with, someone to help
take care of the kids." These secondary
losses can leave you feeling confused and panicky.
For this reason, you should avoid making any
major decisions; try to postpone them until you
can think more clearly and have a better idea
of how your life is going to change.
Another common reaction among grievers
is preoccupation with the person who died. You
may think about him or her constantly, re-create
the circumstances of the death over and over
in your mind, have dreams or nightmares about
the person - you may even think you see or hear
the deceased. Many people are surprised and frightened
by the intensity of these reactions. "Grief
feels like craziness to the person who's undergoing
it,' Dr. Rando explains, but it's important to
realize that, bizarre as they may seem, these
reactions are normal.
The mental strain of grief can
take a physical toll as well. It's not unusual
for the bereaved to lose weight, experience difficulty
sleeping, become irritable or listless, or feel
short of breath.
Coping With Grief (back
How can you overcome the problems
of grief'? You must first recognize that grief
is necessary, and that it is something you must
work through. As Dr. Grollman says, there is
no shortcut through grief.
One of the best ways to begin working
through grief is to attend the funeral. A funeral
confirms the reality of death and serves as a
focus for expressing feelings of loss. Funerals
also stimulate mourners to begin talking about
the deceased, one of the first steps toward accepting
the death. Dr. Edgar Jackson, a psychologist
who has written several books on death and the
grieving process, says that people who don't
attend the funeral of a loved one because they
want to deny the death often suffer from 'unresolved
grief' several months later.
Both before and after the funeral,
it is important that you express your feelings.
Take time to cry and don't be afraid to share
your tears with other mourners. Talk openly with
family members and friends. Don't try to "protect" other
family members by hiding your sadness: it helps
them as much as it does you. Express your anger
if you are feeling it. This is the time to lean
on friends. They may feel awkward for awhile
because they don't know how to talk to you about
your loss. But you can help them help you by
simply telling them what you need.
If you normally have a pressing
schedule, try to lighten it. Remember, grief
is mentally stressful; you don't need the added
strain of too much work to do. Set aside some
quiet times just for yourself, so you can think
about the death and your feelings and put things
Remember to watch your health.
With grief taking a toll on you physically, you
need to eat well and get enough sleep. Try to
exercise as well. Physical activity can often
help offset depression and provide an outlet
for your emotional energy.
What if you can't seem to handle
your grief? Again, Dr. Rando emphasizes that
there is no timetable for grief, so it is difficult
to say when a person needs professional help.
Dr. Grollman suggests that if you are worried
that you aren't coping with your grief, it is
time to seek help. (You also may be relieved
to discover that you are reacting normally).
If you believe you need help, ask your clergy
person or doctor to suggest a counselor. Your
funeral director can also offer valuable advice.
Finally, remember that as time
goes on, your grief will diminish. This does
not mean you will forget your loved one; it means
you accept the death and can no longer enjoy
the deceased person's physical presence. But
he or she will still be part of your life. Even
though your relationship with your loved one
has changed forever, its existence and your feelings
live on forever.
Support Groups in the South Bend, IN Area: (back
The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc.
Center for Hospice Care offers a variety of bereavement programs to educate and support people experiencing grief following the loss of someone through death. Bereavement programs are available at no charge to anyone in the agency's service area.
Madison Center is a not-for-profit organization that provides a full continuum of behavioral healthcare services in St. Joseph and surrounding counties in northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan.
The mission of The Compassionate Friends is to assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child at any age and to provide information to help others be supportive.
Angel of Hope Memorial Garden
The Angel of Hope Memorial Garden is created to be a place of reflection and remembrance for all who have lost a child. The memorial bricks which make up the 'Path of Lost Dreams' help families and other visitors to remember and pay tribute to those children, regardless of age, whose parents and families must go on without them.
Center for Loss and Life Transition
private organization dedicated to furthering our understanding of and
compassion for the complex set of emotions we call grief. Dedicated to
helping both the bereaved, by walking with them in their unique life
journeys, and bereavement caregivers, by serving as their educational
liaison and professional forum.
Crisis, Grief and Healing
place where men and women can discuss, chat or browse to understand
the many different paths to heal strong emotions. Resources on the site
include excerpts from author Tom Golden's books on healing from loss.
is an Internet community of persons dealing with grief, death, and
major loss. They have many email support groups. Their integrated
approach to online grief support provides help to people working through
loss and grief issues of all kinds.
leading provider of information and inspiration in the areas of
illness and dying, loss and grief, healthy caregiving, life transition,
Grief and Loss
Grief support information and resources from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
international gateway to resources for life-threatening illness and
end of life issues. Hypertext topic pages link to sites around the
world. Links to hospice and home care, bereavement, death with dignity,
AIDS, and related topics in life-threatening illness.
Recommended Website: (back
Dealing with Grief; There is Life After Death
An online resource filled with helpful links to additional
articles dealing with grief.
Recommended Books: (back
Learning to Say Good-Bye
By: Edna Le Shan
Dying, Death & Bereavement
By: Lewis IL Aiken
What The Dying Teach Us, Lessons On Living
By: Rev. Samuel Oliver Mdiv, BCC
On Death and Dying
By: Elizabeth Kubeler-Ross
How We Die
By Sherman B. Norland