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DeadLetterOffice

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Communicating with Grieving Teens

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

Communicating With Grieving Teens

Open communication is extremely valuable to bereaved teens. In fact, allowing grieving persons to express their thoughts and feelings is the most important assistance you can offer them:
• Information reduces fear.
• Information can return a sense of control.
• Talking things out now can help prepare teens for future losses.

Barriers to effective communication
• Our discomfort with death and grief
• Our fear of intense feelings
• Our desire to protect teens from the reality of death
• Our desire to “fix” things
• Our fear of “saying the wrong thing” or “making things worse”
• Our own grief

Techniques for successful communication
• Create a safe, non-judgmental environment, free of interruptions.
• Listen, listen, listen. Don’t interrupt, interpret their feelings, or offer advice.
• Do provide accurate information as needed. Identify and counter misconceptions about the death itself. Be honest and factual and use age-appropriate language.
• Use the name of the person who has died.
• General, simple words of condolence are always appropriate:
 I am sorry for your pain.
 I really miss (name of the deceased).
 He (or she) was a special person.
 I’m here if you need to talk, or cry, or just have quiet company.
 I’ve never experienced this before, and I just don’t know what to say.
• Ask open questions to get them talking:
 What was your relationship with (the deceased) like?
 Can you tell me what this has been like for you?
 How are you doing?
 How is your family doing?
 Is there anything you can think of that I can do to help you?
• Accept and validate whatever feelings are expressed – do not argue with or minimize their feelings. If appropriate, suggest constructive outlets for strong feelings.
• Normalize their feelings and thoughts. Reassure the teen that difficulty concentrating, lack of enjoyment, anger, decreased energy, and so on are all normal parts of the grief process and will abate over time.
• Leave room for a conflicted or ambiguous relationship with the deceased – do not idealize the dead.

What Not to Do:
Don’t avoid the issue. Avoidance causes the issues to go “underground,” resurfacing later in potentially harmful ways
Don’t try to “rescue” the teen from his or her feelings. Grief involves feelings that make us uncomfortable, but successfully resolving grief requires that we work through these feelings in our own way and at our own pace. Witness their pain without trying to change it, hurry it, make it better, or minimize it.
Don’t use euphemisms. It suggests to the teen that you can’t handle the reality of death, and may cause them to worry that they have to protect you. Use the “d” words instead: dying, death, dead.
Avoid clichés. Try to imagine what they would sound like to you if you were the one grieving.
Don’t lie to protect the family or community image. When the teen finds out the truth, they will have another loss to grieve for – their trust in you.
Don’t impose your own religious beliefs. Teens often go through spiritual crisis or existential questioning after a death. Be supportive, but let them find their own way.

Other Things Adults Can Do To Help Grieving Teens
• Respect the teen’s privacy.
• Model positive coping behaviors.
• Maintain regular routines and structure as much as possible – minimize disruptions.
• Maintain normal expectations of behavior and appropriate consequences for negative behavior – this helps teens maintain or regain a sense of consistency.
• Encourage the teen to eat healthy foods, to drink plenty of water, and to sleep – physical health affects emotional well-being.
• Encourage and facilitate age-appropriate activities:
 Memory book
 Journaling, letter writing
 Artistic or musical expression
 Physical outlets such as sports or other active recreation
 Memorial rituals
• Give teens choices and options to help counter feelings of helplessness.
• Introduce grieving teens to others who have also been through difficult losses – peer support can be a powerful resource for adolescents.
• Reassure the teen that love for the deceased can be expressed through other emotions than sadness. Feeling joy and happiness about life events is often experienced by the teen as being somehow disloyal to the person who has died. Reassure the teen that it is okay for them to continue to enjoy their lives.
• Explore if school assignments can be modified to allow grieving teens to channel their emotions and energy into writing, drawing, or other expressive outlets – this may allow students to keep up with school while they work through their grief. Have a buddy who will help the teen with homework, or assign a tutor who can help the student. Step in if needed to advocate for the teen at school.
• Teens often benefit from having a safe way to physically express anger. You can give grieving teens appropriate things for them to unleash their anger on, such as telephone books or magazines to rip up, pillowcases full of clean cloths to wrestle with and hit, paper cups to smash, paper bags to blow up and pop, golf tees to hammer into thick Styrofoam, or clay to manipulate, pound, and smash.
• Be available over time. Many grieving people report that their support system rallies well at the time of the death but then vanishes two or three months later – long before their grieving is over.
• Be aware of “anniversary dates” which can reactivate grief; acknowledge these special days and assist the teen in making the connection between approaching “anniversary dates” and their renewed feelings of grief.
• Be patient. Grief takes time.

