Losing a loved one, or being there for someone who's lost a loved one, can be an emotionally-draining experience on both ends. However, with the right guidance, you can heal through grief. Take a moment to read over these common questions and as always, contact us at any time with other questions or concerns.
We're here for you.
What is grief?
Grief is a natural, emotional response to your loss. It evokes feelings and questions. “Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” – Rabbi Earl A. Grollman, Ph.D.
What is the difference between grief and mourning?
Grief is the sense of brokenness experienced as a result of the death of someone you love. It consists of the interior experience of a multitude of emotions we experience within ourselves. Mourning is essential to healing the brokenness we experience as a result of grief. Mourning is your outward expression of grief allowing yourself to openly express your feelings. This allows others to witness your experience and accompany you on your journey with grief. Mourning is informally the outward expressions of your sadness, such as crying; and, formally mourning is this same expression of sorrow in rituals or ceremonies, such as attending a funeral.
When does grief start?
Grief begins with the loss of your assumed future. When you have assumed that your world will look one way in the future and then that vision is shattered, you will grieve your hopes and desires for the future. Feelings of grief can begin long before the physical death of your loved one. Grief may begin at the initial diagnosis of a terminal disease. This is called anticipated grief.
Is there a guide to help me process or work through my grief?
Here is a guide for grieving that you may find helpful:
- accept the reality of your loss
- adjust to environments without your loved one
- allow and attend to your emotions
- achieve an enduring connection with your loved one
- actively engage in life at your own pace
Is it common for other losses to come to mind when I’m grieving?
Yes. You are a blend of your own experiences. When you experience the death of someone you love, other experiences of loss may surface in your memory stirring up and intensifying your feelings of grief.
How do I find hope and healing again?
The experience of grief is unique to each person. Some manage feelings of grief through isolation or being alone. Others find solace in seeking information to normalize their experience. Others find comfort in sharing their feelings with others and gaining support in community. The process of sharing your stories of love and relationship with others can be a healing experience. Through these relationships you can be sustained in the love and support of others which in turn allows your grief to soften. Most people grow stronger and gain a better awareness of themselves and others as a result of experiencing a loss. Many find meaningful understandings of loss, life and love which lead to a more fulfilling future.
Can I just avoid this sorrow?
No. Your grief is often a reflection of the love you gave and received in your relationship with the one who died. Love and grief is a part of the richness of your life journey. You can be purposeful during this time of grieving by taking good care of yourself, eating and sleeping well, getting exercise, and doing things you enjoy. You can choose to be around people you enjoy and that understand your feelings. You can try to do things for others and remember that you still make a difference in the world, even while you are missing your loved one.
Does grief end? Will I get over grieving? How long will this last?
When you love someone the person remains a part of your life forever, thus there will always be a sense of longing for that connection. There is no time frame for grief, yet grief softens over the course of time when you allow yourself to work through the experience. Grief, though always a part of your life, will soften as you weave your loss into the tapestry of your life. Honor your heart, share your feelings, and continue your special relationship in new ways.
Do all people grieve the same?
You will grieve differently because your life journey is unique; therefore, your grief is unique. Your family dynamics, memories of other losses, current circumstances and personality all factor into the uniqueness of your grief. While some people are quiet in their grief, others are more expressive. Different people are simply comfortable expressing their grief in different ways because we are all unique.
What are the characteristics of grief?
There are a variety of experiences from grief that can impact the following areas of your life – physical, emotional, spiritual and social. It would be beneficial for you to discuss your experiences of grief with your doctor and/or counselor to determine if your experiences are grief-related and receive the appropriate support.
Can I keep my grief contained?
Grief has a power of its own demanding respect and attention. You cannot determine with grief what you will feel, when you will feel it, or how much energy it will take to manage it. You are likely to manage your feelings the same way you managed other feelings of loss. Initially many people are in shock or feel numb and in a survival mode. As the reality of your loss sets in your grief can be more fully experienced. Giving grief’s journey the attention it demands of you empowers you to understand your loss and see again positive perspectives on your past, present and future. Respecting your grief is to honor the relationship you share with your loved one.
Who can help me as I am grieving?
