After Care Services
The loss of a loved one can take its toll on you both physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. You may experience a rollercoaster of reactions. One moment may find you incapacitated by grief, whereas in the next you may feel almost normal. Anger, fear, guilt and panic are just a few of the emotions you may experience. You may ask yourself why did this happen to him/her? Why me? Making decisions, concentrating or finishing a task may be difficult to do. These are completely normal grief reactions.
The physical effects of grief can include sleeplessness, excessive fatigue, headaches, general malaise, intestinal upsets and dizziness. During periods of extreme stress such as grief, it is crucial that you try to eat regularly and to rest, since stress can suppress your immune system, making you more prone to illness.
Your grief reaction and subsequent recovery can depend on the quality of your relationship to the deceased, your capacity to handle stress, and the type of support network that you have. If your relationship was strained or you have never experienced the loss of a loved one, your grief may be overwhelming.
Do not be afraid to seek the support of friends and family. They will want to help but might not be sure how. All too often, those who are grieving keep their feelings to themselves and feel that others will be able to anticipate their needs. As difficult as it may seem, it may be necessary for you to take the initiative.
Talk to your local funeral director. Funeral directors are listeners, advisors, and supporters. They assist those who are grieving every day. Many funeral homes offer aftercare programs, which are programs designed to help you through the initial stages of grief.
Your funeral director can also recommend local support groups and reading materials that can help you understand and cope with your grief. Even if you weren't directly involved with the funeral arrangements, you can contact your local funeral home. Family funeral homes are committed to the communities they serve and willingly help those in need.
Answering a Child's Questions about Death
by The Cremation Association of North America
Caring parents can help a child during a time of loss by being open, honest and loving, and by responding to his or her questions in a way that shows they care. When answering a child's questions about death, adults should keep in mind the following: Tell a child only what he or she is capable of understanding. There is no need to be evasive, but modify explanations to what the child can comprehend. A too-complicated reply often confuses a child. Use language the child can understand. What is said is important, but the manner in which it is said has even greater significance. Be aware of voice tone. Try to answer the questions in a matter-of-fact way without too much emotion. Remember that what is communicated without words can be just as meaningful to a child as what is actually said. It's not unusual for a child to ask the same question again and again. Repeating questions and getting answers helps the child understand and adjust to the loss of someone loved. If you incur any difficulties in explaining death or cremation to your child, you may wish to consult a child guidance counselor who specializes in these areas.
Helping Children Cope with Grief
Children, like adults, experience grief in many different ways, and each has his or her own pace of recovery. There are things that you can do to help a child through the grief process, which is important to do, as children often don't understand their feelings and may need your help, guidance and support to cope.
The most important thing you can do is talk with your child; this encourages him or her to ask questions. Answer their questions as simply and accurately as you can.
Talk with the child about your feelings, and encourage the child to express his or her feelings. Listen to what the child says and how (s)he says it. Is the child expressing anxiety, fear, or insecurity?
Help them explore and understand these feelings. Watch the child at play to see what he or she is expressing here, as well. Children will often express strong emotions by acting them out through play.
While we're on the subject of playing, consider providing toys and activities that help the child relieve stress. This can include modeling clay, finger-painting, playing in water, or other messy activities that allow them to express themselves and relieve tension and stress.
You may find the child wants to hit or kick things, or otherwise behaves aggressively. This is normal; encourage the child to express these feelings by hitting a pillow, stuffed toy, or a ball. This will allow them to express the anger and tension in a non-harmful way.
Reassure the child, letting him or her know that you're going to help him or her through this, and that you're in it together. You may need to repeat these reassurances several times, and you may also need to answer questions more than once.
It's important that you not become impatient with the child if this happens. You may want to spend extra time with the child when you're putting him or her to bed, and you may find that even children who haven't been bothered by the dark in the past suddenly want a nightlight.
Touch is a key component of healing, especially for children. Hold and physically comfort the child, you may find this will also comfort you during a difficult time as well.
If you're concerned that the child is taking a long time to heal, or isn't getting his or her emotions worked through even with your help and support, you may want to consider finding a counselor for the child. Grief counselors and other mental health professionals are trained in helping both children and adults through stressful times and working through their grief.
Grieving the Loss of a Loved One
A profound sense of loss is felt at the death of a loved one, whether that death is sudden or expected. There is no set pattern to grief. Some people grieve for a short time while others may never fully recover from their loss. Some won't experience their grief until some time later. There is no one right way to grieve. Grieving is just as unique as each one of us is unique. So don’t expect each family member to grieve the same way. It is during these times that the support of friends and family is so important. Having a visitation, funeral, or memorial service is an important part of the grieving process and brings people together who can give you a support network. If that is not enough, your local community, religious organizations, and many healthcare organizations offer grief counseling or grief support groups.