The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 07:51 PM (0 replies)

How and When Should Children Attend Funerals?

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

How and When Should Children Attend Funerals?

Funerals are a time we gather to honor a person’s life and to mark his or her passing. Attending a funeral helps people experience their loss with community support, and begin the transition to living without a loved one. Even though it may be difficult and painful, this participation helps grieving people, whether adults or children.

Each child is unique, with individual worries and abilities to handle social interactions. Therefore, while encouraging a child to attend a funeral, give a genuine choice about attending. It may be appropriate to allow for some options, such as attending a private family time at the funeral home before the service begins.

Here are some things to keep in mind when talking to children about funerals:
• Give children specific information about what they will see at the funeral. Tell them where the funeral will take place, what the room will look like, who will be coming, how long the service is likely to take, etc.

• Let children know that people attending the funeral will show many different emotions and may express them intensely. People may be upset, and it is good for people to express these feelings. Also, let the child know that people may smile, laugh and enjoy remembering good and funny things about the loved one who died.

• Let children know that funerals are important. They are a place for people to come together in their sadness over a loss. They also honor the life of the person who died and affirm that life goes on.

• Funeral homes will usually accommodate allowing children to visit before the funeral with only a few close caring adults. This may allow the children to feel more comfortable and give them a chance to talk more freely and ask questions.

• Try to provide for the child to have a close person to be available just to them at all times during the funeral process. This person needs to be a caring presence, able to focus on the child.

• Recognize that children often experience short bursts of emotion. They are impacted by loss, but outward signs of their grief will come and go. Allow for the full range of emotions in children, including happiness, playfulness, sadness, and anger.

• Give the children a choice about whether to view the body. Children often have no innate fear about the body, and seeing the body provides a chance to say goodbye and makes the loss more real.

• Listen to what children say and watch what they do. It is important to let children express what losing their loved one is like for them.

• Provide the child with life affirming messages. Even though loss is painful, life continues.

The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 07:47 PM (4 replies)

Answering Children’s Questions About Death

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

Answering Children’s Questions About Death

Many children have questions about death and dying. Caring adults can help by making it acceptable to talk about these difficult issues, and by answering children’s questions carefully and honestly. This discussion may arise naturally when the subject comes up in books, television shows, and movies, or it may be related to a loss in the child’s life.

Children’s understanding of death changes a great deal as they grow through childhood. Finding out what a child already thinks about death will make it possible to correct any misunderstandings. Simply asking what the child believes before answering any questions can make the discussion much more productive.

Many people are concerned that they will say the wrong thing. The best guide is to keep answers simple, honest, and aimed at the child’s own age and developmental level. However, here are some general ideas for answering common questions.

What is death?
Death is when a body completely stops working. It becomes broken in a way that can not be fixed. The body no longer sees, feels, hears, or thinks. The force that brings a body to life is gone, like a toy with no more batteries. Death is nothing at all like sleeping. When a body is sleeping, it is resting and preparing for another day. When a body dies, it will never be alive again.

Usually when people are sick or hurt, doctors can help them get better. People go to hospitals to get healthy if they are very sick. Sometimes, though, people are too sick for doctors to heal. Then doctors and nurses try to help the dying person by keeping him or her from hurting while he or she dies.

Why do people die?
All living things die. People can die when their bodies become too sick to be healed, when they have an accident that injures their body in a way that doctors can’t fix, or when they get very old and their body wears out. All life on earth is part of a continuing cycle. Every life begins, grows, and ends. Usually people live long and healthy lives, dying when they become very old and their body parts can no longer work correctly. Sometimes people do die young. It does not happen often. It is usually very sad for the people who loved them. But even someone who died very young could have had a very special and important life while they are alive.

People do not die because they are good or bad. Being angry at someone does not make them die. Even wishing someone would die doesn’t make it happen.

Dying happens because the body can’t work any more. It is not a punishment. Death sometimes doesn’t seem fair to those people who are left grieving. It hurts not to be able to see someone we love, not to be able to be with them and share time. Remembering the special times shared with that person and what their life meant to you can help bring meaning to the loss. It can help you to find a way to keep the person in your heart and keep loving.

