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Grief Support Articles

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

The words of the doctor seemed to have such a hollow ring to them as they impacted my numb and disbelieving brain. I felt as if an invisible hand was pushing me off my chair. I struggled to grasp what I was being told. The whole situation had an air of unreality about it. It was like a bad dream. I expected to wake up at any second and realize to my relief that this wasn’t really happening. But it was happening. My wife, a young woman in her thirties, had died of a heart attack. The days that followed would be full of new challenges, not the least of which was being a single parent to my two sons, then 9 and 7 years of age. But the biggest challenge of all was not as immediately apparent.

I was beginning a grief process. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a grief process, far less how to deal with it. There is not much understanding of grief in our society. We have not learned what IS normal after a significant loss... what we should expect, what emotions we will experience, how long the process continues. Many people, albeit with good intentions, try to rationalize the situation, with phrases like “it’s a blessing in disguise,” or “maybe it’s for the best.” These statements may or may not be true. But for us, it doesn’t feel like a blessing. To us, it’s NOT for the best... in fact, we may feel it is the worst thing that could have happened.

Perhaps you have experienced a significant loss recently. I wish I could sit down and listen to you tell me about the special relationship you had with the person, whatever that relationship happened to be. Whether you have experienced the loss of a spouse, a parent, a child, or the loss of a relative, friend or colleague, whenever we experience a loss, we experience grief.

This article is designed to help us understand grief and to validate the many emotions we may experience after a loss. Grief is normal, yet saying it is normal does not minimize its difficulty. Grief is one of life’s most challenging experiences, and I hope reading this will help you cope with it.

Grief involves Suffering

Grief is an emotional response to a significant loss. Because it is an emotion, it is difficult to describe. The Scots have a saying that some things are better “felt than tell’t.” Grief is one of these things. Whenever we lose someone (or something), or an attachment is broken, we can experience a painful reaction. To experience grief is to acknowledge that you have loved someone, and now that person has gone. If you hadn’t needed that relationship, or risked the emotional attachment, you wouldn’t be feeling the loss. But you did, and, oh yes, it was worth the risk. It is a high compliment to any relationship that we miss it enough to shed a tear and feel emotional. How awful if we didn’t! Tears are not a sign of weakness, but an indication of how special the relationship was, and, now that it is gone, we miss it. To experience grief is to acknowledge that you are a human.

Grief Involves Surprises

Because we have not understood grief, its intensity often comes as a surprise. We can find ourselves bewildered by the avalanche of emotions that can impact us. Among these emotions are numbness, shock, confusion, disbelief, anxiety, absent mindedness, restlessness, crying, fatigue, appetite disorders, sleep disruptions, physical symptoms, anger, guilt, depression, and the list goes on.

What is most surprising is that every person’s grief process is unique. Some people experience certain emotions, other people experience others. Everyone is different, and so the way you respond to your unique loss, will not be the same as anyone else’s. That’s why I NEVER say, “I know how you feel.” I don’t know, how can I? All I know is how I felt when grief touched my life. Just because one person experiences something one way does not mean another person is abnormal because their experience is different. Yet it is amazing how many people do not give others the freedom to grieve in a way that is right for them. You are unique. Your situation and the relationship you have lost is unique. So do not be surprised if your response to your loss is unique.

Grief involves Surrender

The days after the loss of my wife were confusing. I felt numb. People may have thought I was doing well, and even commended me for how strong I was. But I wasn’t strong. I was numb. Even when that numbness began to wear off, I had difficulty accepting that Carolyn was really gone. I found myself searching for her: hoping to see her in the shopping mall; going to the cemetery and talking with her. I kept hoping that somehow she was going to return. Of course I didn’t tell anyone this, because they might have thought I was going crazy. In fact, such feelings are not crazy. They are an important part of coming to terms with reality. But inevitably we have to surrender to the reality that we have had a loss. That may seem like the most obvious statement, yet it is exceedingly difficult to accept, and for a considerable time we fight against the idea. Sooner or later, however, we have to realize that our loved one has really gone, and will not return. Often, it is when people think we should be getting ourselves together, we feel we are falling apart. People who do not understand the grieving process may not know that it is normal to fall apart even months after the funeral, or find Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, or just “a year ago today” days difficult. Grief is normal. YOU are normal. Surrender to the process that follows every significant loss.

Grief involves Survival

After a loss, we may wonder how we are going to manage to go on without our loved one. It is not easy to lose whomever or whatever we have counted on for support, encouragement and indeed the confidence to face the world. When this does happen, we struggle to cope with many un-expected and surprising emotions. Basically these emotions help us face the question, how will I manage in the light of my loss? Will I be able to go on without the person?

Often in the early days after a loss, it is simply a matter of survival. That word actually derives from two Latin words... “vivo” – live, and “sur” – beyond. To survive means to find the resources to “live beyond” the experience of loss. The adjustments one must make are many. These can be practical, emotional, physical, social and spiritual. Each adjustment can be a painful process. Sometimes mere survival is a major success.

Grief involves Struggle

Grief is difficult. It is never easy to lose someone you have relied on. This is possibly the most difficult experience of your life. There’s an ancient Warrior Song that says, “Life has meaning only in the struggle, Triumph or defeat is in the hands of God. So let us celebrate the struggle.” One of the things I believe about God is that He gives us choices. In some things, we have no choice. We had no choice in the death of our loved one and much as we might like, that situation cannot be changed. But we do have a choice around what we do about it. We can choose to be bitter or better. We can choose to be victims or victors. Some people, after a loss, see themselves as a victim. They refuse to struggle to come to terms with the situation. But it is as we struggle that we discover that with every loss there is a gain. You didn’t think you could make it, but suddenly you’re discovering strength and resources you didn’t know you had. Expectant mothers have labor pains, teenagers have growing pains, but out of that pain comes growth and life. That doesn’t make the pain any easier, but it does help put it in a meaningful context.

Life is full of problems. Each one has the potential to be a stepping stone or a stumbling block. Will the problem trip you up and be a barrier to your progress? Or will you allow it to become a stepping stone to growth and renewed life. Stepping stone or stumbling block. Both are made of the same material. What we do with them makes all the difference.

Dr. Bill Webster has resources on grief available at his web site: or for more information write to him at Centre for the Grief Journey, 2-3415 Dixie Road, Suite 201, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L4Y 4J6.

