While we often think of the grief associated with death, there are many other losses in our lives that cause us to grieve. Hospice Foundation of America has information that should help you understand some of the challenges you must face when coping with grief. Whether you are going through this yourself or trying to help a family member or friend, HFA offers support and advice to assist you.
What is Grief?
Grief is a reaction to loss, any loss. The grief associated with death is familiar to most of us, but we grieve a wide variety of losses throughout our lives: traumatic experiences, divorce, relocation, loss of health and mobility are only some examples. Grief is often expressed by feelings such as anger, guilt, sadness or loneliness.
But grief affects us in other ways as well -- spiritually, behaviorally, physically, and cognitively.
Bereavement is the way we process grief. Each of us grieves in our own way, affected by such factors as our culture, gender and circumstances surrounding the loss. Every loss has a unique meaning to us.
It is best not to think of grief as a series of stages. Rather, we might think of the grieving process as a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning, the lows may be deeper and longer. The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss. Even years after a loss, especially at special events such as a family wedding or the birth of a child, we may still experience a strong sense of grief.
Since grief is so stressful, it helps to take good care of yourself. Eating and sleeping well, and getting adequate exercise are essential. Sharing your feelings with a close friend, in a journal, through a support group or with a professional counselor can be very helpful. In addition to the resources found here, your local hospice can provide additional information about bereavement services in your community.