Does dying hurt?
Usually death itself is not painful. When people die from an illness, doctors try to help them by giving them medicine to ease their pain. When people die from old age, their dying is usually very peaceful. Often, when people die in accidents they die too quickly to feel much pain. No matter how someone dies, once he or she is dead the body can no longer feel anything at all.

Where do dead people go?
The body of the dead person must be taken care of because it will change after life has left it. Sometimes people choose to bury the body. When a body is buried it is put deep in the ground. Usually a stone or marker is put at the grave to show whose body is buried there. This gives the family and friends of the person who died a place to visit to remember the loved one. Sometimes the body is cremated. This is a special process that turns the body to ashes which are sometimes kept and sometimes released into nature. In either case, the person who died no longer needs the body or feels anything that happens to it.

The part of us that feels and thinks is no longer in the body when the body dies. Many people believe that this part of us, our spirit, continues on after the body dies. Different people believe different things about where our spirits go after we die. No one knows for sure; it is a mystery. Talking to family members and others about their beliefs can help each person decide for themselves what happens to our spirits.

What is grief?
Grief (or grieving) is a word that describes the thoughts and feelings people go through when someone they care about has died. Grief is the heart and mind’s way of getting used to the loss of that person. It includes feelings such as sadness and anger. It can also include feelings of relief or happiness. These feelings may seem stuck in our bodies, giving us stomach aches, head aches, or other pains. Grief is also the thoughts we have about the person who has died and our missing them.

What can I do with my feelings while I am grieving?
Going to a funeral brings you together with other people who are grieving your special person who died. Funerals are ceremonies that help people think about and celebrate the life of the deceased. It may also help to talk about the person who has died, to write letters full of the things you wished you had said to them, or to draw pictures about your feelings. Hitting your pillow, pounding on clay, running, or doing other physical activities may help your feelings not seem so stuck in your body. It is okay to cry! It is natural to be upset and to feel angry. It is important not to do anything that will harm yourself or anyone else. Sometimes, it may help to be with other children who have had a loss or to talk to a counselor. Most of all, remember that feelings of grief will change over time. You can not make them go away completely. They are part of loving the person who has died.

The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 07:45 PM (0 replies)

Surviving the Death of a Parent (as an adult)

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

Surviving the Death of a Parent

The parent-child relationship is often the most important of all human ties. Most people learn how to be in the world through their parents; the feelings and memories run deep. The pain immediately following their death can be intense. You may also find that the death of a parent causes other losses, such as the loss of a grandparent to your children. It is important to remember that there are some things you can do to make your grief more bearable.

Let yourself grieve in your own way and at your own pace. There is no “right way” to mourn. There is also no timetable for grief, no exact moment when you should “feel better” or “get over it.” Grieving is not about “getting over” the death. It is about expressing your sorrow, sharing your memories, and learning how to go forward with your life. With time, you will find that your memories bring more pleasure than pain, and that you still have an ongoing connection with your parent.

Allow yourself to feel. Feeling sad, lonely, and disoriented after the death of a parent is natural. If your parent was ill for a long time before the death, you may feel some relief that their suffering is over, especially if you were responsible for your ill parent's care. If the death was sudden, when the shock wears off you may feel cheated that you didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. If your relationship with your parent was conflicted, you may feel anger or guilt about unresolved issues. If this was your second parent to die, you may feel especially distressed; becoming an "adult orphan" can be very painful.

Sometimes the intensity of your emotions can be frightening; you may feel as if you’ve lost control of your emotions or are “going crazy.” Painful as these feelings can be, they are all part of the natural response to the death of someone loved. Expect ups and downs, and be patient with yourself. The intensity of these feelings will subside over time.

Recognize the death's impact on your entire family. If you have brothers or sisters, the death of your parent will most likely affect them differently than it is affecting you. The death may also stir up family conflicts, such as disagreements about the funeral or arguments about family finances. Or you may find that the death of your parent brings you and your family closer together. If you have young children or teenagers, they will need support as they grieve the loss of their grandparent; if you are too grief-stricken yourself to provide this support, enlist the help of other family members or friends. Finally, when there is a surviving parent, try to understand the death's impact on him or her; the death of a spouse will mean different things to your surviving parent than it does to you.