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

When someone we love dies, a feeling of deep, painful grief is a natural and common response. Actually, grief can be triggered by the loss of anything we value, anything in which we have invested time, energy, a part of ourselves – a job, a work of art, a beloved pet.

Whatever the cause, the feeling of grief often comes in waves. The first flooding, crushing tidal wave usually subsides within a few days or weeks, but even months later an unexpected, poignant memory will bring on tears, a sudden constriction of the chest, a lump in the throat. Over time, these peaks become less intense and less frequent, and eventually they fade away.

In most cases, though, grief and sadness are not the only emotions we experience in connection with loss. Before an impending loss, we often torture ourselves with false hopes. Afterwards, we may be consumed by guilt, even if others can see that it is irrational: "If only I had made him go to the doctor sooner." Equally common are feelings of anger and relief. These reactions can be even more insidious in the damage that they do, because many people are ashamed of such feelings and cannot admit to them.

Various factors in ourselves or our environments can also make grief more prolonged and difficult, by leaving behind a sense of unresolved issues or by delaying or interfering with the process of resolution. For example, if the death was very sudden, there will be a sense of many things left undone and unsaid. If we deny our own feelings or perceive that others disapprove of them because they are not "proper" or "legitimate," we do not get rid of the feelings – we only cut ourselves off from dealing with them. If multiple losses have occurred in too short a time in the past, we may not have the inner resources left to cope with the present. If the people we are used to depending on are overwhelmed by their own feelings, our social support network may unravel when we need it most. Or if those around us do not share our sense of loss, they may be unable to relate to what we are experiencing. The following are a few important guidelines for those who are grieving.

1. Recognize that each person grieves in his or her own way. Some people need to talk about their loss and to express their feelings openly, but that is not true of everyone. Giving other people the message that they are unhealthy or foolish or simply wrong because they do not grieve the way they are "supposed" to, because they cry too much or do not cry at all, is unsupportive and unhelpful. Telling yourself this message is just as destructive.

2. Support the acknowledgement and acceptance of all of the thoughts and feelings that arise from the loss. Telling people that they "shouldn't" feel what they are feeling never works. Instead, it only adds to the feelings of guilt, isolation and anger. Acknowledging and working through the feelings is a much more effective way to resolve them.

3. Recognize that the healing will take time. In our culture, we have somehow become uncomfortable with grief and mourning. A person who wears black after the funeral – or even at the funeral itself – is looked upon with distaste. A week of emergency leave is seen as sufficient, if not excessive. In reality, it is not uncommon for full recovery to take several months to a year.

4. Anticipate problems when you can. Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays may bring up memories of earlier times and acute awareness of the person who is no longer there to take his or her accustomed role in the celebration. Special occasions during the first year after the loss are likely to be especially difficult, because each one is the first Thanksgiving, the first birthday, etc., without that person. By thinking ahead, you can help to modify old traditions or start new customs that both honor the past and look to the future. By the time the second year begins, you will have been through each event once already, and the new ways of doing things will probably start feeling more natural and familiar.

5. Seek professional help. Not everyone will need the expertise of a professional counselor to recover from grief. But if the circumstances of the loss seem to be more than you can handle, or if you are not sure whether what you are experiencing is "normal," a trained counselor will be able to help you sort out these feelings. He or she will also be able to offer understanding and support in ways that your family and friends, who are locked into their own perspective, may not be able to do. For best results, I recommend looking for a counselor who is specifically trained in dealing with grief and trauma resolution.

Author Lynn Mary Karjala, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Roswell, Georgia. For more information, please visit her web site at

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

• Obtain copies of Death Certificate

• Make copies of dated obituary notice

• Make copies of newspaper articles

• Obtain Certificates of Appointment (if you are filing as executor, administrator or in any other fiduciary responsibility)

• Check contents of safe deposit box

• Review will with attorney and proceed with filing

• Make copies of marriage certificate

• Make copies of birth certificates (yours and deceased's)

• Compile list of heirs, next of kin, beneficiaries (include full names and addresses)

• Assemble life insurance policies

• Locate military records

• File for Social Security and Veteran's benefits

• File for life insurance benefits

• File for Fraternal, Union & Association benefits

• File for employer benefits

• Contact creditors

• Check health insurance continuation

• Review your will

• Pre-arrange your services

• Establish credit in your name

• Transfer car title into your name

• Review life insurance policy beneficiaries

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

This guide will help you understand the grief you and others may feel after a death, whether sudden or anticipated. We hope this guide will help you realize that these feelings are not unusual and things can get better. You are not alone.

The Grieving Process

Grief is painful and at times the pain seems unbearable. It is a combination of many emotions that come and go, sometimes without warning. Grieving is the period during which we actively experience these emotions. How long and how difficult the grieving period is depends on the relationship with the person who dies, the circumstances of the death, and the situation of the survivors.

Feelings and Symptoms of Grief

Experts describe the process of grieving and the emotions of grief in various ways. The most commonly described reactions are: Shock, Denial, Anger, Guilt, Depression, Acceptance, and Growth. Some people experience the grieving process in this order. Most often, a person feels several of these emotions at the same time, perhaps in different degrees.


If the death comes suddenly, as in an accident or murder, shock is often the first response people feel. Even if the death is anticipated, there may be disbelief at its finality. A person may be numb, or, like a robot, be able to go through the motions of life while actually feeling little. At the same time, physical symptoms such as confusion and loss of appetite are common.


Shock and denial are nature's way of softening the immediate blow of death. Denial can follow soon after the initial shock. People may know their loved one has died, but some part of them can't yet accept the reality of the death. It is not uncommon to fantasize that the deceased will walk through the door, as if nothing has happened. Some people leave bedrooms unchanged or make future plans as if the loved one will participate, just as in the past.


Anger is normal. It may be directed at the deceased for leaving and causing a sense of abandonment, or at the doctors and nurses who did not do enough, or at a murderer who killed without remorse. People of faith may feel anger at God, for allowing so much pain and anguish. Anger may also be directed at oneself for not saving the life of the loved one. It can be a mild feeling or a raging irrational emotion. It can test one's faith in religion or even in the goodness of life.


Few survivors escape some feeling of guilt and regret. "I should have done more" are words that haunt many people. Were angry words exchanged? Most people are very creative in finding reasons for guilt. So many things could have been done differently "if only I had known."


