What to Expect in Grief

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You may have come to this page today because you are grieving. Or perhaps someone in your life is hurting and you are looking for ways to support them. No matter how you got here, we want you to know that we are sorry for the challenges that you or those you love are facing each day. Hopefully you will find something in these pages to guide you, provide comfort for you or normalize what you are feeling.

Grief is not a disorder, a disease or sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” Dr. Earl A. Grollman

If our group could write a short public service announcement about grief, we would bring awareness to a few key points:

There is no way to “fix” grief

Even with the support of loving friends and family, caring mental health professionals, and an understanding community, there is no fast forwarding through grief. There is no accelerated timeline. There is no cure-all. Grief is a process that each of us needs to go through. It is a normal and natural reaction to loss.

In your grief journey, every day may feel very different. Changes in emotion, physical and mental capacity, behavior and the ability to cope may fluctuate daily. The extreme ups and downs may have you or your loved one questioning “what is normal?”
Everyone’s grief will look different.

Many resources in the community, including those we recommend, will help to guide a grieving individual through commonalities across the grieving process. They will also provide and explain practical ways to cope. While exploring these resources, it is important to recognize that each individual grieves differently and there is no “normal.”

That said, there are some certainties. Grief is exhausting: emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. You (or your loved one) may expend every ounce of available energy just getting out of bed each morning and making that decision to interact with the world. If you are grieving, be kind and patient with yourself. Encourage loved ones experiencing grief to do the same. Some days, even the most basic of tasks deserve to be counted as wins.

There will be joy in your life again

We understand that it may be hard to imagine now, but we want to assure you that there will be joy in your life again. When we talk about the death of a child, the trauma endured by the family and the grief that follows, it is important to remember that humans are innately resilient and hardwired to cope. Wherever trauma exists, there will always be the potential for posttraumatic growth. When you are ready, there will be people to help you navigate and find meaning in this new world.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you’ll never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to”

It’s important to identify sources of support

Finding one’s way through the lowest points on a grief journey can be incredibly challenging. We recommend taking note of the people who are already present in your system while considering where additional supports may be needed.

First, look socially. Do you have friends with whom you feel safe with? Who value listening to your story? Who can sit with you in silence? Do you have a colleague who can be both supportively present and give you space when you need it? Do you have a neighbor who can watch your kids if you are having a hard day?

Now, look to the professionals. Have you mentioned your loss to your primary care provider? Have you connected yet with a therapist? Can the people who supported your child help you identify local mental health providers or support groups?

These are all important questions to consider if you begin to feel isolated.

There are resources available

Tangible psychoeducation on grief can also be insightful. We have collected some of our favorites.

As you explore these resources, recognize that what is helpful for you six months after your child’s death may be different than what is helpful for you after 18 months, or two years, or 10 years. There is no harm in coming back, rereading materials, and/or seeking out therapy (group or individual) at a later date.

Elizabeth Spellman, MSW, LCSW