Take care of yourself. Grief takes an enormous amount of energy, and often disrupts eating and sleeping patterns. Getting regular exercise can help you sleep better and lowers your risk of depression. Try to eat regular, nutritious meals. As best you can, try to get enough sleep. Take naps during the day if you find you can’t sleep at night. Lighten your schedule as much as possible, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you can’t get as much done as you’re used to.

Express your grief. Find your own personal style for expressing your grief. If you find that talking helps, seek out people who acknowledge your loss and will listen to you as you express your grief. Or maybe you like to write; consider writing a letter to your parent expressing your thoughts and feelings, or writing in a journal. Some people prefer creative outlets for their grief, exploring and healing through drawing, music, or other artistic expression. Others may chose physical outlets for their grief, such as exercise or gardening.

Find support. Sharing your pain with others won't make it disappear, but it might make it more bearable. Find those who are comfortable listening to you, who encourage you to be yourself, and who can accept all of your feelings without imposing their own ideas of how you should be grieving. Some people find a support group or grief counseling helpful; often just a few sessions can help you feel less alone.

Find peace in your own spiritual process. For some people, religion is exceptionally helpful in the grieving process. However, personal faith does not make one immune to grief, or to the spiritual doubts grief can raise. Find safe avenues to explore your feelings, thoughts and questions. Take spiritual comfort where you can.

Be prepared for holidays and special occasions, especially during the first year. After the loss of a parent, there are certain special days – holidays, anniversaries, birthdays – that may feel particularly painful. Often the anticipation of the day is worse than the day itself – making plans ahead of time for how to spend the day can make it easier to get through. Some people find it helpful to celebrate in an different way than they would have before their parent’s death. Some may not feel like celebrating at all, and choose to bow out of family functions, while others find comfort in the company of friends and family. The anniversary of your parent’s death may be especially hard; you may find comfort in special rituals, prayers, or other activities that memorialize your parent and celebrate their lives and legacy.

Give yourself time. As much as possible, postpone making major decisions. If circumstances allow, do not move, change jobs, or make any large changes to your life until the intensity of your grief subsides. Don't force yourself to go through your parent’s belongings until you are ready. You’ll know when you have the energy and desire to face this task. Most importantly, be patient with yourself as you get used to all the changes grief brings.

Remember -- healing doesn't mean forgetting your parent. Your parent, and your relationship with them, will always be a part of you, kept alive in your memories.

The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 07:39 PM (9 replies)

Surviving the Death of a Life Partner

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

Surviving the Death of a Life Partner

There are few things in life that are as difficult and painful as the loss of a spouse or life partner. Sometimes the loss feels so overwhelming you wonder if you can survive it. It is important to remember that there are some things you can do to make your grief more bearable.

Let yourself grieve in your own way and at your own pace. The more you can honor your personal style of grieving, the better you will feel. There is no “right way” to mourn. There is also no timetable for grief, no exact moment when you should “feel better” or “get over it.” Grieving is not about “getting over” the death. It is about expressing your sorrow, sharing your memories, and learning how to go forward with your life. With time, you will find that your memories bring more pleasure than pain, and that you still have an ongoing connection with your partner.

Allow yourself to feel. You have lost the person you shared your life with, an essential part of yourself and your world. Feeling sad, lonely, disoriented, and unsure of your own identity is natural. Sometimes the intensity of the emotions can be frightening; you may feel as if you’ve lost control of your emotions or are “going crazy.” Painful as these feelings can be, they are all part of the natural response to the death of someone loved. Expect ups and downs, and be patient with yourself. The intensity of these feelings will subside over time.

Express your grief. Find your own personal style for expressing your grief. You may chose to talk to a supportive friend about your feelings and fears, your memories of your partner, the things you miss. Or maybe you like to write; consider writing a letter to your partner expressing your thoughts and feelings, or writing in a journal. Some people prefer creative outlets for their grief, exploring and healing through drawing, music, or other artistic expression. Others may chose physical outlets for their grief, such as exercise or gardening.

Find support. Find those who are comfortable listening to you, who encourage you to be yourself, and who can accept all of your feelings without imposing their own ideas of how you should be grieving. Some people find a support group or grief counseling helpful; often just a few sessions can help you feel less alone.

Take care of yourself. Grief takes an enormous amount of energy, and often disrupts eating and sleeping patterns. Getting regular exercise can help you sleep better, lowers your risk of depression, and can boost your immune system. Try to eat regular, nutritious meals. As best you can, try to get enough sleep – take naps during the day if you find you can’t sleep at night. Lighten your schedule as much as possible, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you can’t get as much done as you’re used to. Rest as much as you need to.