Sadness is the most inevitable emotion of grief. It is normal to feel abandoned, alone and afraid. After the shock and denial have passed and the anger has been exhausted, sadness and even hopelessness may set in. A person may have little energy to do even the simplest daily chores. Crying episodes may seem endless.


Time alone will not heal grief. Acknowledging the loss and experiencing the pain may free the survivor from a yearning to return to the past. Accepting life without the lost loved one may give way to a new perspective about the future. Acceptance does not mean forgetting, but rather using the memories to create a new life without the loved one. Hoping for things to be as they were may be replaced by a search for new relationships and new activities.


Grief is a chance for personal growth. For many people, it may eventually lead to renewed energy to invest in new activities and new relationships. Some people seek meaning in their loss and get involved in causes or projects that help others. Some people find a new compassion in themselves as a result of the pain they have suffered. They may become more sensitive to others, thus enabling richer relationships. Others find new strength and independence they never knew they had.

The Experience of Grief

Grieving people have two choices: they can avoid the pain and all the other emotions associated with their loss and continue on, hoping to forget. The other choice is to recognize grieving and seek healing and growth. Getting over a loss is slow, hard work. In order for growth to be possible, it is essential to allow oneself to feel all the emotions that arise, as painful as they may be, and to treat oneself with patience and kindness.

Feel the Pain

Give into it – even give it precedence over other emotions and activities, because grief is a pain that will get in the way later if it is ignored. Realize that grief has no timetable; it is cyclical, so expect the emotions to come and go for weeks, months or even years. While a show of strength is admirable, it does not serve the need to express sadness, even when it comes out at unexpected times and places.

Talk About Your Sorrow

Take the time to seek comfort from friends who will listen. Let them know you need to talk about your loss. People will understand, although they may not know how to respond. If they change the subject, explain that you need to share your memories and express your sorrow.

Forgive Yourself

Forgive yourself for all the things you believe you should have said or done. Also forgive yourself for the anger and guilt and embarrassment you may have felt while grieving.

Eat Well and Exercise

Grief is exhausting. To sustain your energy, be sure to maintain a balanced diet. Exercise is also important in sustaining energy. Find a routine that suits you – perhaps walks or bike rides with friends, or in solitude.

Indulge Yourself

Take naps, read a good book, listen to your favorite music, get a manicure, go to a ball game, rent a movie. Do something that is frivolous, distracting and that you personally find comforting.

Prepare for Holidays and Anniversaries

Many people feel especially "blue" during these periods, and the anniversary date of the death can be especially painful. Even if you think you've progressed, these dates may bring back some of your painful emotions. Make arrangements to be with friends and family members with whom you are comfortable.

Get Help

Bereavement groups can help you recognize your feelings and put them in perspective. They can also help alleviate the feeling that you are alone. The experience of sharing with others who are in a similar situation can he comforting and reassuring. Sometimes, new friend-ships grow through these groups – even a whole new social network that you did not have before. There are specialized groups for widowed persons, for parents who have lost a child, for victims of drunken drivers, etc. There are also groups that do not specialize. Check with your local hospice or other bereavement support groups for more information.

Take Active Steps to Create a New Life for Yourself

Give yourself as much time to grieve as you need. Once you find new energy, begin to look for interesting things to do. Take courses, donate time to a cause you support, meet new people, or even find a new job. It is often tempting to try to replace the person who has been lost. Whether through adoption, remarriage, or other means; this form of reconciliation often does not work.

Reprinted courtesy of National Hospice Organization (NHO), Arlington, Virginia,

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

One of the most difficult tasks following the death of a loved one is discussing and explaining the death with other children in the family. This task is even more distressing when the parents are in the midst of their own grief. Since many adults have problems dealing with death, they assume that children also cannot cope with it. Parents may try to protect other children by leaving them out of the discussions and rituals associated with the death. Thus, children may feel anxious, bewildered, and alone. The children may be left on their own to seek answers to their questions at a time when they most need the help and assurance of those around them.

All children will be affected in some way by a death in the family. Above all, children who are too young for explanations need love from the significant people in their lives to maintain their own security. Young children may not verbalize their feelings about a death in a family and may hold back their feelings. In reality they may be so overwhelmed that they may appear to be unaffected. It is common for them to express their feelings through behavior and play. Regardless of this ability or inability to express themselves, children do grieve, often very deeply.

Experts have determined that those in grief pass through four major emotions: Fear, Anger, Guilt and Sadness. It should be remembered that everyone who is touched by a death experiences these emotions to some degree – grandparents, friends, physicians, nurses and children. Each adult and child´s reaction to death is individual in nature. Some common reactions are outlined in the adjacent column.

It is important to remember that all of the reactions outlined are normal expressions of grief in children. In the grieving process, time is an important factor. Experts have said that six months after a significant death in a child´s life, normal routine should be resuming. If the child´s reaction seems to be prolonged, seeking professional advice of those who are familiar with the child (e.g., teachers, pediatricians, clergy) may be helpful.

by Fern Ingalls

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

There are many ways in which families, friends and professionals in the field of bereavement can be supportive of those who are grieving. Several suggestions are listed below.

In assessing the needs of a grieving person, it helps to understand the circumstances. Don´t assume that the death of a ninety-year-old grandmother will be mourned in the same way as the death of a five-year-old child. There are enormous differences in the grief process that depend upon the age of the person who died, how he or she died (for example, was it a sudden death, or did it follow a long illness?) and the gender of the survivor (in our society, it is usually more difficult for men than women to express their grief openly).

Please consider the following guidelines as suggestions only.

1. Don´t Try To Lessen The Loss With Easy Answers

“She isn´t hurting any more,” “It must have been his time,” and “Things always work out for the best,” are remarks that are seldom helpful. It´s more important for the bereaved to feel your presence than to hear anything you might say. Remember, there are no ready phrases which will take away the pain of the loss.

Phrases That Don´t Help

“It was God´s will.” (First find out what the survivor´s religious belief is.)


“Be thankful you have another child.” (This lessens the importance of the child who died.)

“I know how you feel.” (None of us knows exactly how someone else feels.)

“Time will heal.” (Time alone does not heal, though it helps. People need time as well as the grief process.)

“There must have been a reason.” (Perhaps not; life is not always fair or reasonable.)

