Where there is loss, there is grief. Where there is grief, there is mourning. Grief and mourning go hand in hand. Grief is a very personal thing involving many emotions and feelings unique to each loss. Mourning involves the actions we take to express those feelings.
Although each person’s grief is unique to them, many commonalities exist. “I feel like I am going crazy. I can’t focus on anything. I’m so lonely. I’m so tired. It doesn’t seem real,” are all common phrases shared by people who have lost a loved one. Some people show no outward signs of grief or mourning while others are extremely emotional, showing intense grief. Whether or not one grieves outwardly or not, he/she grieves nonetheless. How an individual expresses grief is simply about how he/she processes life in general.
Most grieve in a way that is best matched for their personality or their relationship with the deceased. Some process by introspection, quiet, meditation, pondering life with the one who died. Others find comfort in talking with others, joining a group, sharing their emotions with others and verbally processing their loss rather than keeping it to themselves. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone’s grief is unique, and each person grieves in their own way and in their own time.
There are many barriers to healthy grieving. One of the greatest is our society’s “mourning avoidant” culture, that we will “get over it” if we just stay busy. Other barriers include lack of support from family and friends, family dynamics, cultural background, and past coping methods. That being said, there are support systems available to those who are grieving the death of a loved one. Being aware of the basic needs of those who are grieving is a necessary part of those systems.
Support groups help grieving people by introducing them to others who have had similar experiences, thoughts and feelings, giving them validation. They provide emotional support in a safe and nonjudgmental environment. Opportunities to learn about the grief process and new ways of approaching problems are presented. Sometimes acute mourners desperately and immediately need a lifeline provided by a group. Many people are not ready for a support group experience until at least three months or more after the death of a loved one. It has been shown that drawing on the experiences and encouragement of friends and fellow grievers is of great value in the healing process.
Group settings are not for everyone. Some people are more comfortable sharing at individual counseling sessions. Many grievers are not ready to openly share their emotions with others and may benefit from individual sessions with a bereavement support person prior to or in lieu of a group experience. People with complications or a history of emotional problems may be better helped by individual counseling. This counseling experience may increase the griever’s comfort level to then participate in a grief support group.
Both support groups and individual counseling provide some of the basic needs to grieving people by providing an environment where they may feel accepted, listened to, validated, understood and educated on the grieving process. These support systems offer a safe place for people to do the necessary work of mourning - talking, crying, writing, and sharing. They encourage participants to reconcile their losses and go on to find continued meaning and purpose in life and living. Participation in groups or counseling often brings comfort and understanding beyond many people’s expectations.
“You don’t heal from the loss of a loved one because time passes,
you heal because of what you do with the time.” -Carol Crandell
Casa de la Luz Hospice offers grief support groups to the public free of charge. For information about our Tucson grief support groups, and to register, call us at (520)544-9890 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Meg Anderson, Bereavement Coordinator