Ten Tips for Grievers

We are grateful to Ellen Hufschmidt and Kyoko Katayama, who facilitated last night’s wonderful meeting on facing the holidays after the death of a loved one, for sharing these Ten Tips for Grievers, adapted from the writings of Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

 

  1. Know that each person’s grieving process is unique. Trust and follow your own intuition in concert with the council of supportive friends and guides as the best way for you to grieve.
  2. Talk about your grief. It is very important to the healing process. Seek out others that can be good listeners and will allow you to talk, without needing to give you advice. Avoid the thinking that nobody wants to hear your pain or your story. It’s also OK to be silent when it’s what you need to do at a given moment.
  3. Allow yourself to feel a wide range of fluctuating emotions. These feelings will include sadness, fear, anger, guilt, confusion, disorientation, and even relief. These are normal and reasonable responses to grief. Find listeners that will be free of judgements and can accept all your feelings.
  4. Be accepting and tolerant of your limits. Feeling and processing your own grief is hard work and can leave you tired and exhausted. This is normal. It is common to need more rest. It’s important to eat a balanced diet even though that may be hard to do. Stay close to your own sense of what activities fit and which may seem too much to take on at a given time. Remain open and willing to try new things.
  5. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you have emotional outbursts of tears when they are least expected. When this happens, it can feel a bit frightening and out of control. Being overwhelmed by feelings is common. It’s much healthier to have the experience than to suppress that energy by keeping it in your body to fester. It’s helpful to find people you can talk to that know from their own experience the awkward feelings that arise when this happens.
  6. Make use of ritual and ceremony. It’s a way to acknowledge the loss, but also brings together the support of people that love you and share in your sadness. Today many people are foregoing gatherings such as funerals or services of remembrance. This makes the grief process more difficult. It is helpful to share in the biggest of life’s transition that we must all face at one time or another. We know that some kind of structured acknowledgement of our losses is useful. Gatherings surrounded with our loved ones and others that are feeling the pain of loss help us come to terms with our human condition, that people we love will die.
  7. Embrace your spirituality. Finds ways that are useful to you, such as: daily readings, journaling, quiet time for silence and contemplation, or talking with those you trust from within your faith. Sometimes anger at God or our beliefs comes up. Find room to accept these emotions as part of the transformational “circle of life” path you are on. Find a spiritual teacher or elder that can listen to your hurt and sense of abandonment without judgement.
  8. Allow yourself to feel and struggle with life’s biggest questions and desire for meaning. It’s part of the grief process to struggle with the “Why now? What’s next?” questions. You may be able to find answers for some of these but not all. This is part of the sea of confusion we pass through as we find new outlooks. Many people’s suggestions or attempts to help are not adequate, don’t fit, or aren’t helpful. Let them go and listen to your own heart and nature as you find your way to a new balance.
  9. Treasure your memories, share them with others, and find solace in them. They will help keep your heart open. Allow all the memories to filter through you; even the challenging ones may hold some gold that can take you to a new place of understanding and even forgiveness.
  10. Give yourself time to grieve. It takes longer than we hope or expect. Grief is a process not an event. Be as kind, patient, and as tolerant as you can with yourself. Keep company with those that let you have the time and space you need because the death of someone you loved changes you forever.