Phrases That Do Help

I call these phrases “door-openers.” They invite the bereaved to talk,


sharing their pain and memories with the listener. Your greatest gift is your invitation to talk, while you listen – offering no advice or judgments, please.

“This must be very painful for you.” (Then the griever feels free to describe the pain.)

“You must have been very close to her.” (The survivor can then talk about the relationship.)

“I have no idea what it must be like for you; I´ve never had a (spouse/child or parent) die. Can you tell me what it´s like?” (Then listen.)

“It must be hard to accept.” (Listen to the difficulties.)

“I really miss (name of deceased). He was a special person. But that can´t compare to how much you must miss him. Tell me what it´s like.” (Then listen.)

2. Don´t Feel That You Must Have “Something To Say”

Your presence is enough. Especially with fresh grief, your embrace, your touch and your sincere sorrow are all the mourner may need. Be sure to call or visit the survivor, no matter how much time has passed since the death. The griever still appreciates knowing you care.

3. Take The Initiative

Don´t merely say, “If there´s anything I can do, give me a call.” Make suggestions and specific offers of help. For example, you might say, “I´d like to mow your lawn next Saturday morning at ten. Would that be okay with you?” or “I´d like to plant the five azalea shrubs that were given at Bill´s funeral. Would you like them in your yard, and could I do it next Wednesday after two o´clock?” or “May I go grocery shopping with you the first time out?” Each thoughtful gesture gives something of yourself and keeps the survivor from having to continually reach out for assistance. It also lets the survivor know you think he or she is important. Our self-esteem is often low during the early months of grief, and knowing someone cares enough to help does wonders for our morale.

4. Help With Everyday Concerns

You might run errands, answer the phone, prepare meals or do the laundry. These seemingly minor tasks loom large to the survivor, for grief drastically depletes physical energy. An offer to spend an evening just watching television together can be very comforting, especially to someone now living alone.

5. Help With The Children

If children are involved, send them special cards and invite them on outings with your family. Children should not be shielded from grief, but occasionally they need a break from the sadness at home, while their parents may welcome a day for grieving without them. Show your love and support and invite them to discuss their thoughts and feelings.They need good listeners, too. Don´t assume that a child who seems calm is not in pain.

6. Listen

A bereaved person desperately needs a listener who is accepting and supportive and willing to listen patiently to often repetitive stories. The need to “tell the story” decreases as healing progresses. And each time the story is told, the finality of the death sinks in a little more. When feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, fear and sadness are expressed, accept those feelings. If the survivor keeps them bottled inside, they will slow the healing process. Sharing thoughts and feelings lessens the stress. The increased stress experienced during early grief can lead to health problems for some people. Help your friend stay healthy by listening.

7. Allow The Expression Of Guilt Feelings

A natural reaction to hearing someone express grief is to respond with, “You mustn´t feel guilty. I´m sure you did everything you could.” Don´t try to rescue people from their guilt feelings, which are natural and normal during the grief process. (What most people actually feel is regret. Guilt implies a purposeful act that intends injury; we feel regret when we wish we had somehow been able to change things.)

8. Allow The Survivor To Grieve In His/Her Own Way

Don´t push the mourner to “get over” the loss. If he needs to rake leaves or chop wood to release energy and tension, let him. If he wants to pore over old pictures or read every book on grief he can find, let him. We all grieve in our own way; avoid being judgmental.

9. Accept Mood Swings

Expect good days and bad days for some time. The highs and lows are part of the process. These feelings have been described as waves that sweep in uncontrollably. Gradually the good days become more frequent, but bad ones will occur even a year or more after the death of a loved one.

10. Remember Special Days And Times

Double your efforts to be sensitive to the mourner´s needs during difficult times of the day or on days with special meaning, like holidays, the loved one´s birthday or wedding anniversary, or the anniversary of the death. Mark your calendar so you´ll remember to reach out to the person on or before those special days.

11. Know That Recovery Takes Time

Don´t expect the grieving person to be “over it” within a few weeks. Great waves of emotion may sweep in for many months and then, slowly, gradually, the intensity subsides. It doesn´t happen a day after the funeral or even two months after it, as many people believe. Sometimes the real grieving is just beginning by then. It may be more than a year before you see the results of your caring and support—but when your friend smiles again and feels less pain, the reward is there.

If the mourner doesn´t seem to be recovering at all, despite your best efforts and the passage of time, suggest professional help to assist in learning

new ways of coping. (Find out which professionals in your region are experienced in working with the bereaved. Don´t assume that all counselors and clergy are trained in this area.)

12. Share Your Memories

During the first few months after a death, there´s a tendency to focus on the survivors, while the survivors are focusing on the one who died. By relating your memories of the deceased, you are offering a precious memento to the grieving person. Your love and concern are shown not only in what you share, but in the fact that you took the time to do so.

13. Know That Your Friend Will Always Remember

For the rest of his/her life, a tear may be shed when a special memory is recalled. Your friend is who he/she is today because of having loved that person. Denying the deceased´s past existence denies a part of your friend. Love his/her past as well as his/her present, and you and your friend will be richer for it.

14. Don´t Rush The Survivor

Keep in mind that a grieving person is under extreme stress; don´t press him to participate in outside activities until he´s ready. Trust him to know what is best.


Reprinted courtesy of HEARTLIGHTsm Magazine, Copyright © 1989-1996, Heartlight, Inc.,

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

Shock — The child may not believe the death really happened and will act as though it did not. This is usually because the thought of death is too overwhelming.

Physical Symptoms — The child may have various complaints such as headaches or a stomachache and fear that he, too, will die.

Anger — Being mostly concerned with his/her own needs, the child may be angry at the person who died because he/she has been left “all alone” or that God didn´t “make the person well.”

Guilt — The child may think that he/she caused the death by having been angry with the person who died, or may feel responsible for not having been “better” in some way.

Anxiety and Fear — The child may wonder who will take care of him/her or fear that some other person he/she loves will die.

Regression — The child may revert to behaviors he/she had previously outgrown, such as bed wetting or thumb sucking.

Sadness — The child may show a decrease in activity – being “too quiet.”

It is important to remember that all of the reactions outlined are normal expressions of grief in children. In the grieving process, time is an important factor. Experts have said that six months after a significant death in a child´s life, normal routine should be resuming. If the child´s reaction seems to be prolonged, seeking professional advice of those who are familiar with the child (e.g., teachers, pediatricians, clergy) may be helpful.

