Bereavement Next Steps
Bereavement: Next Steps
We are so sorry for the loss of your loved one and regret meeting you in such unfortunate circumstances. Leaving the hospital can be overwhelming and painful. We hope to help you as you take this first step in your grief process. We wrote this booklet to give you some basic information that may be helpful to you, either now or in the coming months.
We urge you to find support to help you cope. Our thoughts are with you, your family and friends. We wish you strength and peace in your lives.
“Mourning is love with no place to go.” – Anonymous
After the death of a loved one, grief tends to be public. Family and friends often come together in this time. Mourning happens as a group through sharing stories at memorial services, or through family bringing food and messages of love to your home.
As this part comes to an end, the reality of your loss often starts to sink in. It is normal to feel distracted during this time. You may find it takes a few days or weeks to begin feeling the deep loss. As others go back to their daily lives, you may feel stuck in this transition.
It is common to feel confused or scared following the death of your loved one. For some time after the death, you may notice a sense of numbness. In a way, this protects your mind until you are able to cope. Often you are thrown back into your normal routines and not able to focus on the loss. Each day the sun still rises. The world goes on, but you may not feel ready yet. This can be an upsetting time because of how quickly everything is changing.
Emotions of grief
“There is sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than 10,000 tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving
There is no right way to grieve. While grief is associated with sadness and tears, you may not react to the death of a loved one in this way. You might feel overwhelmed and lonely in your thoughts. Try to be kind to yourself in this process of letting go.
People cope in different ways. You might notice this in your own family. One person may be stoic, while another is emotional. Others act as though everything is normal. Respect your loved ones’ ways of grieving, even if you do not understand them, and ask them to respect yours.
You may feel afraid to show emotions. If you feel this way, ask yourself why. Some people feel they need to be strong for their children and other loved ones. What would be the worst thing that could happen if you started crying in front of your loved ones? You may be surprised at the relief it could bring for you and for them.
Allow yourself to feel exactly how you feel. Let your emotions and thoughts come naturally. When they come with ease, you can deal with them. If you keep your grief inside, the weight you carry will be greater than the grief alone.
Certain parts of your life are now different. Watch for big changes. You may find yourself withdrawing from family and friends, or having problems at work. You might feel a negative feeling that you can’t escape.
These changes do not happen overnight. The hardest part of this process may be to notice these subtle changes. If others hint at your changing behaviors, try to be open to their concerns and take an honest look at how you feel.
You are in mourning. The pain you feel for weeks, months, or years is because you have lost someone you love, not because you aren’t coping.
Finding your way
Grief is a normal feeling that can help you to accept yourself. Being open to your feelings during this time may be hard, but try to see it as a first step in starting to heal. Find a way to heal that fits for you.
You may find it helpful to talk about your feelings. This can be with a close friend, clergyperson, or a counselor. While family and friends can be helpful, they may be dealing with their own grief.
Although therapy is not for everyone, professional counselors can offer you a fresh look at the situation. You may be surprised at how easy it is to talk with someone who lets you be completely honest without judgment. You might choose to start therapy right away, or wait for some time to pass. See what works for you. If you try therapy and it feels too early, you can wait and try again later on.
It is not necessary to talk about your feelings in order to grieve. You might choose to keep your personal emotions private. Try writing down your thoughts and feelings on paper. Seeing your thoughts in front of you helps to separate your feelings from who you are. Your feelings of sadness or frustration are only one part of you.
The power of connection
You may wonder if anyone else has ever had the same worries and feelings. Joining a support group lets you meet people who have felt similar grief. You might find your thoughts and feelings are acknowledged and understood. No one has felt exactly how you feel, but when you realize you are not alone, suddenly your mind is not such a mystery.
It takes time to understand what your loss means to you. Maybe your emotions do not make sense. Other people farther along in the grief process may have ideas to share about how to put confusing feelings into words. You might feel relieved to know that as strange as your feelings may seem, they are shared by others.
Grief over time
“In a very real sense, grief is the tax we pay for loving people.” – Thomas Lynch
Months down the road, if you are asking yourself, “Why haven’t I healed yet?” remember the grieving process can be slow. There will be good and bad times along the way. Some days may just be a dull ache and others hit you with the same raw loss you felt on that first day.
Let those painful times be a message. Be kind to yourself on those days. Spend time outside to relax and find peace, or visit a friend who listens to you.
The pain from this death may never fully go away. Over time you will find ways to transform the pain you feel into acceptance. Your life may never be the same, but you may be able to see your loss in a new way. Your loved one was important to you. Instead of not feeling affected by this loss, your pain shows you how dearly you held this person to your heart.
Keep it simple
It is natural to worry about what comes next. You may want to return to your old life where it doesn’t hurt and you don’t feel the loss. It is hard work to process and accept the loss, and move on.
Stay in the moment. Focus on the day in front of you rather than letting your mind wander to the challenges that lie in the future.
Be good and fair to yourself.
Hold onto hope and trust that things will get better.
Here is a list of resources in the community. These are just some of many groups that exist to help you through losing a loved one. More support can be found in hospitals, hospice centers, funeral homes, or spiritual establishments. We urge you to find guidance that fits your needs.
United Way 2-1-1
This resource line provides free support and information 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Call 2-1-1 within Dane County or 608-246-4357 outside of Dane County.
Agrace Hospice Care
This Madison facility offers help to the public through support groups and individual counseling sessions - all free of charge. For information call 608-276-4660 or visit: http://www.agracehospicecare.org/hospice-grief-support.html
Northern Illinois Hospice and Grief Center
Located in Rockford, Illinois, this grief center is available to the public and offers support groups for varying ages and individual/family counseling, all provided on a sliding fee scale. With questions, call 815-398-0500, http://www.northernillinoishospice.org/griefCenter.htm
The Compassionate Friends
This national organization provides grief support to families who have experienced the loss of a child, at any age and from any cause. Nearby chapters are located in Monona, Wausau, Green Bay, Dubuque, Chicago, and others. Most chapters hold monthly meetings. For further questions, call the Madison chapter at 608-258-0014, http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx.
Kids Can Cope
Based out of Madison’s St. Mary’s Hospital, this program provides support to children faced with intense grieving and coping. For more information, call Peggy Weber at 608-258-6336
Widows/Widowers Social Group
Through Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, this social group meets once a month. The church also offers free grief counseling classes periodically through the year. To learn more, call 608-271-6633.
Parents of Murdered Children
This national organization provides supportive services for family and friends of homicide victims. Wisconsin chapters hold monthly meetings and are located in Milwaukee and Madison. For questions, call Bill Swanson at 608-821-0050 or visit their website at http://www.pomc.com/cw/index.html. The national website is http://www.pomc.org
Wisconsin Survivors of Suicide Support Group
This group offers help for survivors of suicide. Support groups are located in many cities state-wide including Madison, Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Beloit, and others. For a complete list of cities and more information on specific sites, visit their website at http://www.hopes-wi.org/WISurvivorGroups.htm With questions about the Madison group, call 608-280-2435
American Association of Suicidology
This is a national organization that offers support to survivors of suicide. For recommended support books, personal stories, and information on grief specific to suicide, visit their website at http://www.suicidology.org/suicide-survivor-resources
“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!" And that is dying.” -Henry van Dyke
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/28/2012
Copyright © 08/28/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7363
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