Be prepared for holidays and special occasions, especially during the first year. After the loss of a life partner, there are certain special days – holidays, anniversaries, birthdays – that will feel particularly painful. Often times the anticipation of the day is worse than the day itself – making plans ahead of time for how to spend the day can make it easier to get through. Some people find it helpful to celebrate in an entirely different way than they would have before their partner’s death. Some may not feel like celebrating at all, and choose to bow out of family functions, while others find comfort in the company of friends and family. The anniversary of your partner’s death may be especially hard; you may find comfort in special rituals, prayers, or other activities that memorialize your partner and mark their passing.

Find peace in your own spiritual process. For some people, religion is exceptionally helpful in the grieving process. However, personal faith does not make one immune to grief, or to the spiritual doubts grief can raise. Find safe avenues to explore your feelings, thoughts and questions. Take spiritual comfort where you can.

Give yourself time.
• As much as possible, postpone making major decisions. If circumstances allow, do not move, change jobs, or make any large changes to your life until the intensity of your grieving subsides.
• Don't force yourself to go through your partner’s belongings until you are ready. You’ll know when you have the energy and desire to face this task.
• Be patient with yourself as you get used to all the changes. When your identity has been closely linked to your partner’s, it takes time to adjust. Wear your wedding ring for as long as you want to – or forever if you choose.

Remember – healing doesn't mean forgetting your partner and the life you shared together. Your partner, and your relationship with them, will always be a part of you, kept alive in your memories.

The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 03:42 PM (2 replies)

Grieving During the Holidays

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

Grieving During the Holidays

The holiday season can bring the loss of a loved one into sharper focus. Our traditions, rituals, and even our special holiday foods are constant reminders of our loss. Even with this pain, our holidays can still be a significant time for us. They will be different, and they may hurt, but they can still be meaningful. While nothing can replace our loved one, there are things we can do to make the holidays easier.

Respect your limits. Setting realistic limits is essential, because trying to do it all – cookies, presents, decorating, cards, meals, visits – may prove to be too much. The holidays can be draining during the best of times; when coupled with the mental and physical exhaustion of grief, they can feel overwhelming. Some things to keep in mind when planning your activities:
• Ask yourself what is essential for you and your family. What does each family member need to make it a special day? What can comfortably be put on hold for this year? Sometimes, we worry that if we change or drop a tradition, we will lose it forever. It might help to remember that we are just putting that particular piece of the holiday on hold until we feel able to resume it.
• If giving to others helps you feel better this holiday season, then do it. Many people find distraction from grief in spending time on others. However, if it feels like a burden, or if you just don’t have the energy, it’s okay to step back a bit this year.
• Consider sharing the responsibility for the holiday among several family members.
• While it's important to touch base with family members and special friends, limiting the time you spend at family and social gatherings can conserve precious energy.
• Gift certificates, catalog or internet shopping, and gifts of cash or checks can help you avoid distressing shopping trips.
• You might consider skipping cards or sending them more selectively the first year – your friends and family will understand.
• Recognize that your mood and energy level may change unexpectedly, and allow yourself the option of changing your mind about commitments, even at the last minute, or to leave an event early if you need to.

Plan ahead, and consider changing your routines. Families that sit down together and discuss the holiday ahead of time can avoid some of the fatigue and disappointment that can surface. After a loss, some people are more comforted by keeping things as close to normal as possible, while others prefer to do something completely different. Find the mixture and balance that's just right for you. Having a meal at a different location or different time of day can help; going out to eat may also ease some stress. You may choose to change how holiday decorations are done, or to open gifts at a different time or location. Involve children and teens in planning for the holiday, and make sure to prepare them for any changes in holiday routines.

Celebrate the memory of your loved one. Many families choose to set aside a special time or create a special way in which to honor the memory of those who are no longer with them. Everyone will be thinking of the person who is gone anyway, and having a constructive way to acknowledge the loss together is helpful. Some people make a gift or donation in their loved one's name. Others light a candle or put out a picture or photo album. A time to share favorite stories or memories can also be valuable. Each family member's presence becomes especially important after there has been a loss. You may not feel like the best of company, but your loved ones still need some time with you on special days.