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

When a loved one is dying or dies, there is a grieving process. Recovery is a slow and emotionally painful one. The grieving process can be less painful if you try to understand that loss and grief is a natural part of life. Learn to accept your loss and believe in yourself. Believe that you can cope with tragic happenings. Let your experience be a psychological growth process that will help you to deal with future stressful events. The grieving process usually consists of the following stages. Note that not everyone goes through all these stages.

Denial and Shock

At first, it may be difficult for you to accept your own dying or the death of a loved one. As a result you will deny the reality of death. However, this denial will gradually diminish as you begin to express and share your feelings about death and dying with other family members or friends.


During this stage the most common question asked is, “Why me?” You are angry at what you perceive to be the unfairness of death and you may project and displace your anger unto others. When given some social support and respect, you will eventually become less angry and able to move into the next stage of grieving.


Many individuals try to bargain with some sort of deity. They probably try to bargain and offer to give up an enjoyable part of their lives in exchange for the return of health or the lost person.


You may find yourself feeling guilty for things you did or didn´t do prior to the loss. Forgive yourself. Accept your humanness.


You may at first experience a sense of great loss. Mood fluctuations and feelings of isolation and withdrawal may follow. It takes time for you to gradually return to your old self and become socially involved in what´s going on around you. Please note that encouragement and reassurance to the bereaved individual will not be helpful in this stage.


As you go through changes in your social life because of the loss, you may feel lonely and afraid. The more you are able to reach out to others and make new friends, the more this feeling lessens.


Acceptance does not mean happiness. Instead you accept and deal with the reality of the situation.


Eventually you will reach a point where remembering will be less painful and you can begin to look ahead to the future and more good times.

Reprinted courtesy of “Counseling Center, Student Affairs, SUNY Buffalo,”

by Russell P. Friedman & John W. James

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

The traditional Holiday Season, which begins around Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, crests with Christmas and Hanukkah, and ends with New Year´s Eve, can be a very difficult time for those who have lost a loved one. We might erroneously think that once the new year has passed that grieving friends will now have some relief from the constant reminders that someone they love is no longer alive.

Oops! As soon as each New Year has checked in, the marketing machine begins for the next cycle of cards and gifts – Valentine´s Day. For new widows and widowers, this can be one of the most painful of all holidays. From pre-school onwards we begin making and sending Valentine´s cards to friends and family. One of the most personal and loving traditions between married couples is Valentine´s Day. The symbol of this wonderful tradition is a heart.

When someone we love dies, our heart is broken. The heart, the very symbol of the Valentine´s Day celebration, is the emotional aspect that is most damaged by the death of a spouse. Yet, there is very little consciousness at Valentine´s Day for those who are experiencing their first Valentine´s Day alone in 30, 40 or 50 years. Even surrounded by family and friends, they may feel isolated, alone, and as if no one understands.

Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there, only to discover when you need them one more time, they are no longer there. Some days and some events are larger reminders of the fact that someone is missing in our life. Valentine´s Day, like birthdays and anniversaries, is one of those very special days, which can create an immense amount of emotional energy.

When a grieving spouse talks about their sadness, they are often met with comments like, “Don´t feel sad, you should feel grateful you had them so long.” It is probably accurate to say that one of the feelings a grieving spouse might have is gratitude. But gratitude is unlikely to be the most current and pressing feeling at holiday events. Sadness, loneliness, and confusion are more likely to be the emotions that well up in a grieving person on any special occasion or holidays, especially for the first several events following the death.

We all experience losses. Loss is not limited to death. Divorce is a momentous loss event for everyone involved. Moving with the automatic changes in everything familiar can produce tremendous feelings of loss. Major financial changes, either positive or negative, create feelings of loss. We all grieve. We grieve for all of the losses listed above, and nearly forty others. Yet grief is still one of the most off-limit topics for discussion in our society. It seems strange that one of the experiences that we are all going to have is the one experience we are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to talk about.

We have been taught to believe that “Time heals all wounds.” So we tell the griever, “It just takes time.” The grieving person believes we have told them the truth, and waits to feel better. But time is neutral. Time, of itself, does not do anything. Time passes. And painful feelings get buried.

Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the griever. Comments like “Don't feel sad, you should feel grateful you had them so long” and “Time heals all wounds” do not help lead grieving people to correct choices. Rather, the griever is led down a path that leads to more isolation and loneliness. While grievers want and need to talk about their feelings, those around them tell them to not feel sad, and keep busy, and time will heal.

You do not need to become a trained professional to be more helpful to family and friends who are dealing with painful emotional losses. You first need to become aware that grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. Since grief is normal and natural, you do not have to “fix” anyone. Sometimes all they need is for someone to listen, without judgment, analysis, or comment and guide them to the correct actions of recovery.

Russell P. Friedman and John W. James are co-authors of "The Grief Recovery Handbook," The Action Program For Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses (HarperPerrenial, 1998). For information about programs and services, write to: The Grief & Recovery® Institute, P.O. Box 461659, Los Angeles, CA 90046-1659 or call: (323) 650-1234 or fax: (323) 656-9248 or visit their Web site at

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

When a family member dies, you may be reluctant to let your child see you grieve, fearing that the burden of your sadness will be too much for him. But in this situation, it´s even more important to share your feelings. Your child is highly attuned to your ups and downs. Trying to hide your sorrow will be seen as desertion from the child´s point of view.

Parents often ask me: “Isn´t my child too young to learn about death?” I assure them that it is far better for him to learn the facts from his grieving parents than it is to experience their withdrawal without knowing the reason for it.

A child´s sense of death is more primitive than an adult´s. He´ll tend to equate it with being left alone, which brings on the fear of desertion. If parents simply withdraw without explaining what has happened or how they feel about it, the child´s worst fears will be confirmed. For example: “Grandma died, and now Mommy is so sad that maybe she will die, too.”

But when you let your child in on the experience, even let him see that you have unresolved questions about death, he will have the chance to explore “in safety” the kinds of questions that plague us all. He´ll feel included in his family at an important time, and he´ll also have a healing effect on the adults around him, giving them the sense of future and purpose they so desperately need.