Genesis offers free grief support as a part of our program, Grief’s Healing Journey. You may view our free bereavement services here. Genesis offers free grief support for individuals in two ways:
- You may visit with a grief counselor or chaplain, on the phone or in person, in your home or at a local Genesis facility. Call Genesis Hospice Bereavement Services at 563-421-5000 or Genesis Health System Spiritual Care at 563-421-7970 for an appointment.
- Anonymous, confidential, secure online individual grief support via email is offered with a grief counselor. Submit your request here.
Is a grief support group helpful? How can I find someone near me?
Grief has a pull leading people toward isolation. Often people feel alone while navigating the difficult emotions common to grief, yet we are connected by the universal experience of loss. One of our most basic human needs is to be in relationship with others. Being open to attending a grief support group creates opportunity to end isolation and receive support from others. These groups are safe, confidential spaces where those who are experiencing grief can share their stories together with a trained facilitator. They are available from Genesis once a week at two Genesis facilities. Contact Genesis Hospice Bereavement Services at 563-421-5000 or Genesis Health System Spiritual Care at 563-421-7970 to learn about when and where current ongoing groups are meeting.
Does Genesis offer classes about grief?
Yes. The course is called Understanding Grief’s Journey. When it is hard to initially share your feelings, a class format provides support while learning more about grief’s healing journey. Talking by participants is not required, though encouraged. Classes are offered at several Genesis facilities at various times, including evenings and weekends. When the course is over classmates have the option of continuing on as a grief support group called Healing on Grief’s Journey. To sign up for the next course near you, contact Genesis Hospice Bereavement Services at 563-421-5000.
If my loved one did not receive care from Genesis Hospice, may I still have grief support?
As part of our mission, Genesis Health System exists to provide compassionate, quality health services to all those in need. Yes, regardless of where one resides, we wish to provide care to all those who seek support, comfort and healing on the journey of grief. If you reside outside of the greater Quad City Area, free grief support is available nationwide and we are able to facilitate a referral for meeting your need.
Is there a cost for the grief support services Genesis offers?
Genesis offers grief support at no cost for patients, their families, and friends in our community.
Do you have a program for children and teens?
Yes, at Rick’s House of Hope (RHOH) a center for grieving children and teens. RHOH has many programs including a summer day camp.
Companioning someone who has experienced the death of a loved one can be an emotionally stressful experience, for some it is a move from sympathy to empathy. Take a moment to read over all the common questions above. There is not a perfect way to support someone you care about; however, here are some guidelines. Always remember we are available to support you and address your questions and concerns, too.
What should I know before assisting someone grieving?
Know your place
Grief is a deeply personal experience. You have a supporting role, not the central role, in your friend's grief. You may think you would do things differently if this had happened to you; however, follow his or her lead. Sitting with someone in their pain is not easy. Your friend will likely not be fully present for your relationship during this time. Do not take it personally and do not take your emotional pain out on your friend, either. Find your own means of support while you stay strong for your friend.
It is critical and comforting to know that someone believes in you and your ability to find peace of mind and heart again. Have faith in your friend that he or she will heal as they travel grief’s journey. Believe in, and when needed, believe for your friend that healing and happiness are possible in the future.
Mind the “firsts”
There will be first time events (first experiences without their loved one), among many other “firsts,” that bring changes in traditions. These can be hard experiences. Their loved one’s birthday, a holiday, and the anniversary of their loved one’s death each carry anticipated discomfort and a new experience of grief. You can plan ahead to be available for your friend. Be ready to come alongside your grieving friend to help them navigate these difficult days.
He or she may not know what they need to travel this journey with grief. Let them travel this grief journey at their own pace.
Attend to emotions
Signs of mourning may be more subtle after the funeral yet grief’s healing journey for some can take years. Sadness, anger, worry, guilt, numbness, depression, loneliness, envy all may surface on your friend’s journey. Discovering those places of forgiveness, peace, trust, joy, thankfulness, love, courage, and hope may be hard to find. Be open to exploring those difficult and draining emotions as you companion your friend in grief.
Become comfortable with tears to create a safe intimate space for sharing. If you sense the hurt within you, cry with your grieving friend. Encourage him or her to have a good cry. Tears are a tribute to the relationship of love.
Understand function varies
Your grieving friend may find that he or she can function normally at work but not at home; or vice versa. Sometimes dealing with the responsibilities of bringing closure to a loved one’s life is overwhelming and yet daily life with the family is routine. Some will find they manage controlling their grief emotions until they rise to the surface seemingly without a reason, while others cannot seem to break through the fog of emotions clouding out even common sense and logic. Be understanding.
