Grief Counseling and Family Support

Hospices and other community agencies provide bereavement counseling. These programs help people as they adjust to their losses.

Such programs typically strive to educate people about the grief process and responses, reaffirming normal feelings, and overcoming obstacles. These programs help surviving loved ones to effectively cope with their loss.

Some people prefer support groups. By sharing thoughts and feelings with people in a similar situation, survivors understand they are not alone. Special groups exist for people who have lost spouses, children, and victims of crimes.

Professionals may provide grief counseling. Grief therapy helps survivors resolve conflicts and deal with complicated grief reactions, such as when a new death brings to the surface feelings from past losses. Therapy also is indicated for people suffering from depression related to their loss.

Recovering from grief, people can learn new strengths that help them in the future. People grieve and mourn in their own ways. Religious and cultural beliefs may shape someone’s grieving.

While grieving, try to maintain your normal routine. Eat healthy foods. Exercise. Reach out to friends who will listen. Reflect. Think about life. Write your feelings in a journal. Take naps. Listen to music. Participate in activities that you find comforting.

Accept that you will not feel normal and you may cry without provocation. These are normal reactions to a death.

The following article has been reprinted from the web site of the ©National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization June 2006
www.nhpco.org Telephone: (703) 837-1500

Supporting Friends or Family Who Are Grieving

  • When people are grieving, know that all emotions are often heightened.
  • Acknowledge all feelings. Their grief reactions are natural and necessary. Do not pass judgment on how “well” they are or are not coping.
  • Understand and accept cultural and religious perspectives about illness and death that may be different from your own. For example, if a family has decided to remove a loved one from life support, do not second guess this decision – try to be supportive.
  • Be specific in your willingness to help. Offer assistance with chores such as childcare or meals. For example, suggest “I’ll bring dinner on Thursday, how many people will be there?”
  • Identify friends who might be willing to help with specific tasks on a regular basis, such as picking up the kids from school or refilling prescriptions.
  • Acknowledge that life won’t “feel the same” and the person may not be “back to normal.” Help the person to renew interest in past activities and hobbies, when they are ready, or discover new areas of interest. Offer suggestions such as, “Let’s go to the museum on Saturday to see the new exhibit,” but be accepting if your offer is declined.
  • Know and accept that how your friend or family member copes with their loss may be very different from how you would cope, even in the same situation.
  • There is no right way to grieve and mourn. Be very careful not to impose your expectations on someone else, no matter how much you think it might “help.”
This information is not intended to be a substitute for medical, legal, or professional advice. You should always consult with your doctor, financial advisor, lawyer, or other certified professional for personalized advisement.
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