I am constantly struck by how often a small child will attempt to comfort a grieving parent. I remember a young mother who had lost her new baby. As she was telling me about it in my office, she started to sob. Her 2-year-old, who was playing quietly in the corner of the room, got up when she saw her mother´s tears and toddled over to her. As she crawled into her mother´s lap, she reached up and clumsily patted her cheek to wipe the tears away. She said “Mommy, I´m here.” Her mother looked down at her, smiled and drew her close. Her child had reminded her that there was a little someone she loved who could balance her grief. For the child, there was the rare sense of power in being able to make her weeping mother smile.

Anytime there is a death in the family, I would urge you to tell your children the truth. Tell him as much as you think he can understand, making sure not to frighten him with painful details. If you say something like, “Grandpa was getting so old that he wasn't able to do all the things he wanted to do” or “When you get old, you get pretty tired, and now he can rest,” you will be helping to prepare your child for the conversations he is bound to overhear.

Naturally, he´ll have questions and unhappy feelings: “Couldn´t we help Grandpa to rest at our house?” or “I miss him and I want to play the games he played with me.” Answer him honestly: “None of us knows why someone we love has to die and go away. Just like you, I hate to give up Grandpa, but what I plan to do is to remember all I can about him so we can keep him with us that way. Can you remember some special things about him to tell me now?”

Your child´s next set of questions is likely to reveal his fears about being left by other members of the family. You´ll also see indications that he is wondering whether his own thoughts or deeds brought on the loss. Because “magic thinking” (the notion that you can affect outcomes simply by your thoughts or wishes) is prevalent in early childhood, children feel that they are to blame. They need repeated assurances that bad things or behavior do not carry with them this kind of retaliation; they did not cause the death.

Of course, share your religious beliefs with your child and talk to him about your own ways of dealing with grief. Children love to hear stories from the past about when their parents were children and their grandparents were young. Make your life as a child come alive for your own child. He´ll get the point that our happy times with loved ones lived on, that our memories are never lost to us.

Reprinted courtesy of

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

You can measure the progress you have made in adjusting to your loss by identifying certain feelings and behaviors, which have appeared, as you feel better.

Complete the following statements to discover those areas in which you have progressed.

• I´ll always remember the happy/funny time:

• I have made the following decisions during the past month:

• I have discovered the following capabilities in myself that I never knew I had:

• This has been a tragic experience, but I have changed and grown because of it. I have learned:

• I have become:

• I now feel like I have regained some control in these areas of my life:

• I feel hopeful about:

• I am making these plans for my future:

• My loved one has died. Although I believe that relationships never die and that my love for the person I lost will go on forever, I can now release him/her and can say good-bye.

• Supports in my life:

Take time to think about those people, groups, and activities in your life which are important to you and help to give meaning to your life.

People Who Are Close To Me:
• Family members:
• Relatives:
• Friends:
• Neighbors:
• Teachers/Counselors:
• Clergy:
• Colleagues:
• Pets:
• Others:

Clubs or Groups:
• Educational Activities:
• Church Groups:
• Job/Work:
• Athletic Activities:
• Arts and Crafts or Music
• Groups:
• Others:

My Favorite Belongings (a special picture, ring or other memento):

Reprinted courtesy of

by Russell P. Friedman & John W. James

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

The question of when to begin a process of completing relationships that have ended or changed, due to death or divorce, is confused by conflicting opinions from a wide variety of sources. Medical, psychological, societal and family experts all approach the issue from differing perspectives.

It is not at all uncommon for us to hear of people being told, by their Professional, “It´s Too Soon to begin your grief work, you´re not ready yet.” We grit our teeth every time we hear that comment.

Imagine that you have fallen down and gashed your leg. Imagine that blood is gushing from the wound. Imagine someone walking by and saying, “It´s Too Soon, you are not ready for medical attention yet.”

Now, imagine that circumstances and events have broken your heart.

Imagine that you are experiencing the massive and conflicting feelings caused by significant emotional loss. Imagine a friend, or worse, a professional, saying to you, “It´s Too Soon, you are not ready for emotional attention yet.”

This is an area that is so filled with misinformation that it is often difficult to fight through to the truth. We have been falsely educated to believe that grievers want and need to be alone. We have been incorrectly socialized to avoid the topic of the loss, in an attempt to protect the griever.

Here is the simple truth: most grievers want and need to talk about “What Happened” and their relationship with that person or event. They want and need to talk about it almost immediately following the loss. It preoccupies them, just as the person with the gashed leg is preoccupied with their accident and their treatment and their recovery. Those who do not want to talk about it will let you know.

When a person learns of the death of a loved one, an almost automatic review process begins. This process may be conscious or unconscious – usually both. In reviewing the relationship, the griever remembers many events that occurred over the length of the relationship. Some of the events are happy and produce fond memories, some are unhappy and produce sad memories. During this automatic review, the griever will usually discover some things that they wish they´d had an opportunity to say, things they wish had ended “different, better, or more.” It is those unsaid things which need to be discovered and completed.

The review is most intense and most accurate in the time immediately following the death. It is the time when we are most focused on the person who died and our relationship with them. We will rarely have another opportunity to remember with such detail and intensity. This is the circumstance where “time” not only doesn´t heal, but also diminishes our memory as we move further away from the death itself.

We will refrain from offering any concrete definition as to the “time” involved. Every griever is unique. Every griever responds at their own pace. It is essential never to compare one griever to another. Each and every griever has their own individual beliefs about dealing with their feelings of loss. Each griever is remembering their own individual relationship with the person who died.

We have been talking about the review that follows the death of a loved one.

Everything above also applies to the death of a “less than loved one.” Everything above also applies to divorce and to any and all significant emotional losses.

As soon as a griever becomes aware of the review process going on inside their head and their heart, it is time to begin the process of Grief & Recovery.

Russell P. Friedman and John W. James are co-authors of “The Grief & Recovery Handbook” – The Action Program For Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses (HarperPerrenial, 1998). For information about programs and services, write to: The Grief & Recovery® Institute, P.O. Box 461659, Los Angeles, CA 90046-1659 or call: (323) 650-9248, Fax: (323) 656-9248 or visit their Web site at

Are There Actual Stages of Grieving?"
by Russell P. Friedman & John W. James

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

Many years ago Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book entitled On Death and Dying. The book identified five stages that a dying person goes through when they are told that they have a terminal illness. Those stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

For many years, in the absence of any other helpful material, well-meaning people incorrectly assigned those same stages to the grief that follows a death or loss. Although a griever might experience some or all of those feeling stages, it is not a correct or helpful basis for dealing with the conflicting feelings caused by loss.