What should I say to assist someone grieving?
Identifying one’s needs, let alone determining who is best to help meet that need, is difficult while grieving. Propose specific offerings or activities in which you would like to help. Then be dependable until you are asked to stop helping.
Talk less, listen more
Invite your friend to share about the deceased loved one and how he or she lived. Share and inquire about the special nature of relationships and listen more than you talk. Listen carefully, sincerely, asking open ended questions to help your friend explore his or her memories and feelings. Speak with support, affirming your friend’s words and experiences, without trying to correct, redirect, or solve any feelings perceived as negative. Give the gift of silence, calmness, and understanding.
Speak about love
If open to this support, it is okay to comfort your friend with touch. Remind the bereaved of how much they were loved by their deceased loved one and are still loved by those who remain.
Acknowledge the truth
It may make you feel better to say circumstances will be better in the future; however, it may not be true, at least in the coming year. Simply state the truth: this hurts and is difficult. I am with you and I love you.
Offer your knowledge
Your unique vocation or personal experience may help your friend. Remember, your experience with the loss of your loved one may offer unique direction and comfort.
What should I do to assist someone grieving?
This is a list of things you can do; however, be sure to offer the assistance first and be faithful to follow through if your offer is accepted.
Informing others repetitively about the death of a loved one can be very difficult for your friend. Ask permission if it would be helpful for you to call extended family and friends to inform them and share funeral arrangements.
Manage tasks together
The death of a loved one is overwhelming, presenting many new tasks that need accomplished, sometimes quickly. Follow your friend's lead in helping with these tasks. Offer to assist with paperwork he or she will need to navigate (making sure life insurance claims are filed, obtaining a death certificates, cancelling credit cards and bank accounts, understanding the deceased’s will, managing social security and going through all the accounts to be sure that they are aware of all the deceased’s finances). Your presence alongside them is powerful and important as they manage these new realities.
Attend the memorial service, unless it is a private family funeral. By doing so, you honor the life of the deceased as well as the relationship shared with your friend. Being present is important because we are sustained by the love and support of others.
Bring a meal
Numbed by grief, some people simply forget to eat. Bringing a meal prepared by someone else will encourage your friend and his or her family to eat regularly. Ask about dietary restrictions, food allergies or favorite foods before cooking or ordering this gift.
Help find support
If your friend is experiencing grief that affects his or her daily functioning, help them find a grief counselor that can assist them. Offer to attend a grief support group with them giving them emotional support. Genesis Grief Support provides many services for those grieving. Read more at www.genesishealth.com/grief
Assist in everyday chores
Consider taking out your friend’s trash, refill prescriptions, wash the dishes, shovel snow, clean the house, shop for food, bring in the mail, walk the dog, wash the car, mow the lawn, drive the kids to and from, wash clothes, etc. Take care of everyday tasks to allow your friend time for self-care and to navigate this time of transition.
Send a note
Mail a card or brief letter telling your friend you care. Simply signing a sympathy card can be taken as impersonal, so state your love and support. Leave special notes and inspirational sayings through his or her home to be found throughout the day. Share memories about his or her loved one and how he or she touched your life.
Create a memory book, box or web page
Help your friend put together a unique place to collect pictures, stories and/or keepsakes of the person that died. Each linking object gives your friend an opportunity to connect with the special time enjoyed with his or her loved one and encourages the sharing of feelings.
Offer a gravesite visit
Your friend may like companionship when visiting his or her loved one’s gravesite. Keeping the gravesite clean and refreshed with flowers may also be of comfort to your friend as they honor and remember his or her loved one.
Plan an adventure
When the time seems right, help your friend embrace life again through simple pleasures. Take him or her to a place that may temporarily divert the experience of grief, such as sharing a movie, meal or museum. Even though your friend is hurting, he or she is allowed to enjoy life.
Get them Moving
Exercise is wonderful for mind, body and spirit. Set a regular time with your friend to contribute to his or her overall wellness.
Above all show love. Be there. Stand in the gap that has opened in your friend's life, enduring the pain. Be willing to say. “I don’t know.” Listen. Be present. Be a friend. Be love for love never fails.