Dealing with Death & Grief

The Work of Grief

  • Grief is the process you go through as you adjust to the loss of anything or anyone important in your life.
  • Grief is both physically and emotionally exhausting. It is also irrational and unpredictable and can shake your very foundation.
  • The amount of "work" your grief requires will depend on your life experiences, the type of loss, and whatever else you have on your plate at that time.
  • A sudden, unexpected loss is usually more traumatic, more disruptive and requires more time to adjust to.
  • You may lose trust in your known ability to make decisions and/or to trust others.
  • Assumptions about fairness, life order, and religious beliefs are often challenged.
  • Smells can bring back memories of a loss and a fresh wave of grief.
  • Seasons, with their colors and climate, can also take you back to that moment in time when your world stood still.
  • You may sense you have no control in your life.
  • Being at work may provide a relief from your grief, but as soon as you get in the car and start driving home you may find your grief come flooding back.
  • You may find that you are incapable of functioning in the work environment for a short while.
  • Because grief is distracting it also means you are more accident-prone.
  • The object of grieving is not to get over the loss or recover from the loss, but to get through the loss.
  • Over the years you will look back and discover that this grief keeps teaching you new things about life. Your understanding of life will just keep going deeper.


This is your grief - no one else's. Your friends can't feel your loss in the same way. It will not affect their life the way it affects you. And you may resent them for that.

At first, you may think dying would be preferable to having to go through this pain. Just try to stay alive. Sudden mood swings are normal. You may suddenly be unreasonable and short.

Try your best to educate your friends about what you need and how they can help. Be as honest as you can be about how you are feeling. Don't give up on your friends if they let you down. But if they continue to be insensitive to your grief you may need to distance yourself for a while until you get stronger.

After a month or so, find one or two people whom you can count on for the long haul to just be there and listen when you need to talk.

  • Write your thoughts in a journal. It will help you to process and also to remember the new insights you are learning.
  • Consider attending a support group. Go at least three times before deciding if this is helpful to you.
  • Be open to counseling.
  • Exercise, sleep, drink plenty of fluids, and eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Pamper yourself. Take bubble baths. Get a massage.
  • Try not to compare your grief with another's. You don't earn points for having a more painful experience than someone else has. And you won't feel less grief if someone else's loss is worse.
  • You deserve to feel happy again. Being happy doesn't mean you forget. Learn to be grateful for the good days.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself.
  • Long after everyone else has forgotten your loss, you will continue to remember. Learn to be content with your private memories.
  • Grief work takes time; much longer than anyone wants it to.
  • It may be a year before you begin to gain a sense of stability, because the loss is highlighted by each season, holiday, anniversary, or special day. The second year is not so great either.
  • You may be okay one minute but the next minute you may hit bottom.
  • Nighttime can be particularly difficult. Some people have trouble getting to sleep while others have trouble staying asleep. And then there are those who want to sleep all the time.
  • Remember the past, hope for the future, but live in the present.

From Tear Soup, by Pat Schweibert and Chuck DeKlyen 

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