Take care of yourself. Eat well, and try to get enough rest. Limit sugar and alcohol; they throw body chemistry off-balance, making emotions even more intense. Make time for activities that you find healing, such as listening to music, taking a walk, spending extra time in bed, or whatever else helps you to feel better.

Let yourself feel. Expect ups and downs, and be patient with yourself. Remember too that it's all right to have good times; some people feel guilty if they let themselves enjoy the holidays. Laughter and enjoyment are still important parts of living, and do not mean that you miss your loved one any less.

Communicate your feelings and your needs. Share your thoughts, feelings, and memories with those who are comfortable listening, and reach out for help when you need it. Let friends or family know if you need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to help with something your loved one always did with you or for you during the holidays.

Be gentle to yourself. As you approach the holidays, don't expect them to be "perfect." Be accepting of the moods you find yourself experiencing; of projects or events you decide you do or don't want to do; of things that don't turn out the way you had hoped or planned. Be patient with yourself as you move through the changes grief brings. Remember: grief is both a necessity and a privilege. It comes as a result of giving and receiving love.

The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006

Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 01:55 PM (0 replies)

Suggestions for Coping with Grief

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.


Suggestions for Coping with Grief

Understand Your Grief
• Grieving is the natural response to loss, a gradual process of healing. Each person’s grief is unique.
• Grieving is not about “getting over” the death. It is about expressing your sorrow, sharing your memories, and learning how to go forward with your life.
• Grieving is not a mental illness, but it can be a crazy feeling. Changes in your mood, thoughts, concentration, and energy are to be expected.
• Grieving takes time. Each person grieves in their own way and at their own pace. However, grieving is about healing, and most of the intense feelings of grief do become less frequent and less intense over time. Eventually, you will find that your memories bring more pleasure than pain.

Take Care of Your Heart
• Many grievers feel as if they have lost control of their emotions, never knowing how they will feel from one moment to the next. Painful as these feelings can be, they are all part of the natural response to the death of someone loved. Expect ups and downs, and be patient with yourself.
• Share your thoughts, feelings, and memories with others. It may feel more painful to talk about it at first, but opening the door allows for healing. Find those who are comfortable listening to you talk about it, whether old friends or other grieving people, and let them know how it helps you.

Take Care of Your Body
• Get regular physical exercise. Whether you are starting from scratch or continuing an old routine, exercise is a good way of keeping your body and mind in balance. It can help you sleep better, lowers your risk of depression, and can boost your immune system.
• Eat well. Appetite changes and changes in eating habits are common, but try to eat regular nutritious meals as much as possible. Grief stresses your body as well as your heart and mind, so your body needs nourishment more than ever.
• As best you can
• As best you can, try to get enough sleep – take naps during the day if you find you can’t sleep at night, and rest as much as you need to. Lighten your schedule as much as possible, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you can’t get as much done as you’re used to.
• Consider other ways to nurture yourself, such as massage therapy, yoga or meditation, long baths, or walks in nature.

Take Care of Your Mind
• It is normal to have a hard time concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions. As much as possible, postpone making major decisions. If circumstances allow, do not move, change jobs, or make any large changes to your life until the intensity of your grieving subsides.
• Some people find doing purposeful work helpful. As you begin to have more ability to concentrate, use your mind. Be patient with yourself if tasks feel more difficult.
• Once some time has passed, taking opportunities to give to others is sometimes helpful. This may be as simple as sharing in a support group or may involve giving volunteer time to others.

Take Care of Your Spirit
• Grieving people often feel guilt over real or imagined wrongs. Consider writing a letter to your loved one expressing any sorrow or regrets. Find ways to forgive yourself; remember, we are all human.
• Writing in a journal is often very helpful. It can be a safe, private place to express and explore your thoughts and feelings. Looking back over earlier writings also helps us see the changes we’ve managed.
• Creative energies can help us heal. Some people prefer creative outlets for their grief, exploring and healing through drawing, music, or other artistic expression. Creating your own grieving rituals, prayers, or poems can also be very healing.
• Find peace in your own spiritual process. For some people, religion is exceptionally helpful in the grieving process. For some, doubts are raised. Remember that personal faith does not make one immune to grief, or to the spiritual doubts grief can raise. Find safe avenues to explore your feelings, thoughts and questions. Take spiritual comfort where you can.

