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February 2, 2011

Coping with Grief

Grief is a normal response to loss and lasts far longer than society in general recognizes.

Grief is a very individual process and there is no one “right way” to grieve.

Grief is a powerful and sometimes overwhelming journey, and the following is a list of some of the common physical and emotional reactions that many bereaved parents may experience:
  • Physical exhaustion, sleeplessness, lack of desire to get out of bed
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Tightness in the throat, heaviness in the chest, a “lump” in the stomach
  • Respiratory reactions – excessive yawning, gasping, sighing, hyperventilating
  • Restlessness, aimless activity, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
  • A feeling of numbness or an empty feeling that seems indefinable
  • Crying at unexpected times and experiencing mood changes for minor reasons
  • Wondering if you are losing your mind
  • Guilt – thoughts and feelings of “If only I had . . .” as well as awareness of aspects of the relationship that were less than perfect
  • Anger – at God, at the people around us, at the person who died, at things which did or did not happen in the relationship
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Searching for answers
  • Questioning or challenging your faith or philosophy of life
  • Searching for or expecting the child who died to walk in the door or call on the phone; hearing the child’s voice; seeing the child’s face; dreaming about the child
  • A need to tell and retell and remember things about the child and the details of the child’s death
  • Difficulty with special days, such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, holidays
  • Feeling able to cope, then falling back again
All of these reactions are natural and normal. It is important not to deny one’s feelings, but instead to learn to express them.

It is very important for bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings to take care of themselves during this difficult time. The following suggestions are offered to help you cope with the intense burden of grief:
  • A balanced diet, rest and moderate exercise are especially important at this time
  • Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol
  • Use medication sparingly and only under the supervision of your physician
  • Be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Grief “work” is exhausting
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Avoid major decisions if possible (changing residence, changing jobs, etc.) for at least a year
  • Avoid making hasty decisions about your child’s belongings. Do not allow others to take over or rush you. Do it at your own pace when you are ready
  • Cry freely as you feel the need. It is a healthy expression of grief and releases tension
  • Talk about your feelings or find other ways to express your emotions
  • Find a good listener, someone who will just let you talk
  • One’s religious faith or spirituality may also be a source of support, comfort, strength and hope at this time
  • Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. However, if you are having difficulty managing the intense emotions you are experiencing, or if the physical and emotional reactions become severe or persist, it might be helpful to seek the advice of a physician or professional counselor
  • It may also help to become involved with a group of other people who have had a similar experience, such as this group.

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