We hesitate to name stages for grief. It is our experience that given ideas on how to respond, grievers will cater their feelings to the ideas presented to them. After all, a griever is often in a very suggestible condition; dazed, numb, walking in quicksand. It is often suggested to grievers that they are in denial. In all of our years of experience, working with tens of thousands of grievers, we have rarely met anyone in denial that a loss has occurred. They say, “Since my mom died, I have had a hard time.” There is no denial in that comment. There is a very clear acknowledgment that there has been a death. If we start with an incorrect premise, we are probably going to wind up very far away from the truth.

What about anger? Often when a death has occurred there is no anger at all. For example, my aged grandmother with whom I had a wonderful relationship got ill and died. Blessedly, it happened pretty quickly, so she did not suffer very much. I am pleased about that. Fortunately, I had just spent some time with her and we had reminisced and had told each other how much we cared about each other. I am very happy about that. There was a funeral ceremony that created a truly accurate memory picture of her, and many people came and talked about her. I loved that. At the funeral a helpful friend reminded me to say any last things to her and then say good-bye, and I did, and I´m glad. I notice from time to time that I am sad when I think of her or when I am reminded of her. And I notice, particularly around the holidays, that I miss her. And I am aware that I have this wonderful memory of my relationship with this incredible woman who was my grandma, and I miss her. And, I am not angry.

Although that is a true story about grandma, it could be a different story and create different feelings. If I had not been able to get to see her and talk to her before she died, I might have been angry at the circumstances that prevented that. If she and I had not gotten along so well, I might have been angry that she died before we had a chance to repair any damage. If those things were true, I would definitely need to include the sense of anger that would attend the communication of any unfinished emotional business, so I could say good-bye.

Unresolved grief is almost always about undelivered communications of an emotional nature. There are a whole host of feelings that may be attached to those unsaid things. Happiness, sadness, love, fear, anger, relief, and compassion, are just some of the feelings that a griever might experience. We do not need to categorize, analyze, or explain those feelings. We do need to learn how to communicate them and then say good-bye to the relationship that has ended.

It is most important to understand that there are no absolutes. There are no definitive stages or time zones for grieving. It is usually helpful to attach feeling value to the undelivered communications that keep you incomplete. Attaching feelings does not have to be histrionic or dramatic, it does not even require tears. It merely needs to be heartfelt, sincere and honest.

Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. Grief is emotional, not intellectual. Rather than defining stages of grief which could easily confuse a griever, we prefer to help each griever find their own truthful expression of the thoughts and feelings that may be keeping them from participating in their own lives. We all bring different and varying beliefs to the losses that occur in our lives, therefore we will each perceive and feel differently about each loss.

Russell P. Friedman and John W. James are co-authors of “The Grief Recovery Handbook – The Action Program For Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses” (HarperPerrenial, 1998). For more information about programs and services, write to: The Grief & Recovery® Institute, P.O. Box 461659, Los Angeles, CA 90046-1659 or call (323) 650-1234 or fax: (323) 656-9248 or visit their Web site at

by Deborah Morris Coryell

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

Loss wears many masks. For some of us, the first mask of loss we see is that of betrayal. “This wasn´t supposed to happen!” Not only was this loss not in our plans, but it is inconceivable to us. Most losses come at us suddenly, unexpectedly, and even if we have had time to “prepare” ourselves, as during a lengthy illness or through a drawn-out process of divorce or relocation, we still often find the reality paralyzing. We look for someone to blame: a doctor, a bus driver, a lunatic, God, our spouses, ourselves. Each is a pitfall since to place blame means that someone could have done something differently so that there would have been a different outcome. Our minds scream, “It wasn´t meant to happen like this!” According to whom? The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda said, “Life is what happens while we´re busy making other plans.”

Our thoughts – what we are thinking – not only affect how we feel, but also keep us open or closed to the possibilities inherent in any situation. Thoughts are physical energy that have been formed by consciousness. The challenge is to be conscious of those thoughts so that we are in charge of them rather than having our thoughts in charge of us. For instance, if someone betrays me, and all I can think is that she is a bad person and I am a poor victimized soul, not only will I be blind to all the factors leading up to the betrayal, but I will also be blind to many of the roads leading away from the betrayal. I will be locked inside a prison of my own making!

Whatever the circumstances or the degree of the betrayal, every situation is like an onion skin with many, many layers, and our task is to stay present as long as it takes to peel away as many of those layers as possible. In this process there´s always a teaching. It´s rarely the one we thought we signed up for and seldom one we would have chosen. If we can hold onto the idea that every moment in our lives is potentially teaching us something, and that we always have some choices in the matter, we can hold ourselves open instead of collapsing around our pain, suffering, and sense of betrayal.

One morning I received, in rapid succession, two letters and a phone call from three friends whom I had always felt to be trusted allies and advisors. For twenty years I had held each of them, with their trials and tribulations, in my heart and mind, available at any hour of the day or night should they need me. Now I was in need. Struggling and vulnerable, I had turned to each of them for help. Each, for their own reasons, turned away from me. A sense of grief and betrayal threatened to overwhelm me in my already fragile state. The loss of 20 years of faith and trust that these friends would be there for me was devastating. Knowing that 60 years of relationship were crumbling beneath my feet, all I could think was, who could I trust? What is there left to trust?

The phone rang again. I picked it up. It was a wise woman friend who felt my pain and loss, and said quietly to me: trust includes betrayal. In the moment she uttered those words, I knew they were true. I couldn´t explain it, even to myself, but I could feel the wisdom, the truth, of the teaching. Over time I have struggled to learn about the trust that includes betrayal. To trust completely is to hold our faith so firmly that even what appears to be and feels like a betrayal can be included as part of the wholeness of that faith. What is such a faith? Faith that life is not arbitrarily singling us out to harass and punish us, to wound us, to torment us; faith that somewhere along the line the wisdom of this moment of loss will be revealed to us. Faith that this is part of the plan. Is betrayal revealed and wisdom concealed?

Abraham Heschel wrote, “To have faith is not to capitulate, but to rise to a higher plane of thinking. To have faith is not to defy human reason, but rather to share divine wisdom.”