Accept Help
• Many friends and family members do not know what to do to help. As much as possible, let them know what you need and what you find helpful.
• Find those who are comfortable listening to you, who encourage you to be yourself, and who can accept all of your feelings.
• Some people find a support group or grief counseling helpful; often just a few sessions can help you feel less alone. Your local Community Hospice Grief Center provides support groups, counseling, and referrals.


The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 01:46 PM (0 replies)

Symptoms of “Normal” Grief

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

Symptoms of “Normal” Grief

Cognitive
 Confusion, disorientation
 Difficulty concentrating
 Memory impairment
 Thoughts of wanting to join the deceased
Physical
 Achy, stiff muscles
 Changes in appetite, weight loss or gain
 Changes in sleep patterns
 Dizziness, vertigo
 Fatigue, exhaustion
 Headaches
 Nausea, stomach aches, intestinal problems
 Pounding heartbeat, tightness in the chest
 Restlessness
 Weakened immune system
Emotional
 Anger – at the deceased, survivors, doctors, self, God
 Anxiety, fear, panic
 Deep sadness
 Denial
 Depression
 Frustration
 Guilt
 Helplessness
 Irritability
 Loneliness, isolation
 Numbness
 Relief that deceased’s suffering has ended or that a bad relationship is over
 Shame
 Shock and disbelief that the death has occurred
 Worry
Behavioral
 Accident-proneness
 Frequent crying
 Loss of interest in usual activities
 Nightmares
 Over-activity
 “Paranormal” experiences – visions of the deceased, etc.
 Withdrawal from friends and family


The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 01:43 PM (0 replies)

What Does Grief Feel Like?

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

What Does Grief Feel Like?

Grieving is the natural response to loss, a gradual process of healing. Grieving is not about “getting over” the death. It is about expressing your sorrow, sharing your memories, and learning how to go forward with your life. Grief is not a mental illness, but it can sometimes feel like depression or anxiety.

Each person grieves in their own way and at their own pace. Not everyone will experience all of what is discussed here, but these are some of the most common reactions. There is no timetable for grieving, no exact moment when you should “feel better.” However, grieving is about healing, and most of the intense feelings of grief do become less frequent and less intense over time. With time, you will find that your memories bring more pleasure than pain.

Emotional Reactions
Many people describe grief as an emotional roller coaster – some days are good, some are bad, and some days you just feel numb. The key to getting through it is to allow yourself to feel the feelings as they come. Because the grief experience is uncomfortable, many people try to avoid these feelings, shutting them down or pushing them aside. Unfortunately, this tactic rarely works for long – buried grief feelings can emerge later as emotional difficulties or relationship problems. Unacknowledged grief can also lead to problems with alcohol, drug use, or other destructive behaviors.

Many feelings accompany grief, not just sadness. Some of the most common include:
numbness, shock
disbelief
sense of unreality
helplessness
anger
worry
fear, anxiety, panic
loneliness, isolation
frustration
shame
irritability
relief that deceased’s suffering has ended or that a bad relationship is over
guilt

Many grievers feel as if they have lost control of their emotions, or as if they are “going crazy,” never knowing how they will feel from one moment to the next. Painful as these feelings can be, they are all part of the natural response to the death of someone loved. Expect ups and downs, and be patient with yourself.

Physical Reactions
Since our emotions affect our bodies, it is reasonable to expect some physical symptoms during grief. It is normal to have changes in sleep patterns – difficulty getting to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or wanting to sleep all the time. Changes in appetite are also common, as is exhaustion – grief takes a lot of energy. Headaches, muscle stiffness, and stomach upsets are experienced by many grievers. Some people find themselves jumpy and restless, or overly sensitive to loud noises or other people. A pounding or racing heartbeat, dizziness, or chest tightness may also occur.

Some grievers become afraid that they may have a serious illness, or find themselves experiencing symptoms similar to those of the deceased.

Take care of yourself. Getting regular exercise can help you sleep better, lowers your risk of depression, and can boost your immune system. Try to eat regular, nutritious meals. As best you can, try to get enough sleep – take naps during the day if you find you can’t sleep at night, and rest as much as you need to. Lighten your schedule as much as possible, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you can’t get as much done as you’re used to. While physical symptoms are often a part of normal grief, any physical conditions that are worrisome should be evaluated by a doctor.