Although it may be difficult to reach out to these groups at first, many have found grief support groups to be a place where one can continue to grieve openly with others who share their pain.
Don't forget about your funeral director. Many funeral homes also offer aftercare programs, which are programs to help you cope with the initial phases of the grieving process.
Your funeral director will also be able to refer you to local grief support organizations or counselors should you desire group or individual counseling. In addition to counseling programs, many funeral homes provide grief support packets with materials related to grief and the mourning process.
Coping with Grief — Common Feelings and EmotionsThese are some common symptoms people feel as they go through the grieving process. Not everyone experiences the same thing, and what each person feels and experiences will be as unique as the individual person.
- aches and pains
- anger (at others or at God)
- bargaining with God
- comparing the loss to the losses of others
- disinterest in life
- distorted or lost time
- disturbed sleep habits (insomnia, waking up erratically)
- easily distracted
- embarrassment about emotions and feelings
- erratic appetite
- feelings of being out of control
- feelings of being overwhelmed
- feeling crazy
- feeling disconnected from family and friends
- feeling drugged
- feelings of being stuck in a rut
- feelings of "falling apart"
- feelings of hopelessness
- feelings that nothing matters or has meaning
- inability or unwillingness to make decisions
- panic, sometimes overwhelming
Normal Stages of the Grieving ProcessSince there's very little grief training in our culture, people are often surprised by how hard their grief hits them. We usually don't know what to expect until we experience a major loss and begin to suffer the consequences.
It's important to understand that grief is a pervasive experience that impacts the whole person — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It's also important not to be afraid to experience grief symptoms, many people try to put their grief aside and "get over it," but this only delays the healing process. As you go through the grieving process, you'll probably experience three distinct phases of grief.
Phase 1: Shock and Denial
Most people experience this as their initial reaction — shock, a feeling of numbness or unreality, and possibly even denial that the loved one is gone. In this initial phase, our minds begin to adjust to the loss of our loved one.
Because this is such a difficult time, thinking about or experiencing grief constantly is too painful, so we go back and forth between believing the loss has happened and a sense of denial or unreality. It's critical to give yourself time to adjust to the loss and to come to terms with it. This stage can last as long as several weeks.
Phase 2: Disorganization
This is a time of chaos for individuals experiencing grief at the loss of a loved one as they try to adjust to the world without the person in it. During this phase, we are intensely aware of the reality of our loss, but will try almost anything to escape it.
This is a period of exhaustion and intense emotion, and the grieving person will often experience mood swings, sometimes dramatic ones. Normal emotions at this stage include anger, extreme sadness, depression, despair, and extreme jealousy of others who haven't suffered the same loss.
During this stage, people begin to understand all the implications of the loss and begin to rebuild their life. This stage can last a year or more.
Phase 3: Recovery
This stage is also known as acceptance or reorganization. The disrupted stage people go through comes to an end as they find a new balance. People in mourning become aware that the physical signs of their grief are beginning to fade and that they are less exhausted than they once were.
The pain of the loss remains, but the unbearable intensity of it recedes, and people begin to experience hope again. Life begins to seem possible again.
Things that do not help people through the grieving processWhile there are many things you can do to help people through the pain of their grief, there are also things that don't help at all, and that could even be hurtful. Here are some thoughts on things it's best not to do:
- Don't try to "fix" things, or make it all better for the person suffering the loss; no one can ever do that.
- Don't use clichés, or tell a person that time heals all wounds. The wound of loss will never really heal, but they will learn to live with the loss over time.
- Don't compare one griever's loss or experience of grief to another's. Comparisons seem to minimize the loss or to force grievers to behave the "right way" instead of the way they are reacting and this can retard the healing process.
- Don't encourage grieving people to make major changes, such as moving, changing jobs, etc. Extreme grief clouds judgment and the people may later regret their decision.
- Don't attempt to cheer them up, just be there for them, and be as supportive as you can.
- Don't scold, give advice, lecture, etc. Let the grief run its course and remember that everyone heals at a different pace. Don't suggest the person can replace the one they've lost ("You can have another baby," or "you'll find someone else"). This can be alienating and excruciating for grieving people to hear, it seems to minimize their loss, even though that's not your intent.