Thoughts and Behaviors
Frequent and unexpected bouts of crying are common in grief, and most people expect such reactions. However, there are other, less well-known but equally common thoughts and behaviors that accompany grief.
It is normal to have difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions. Many grieving people describe themselves as “going around in a fog.”

Some grieving persons may have little energy for or interest in others or for activities which formerly provided pleasure. Others may feel a need to be with other people, to talk a lot and retell stories of the deceased over and over.
Vivid dreams or nightmares about the person who has died are common, especially in the early weeks after the death. Many grievers may also experience the sense that they are hearing or seeing the deceased. These experiences can feel comforting, or they may be frightening. In either case, they are common and quite normal.

Some grievers experience a vague longing to join their loved one or to escape from the pain of the loss. Many people find such thoughts and feelings frightening. It may be comforting to know that they are not uncommon and do not mean that the grieving person truly wishes to die. It is important to realize that these feelings are different from suicidal thoughts, which involve active plans about when and how to take one’s own life. If at any point you are worried about such thoughts, seek help from your doctor or a qualified mental health provider.

Spiritual issues and questions are also common after a death. Some people find themselves questioning their beliefs and faith, while others may have a discovery or rediscovery of faith or spiritual understanding. Many people find themselves thinking more about the meaning of life, or about what follows this life.

Give yourself time. As much as possible, postpone making major decisions; if circumstances allow, don’t change jobs, move, or make any large changes to your life until the intensity of your grieving subsides.

Remember that personal faith does not make one immune to grief, or to the spiritual doubts grief can raise. Find safe avenues to explore your feelings, thoughts, and questions, and take spiritual comfort where you can.

Coping with Grief
Sometimes grief feels so overwhelming you wonder if you can survive it. It is important to remember there are some things you can do to make your grief more bearable. These include taking care of your body; exploring healing ways to express your thoughts and feelings; sharing memories of your loved; and finding safe sources of support.

Be patient with yourself as you get used to all the changes your loss brings. Remember, healing doesn't mean forgetting the person who died. That person, and your relationship with them, will always be a part of you, kept alive in your memories.

The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006

Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 10:48 AM (0 replies)

When A Loved One Is Dying

I was a grief and loss counselor for many years, and used this handout frequently in my work. I hope others find it helpful.

Caring for someone who is terminally ill may sometimes feel like a roller-coaster ride with a broken off-switch. Nothing stays the same for long. And just when you think you’ve gotten things figured out, something happens to disrupt the calm you’ve just achieved. This last stage of life may last days, months or years. It is important to get the support you need.

Both the ill person and their caregivers may grieve for the way life was and for the loss of their dreams for the future. Caregivers frequently experience many losses and at the same time, take on additional unfamiliar roles. Let go of unnecessary obligations and get help with new responsibilities when you can.

Sometimes, the inability of friends and family members to manage their own discomfort with serious illness may cause the dying person and caregivers to feel hurt and isolated. Help may come from unexpected people. Share your thoughts and feelings with the ones that can really hear.

As the disease progresses, people react to each change. This can then be followed by a period of calm as everyone adjusts to the new circumstances. It is important to remember that these waves of stress followed by calm are a normal part of the adjustment process and are always in flux.

During these times, all are faced with adapting to new roles while staying emotionally close and at the same time preparing for the final separation. These challenges can produce strong and conflicting reactions. Fear and anger about what is happening can cause loved ones to lash out and say and do things that add to the pain. Be patient with yourself and tolerant of others.

This can also be a time when friends and family rally together to share the load of responsibility. Talking about new concerns as they come up makes it easier to ensure that various needs are met as well as possible. When this happens, people sometimes experience a new closeness or peace in their relationships.

Since no one is perfect, there is usually a combination of both frustration and support. Forgive or apologize when you need to and move on. It doesn’t help to hold on to angry or guilty feelings, use your energy to love and help. You will feel better in the long run.

Day to day coping skills that really make a difference in how you feel include basic self-care (eating, sleeping, exercising), talking to supportive friends, getting important medical information and engaging in activities that nurture the soul.

Goals to keep in mind that will help the overall process include:
• Find a balance between self-care with caring for your loved ones.
• Stay connected by talking, touching and sharing your favorite memories.
• Take time to think ahead and plan as much as possible.
• Talk as much as you can about the things you have shared and how you feel about them.

 The Community Hospice, Inc. 2006
Posted by DeadLetterOffice | Wed Jul 16, 2014, 10:42 AM (0 replies)
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