Life in its very nature is unpredictable. There are no guarantees of what will happen next. The Tibetans say: “Tomorrow or the next life, which comes first we cannot know.” That very unpredictability holds loss at its center. What we need and have today might no longer be ours tomorrow. This gives rise to the question of whether it was “ours” to begin with.

Trust in the ebb and flow of life is essential to our well-being. We trust that the tides will rise and fall, that the sun will come up each morning and the seasons will follow each other. Can we trust that there is meaning and wisdom in the ebb and flow, the gifts and losses, of our lives? And can we include betrayal in that trust? Loss brings us to our knees. Faith in our constantly changing fortunes – trust in our singular life force – raises us up again.

How big can we get in the face of death? How big can we open the lens of our minds and hearts as we look at the devastation that our lives appear to be? What would it take to keep our hearts and minds open? Betrayal is a powerful threat to our survival. In the face of betrayal, we think we must bolt all the doors and windows. We close our hearts and minds at the very moment when we need more than anything to stay open to let in the love and wisdom that life also offers in the face of loss.

The seed of trust lies in knowing we didn´t lose everything we had; that nothing can be lost once it´s in our hearts and minds. The healing that the loss brings allows us to stay open in “good faith.” We stand in gale force winds buffeted by the duality of betrayal and trust. At the center, our hearts stand open being held by the love which created us. With love, you begin to honor the life that moves through you and that will enable you to create a new and different relationship with your ex-spouse.

It won´t be easy. Life and love ask everything of us. Ultimately, they ask us to be willing to trust enough to continue loving in the face of the betrayal that loss brings.

Deborah Morris Coryell, author of “Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss,” is co-founder and President of “The Shiva Foundation,” a non-profit organization committed to developing resources and offering support in the grieving process. Any questions or comments, visit their Web site at or e-mail Deborah at

by Judy Skapik

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

Most of us know the five stages of grief as defined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although most saddened souls who have lost a loved one will be forced to pass through the flames of each of these stages, the stage that is often the most fearsome and difficult to exit is that of anger. The reason being that none of us really understands what anger is, and what it isn´t.

Anger...the very word is a bit frightening. For it is often the one emotion that we constantly keep up our guard against. This is the emotion that we spend much of our lives trying to harness and come to grips with while simultaneously attempting to avoid its all-consuming passion. The one emotion that is so incredibly difficult to conquer yet can become our best ally in times of need. Fear runs deep when we realize we don´t always have the ability to control this particular aspect of our personalities and character. Yet, if we look upon anger as an emotion that can become a very useful tool in our lives, we will be more able to understand the intricacies of it.

If anger were a picture, it would surely be painted a bright, blazing red with imprints of crimson and black threaded throughout. It is, perhaps, the most complex of all our emotions. The reason being that we don´t always understand why we feel the way we do. This, therefore, is what makes it so difficult to put our fingers upon the specific area(s) of our inner workings that often bottle-up. When specific buttons are pushed, they let loose a spinning turbulence of hot emotion and pain. We know we must find a way to harness this fearful passion and strive to understand why it has so much power over us. For while being a natural emotion, anger can often become our undoing lest we learn to minimize the insurgent fires it fans. If we´re not careful, anger can become a foremost part of our personality that too often propels us through each crisis we encounter. While acting as a camouflage for other equally valuable emotions, anger can flourish and create a wall we will then choose to hide behind. This action hinders our understanding the very feelings that we most desperately need to address. Therefore, in order to allow ourselves to grow in wisdom and understanding, we are in serious need of finding a way to control our anger before it controls us. This does not mean that we should strive to avoid anger altogether. Rather, that we should search for a way of sorting fact from fiction so we can then make decisions to help us travel the path to healing more easily. With these actions we freely choose to become either victor or victim.

When a person is consumed by anger, he is actually harboring a deep fear. Whether the fear is real or imagined is of no consequence as the anger most often renders one totally out of control. Once taken over by this emotion, our most basic feelings rule. While clutched in the throes of fury, we are not always aware of the many acts and words that emanate from within us. If we were able to step back and watch the situation unfold as a movie, we would be shocked and horrified at the vehement feelings that flow so freely from our lips. Often, we would hardly be able to recognize ourselves. So, how does one control his situation before it swallows one up? There is no easy answer, as each individual must determine how to draw strength from within. We must each examine our own heart for the path to follow. While this most definitely is not easy, it can be done. There are many ways and each is as unique as those who seek them. The goal one seeks is making anger work for not against himself!

The role of anger while suffering a great loss is to enable the grief-stricken to let loose all the unbearable sorrows that are weighing them down. It plays a crucial part in allowing those unexpressed feelings to be released before they turn inward and cause depression, self-hatred, anxiety and deep sorrow. Without this process the heart becomes hardened and scarred. It is robbed of the true, deep feelings it is capable of. It is as if the heart builds a towering wall around itself to keep everyone else out. Of course, the result is that no one can get in either. Therefore, while anger is indeed a very crucial element in grief healing, it must be understood in order to help one find the path towards healing. Unresolved anger can imprint a lock upon our hearts that robs us of peace and spontaneous joy. I have experienced grief that was so all-encompassing that I thought I would never emerge from under the weight of it. In the past I have often felt anger yet managed to pull out something of value in order to make it work for me. However, when meeting it head on accompanied by grief and loss, I become totally and utterly helpless. During that time I discovered that the love of family and friends, along with time and prayer were the healing balm that brought my soul back to life again. I also discovered that grief is very hard work and cannot be hurried. Only then was I able to allow myself to really feel my emotions rather than fear them.

It takes time to unwind the tangled web of emotions we carry deep within ourselves. We must be as kind to ourselves as we would be to others. Once anger is understood, we can then begin to make sense of it all. By this action we allow growth that enriches our lives along with the lives of those around us. We then enable ourselves to pass into the next stage of grief and as time goes by realize that life can become beautiful again.

Copyright 1999, by the author. Reprinting prohibited except by permission of author, Judy Skapik. This article and many other services are available on-line through Griefnet:

by Amy R. Barrett, M.S.

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

If you know a child who has experienced the death of a mother, father, caregiver, sister, brother, grandparent or friend, you may have wondered how you can help. Here are a few basic lessons children have taught me about their grieving process. Take what is useful to you and your situation. When in doubt, ask a child or teenager what helps. They will tell you.


After a death, many children want to share their story. They may want to tell you what happened, where they were when they were told about the death and what it was like for them. Telling their story is a healing experience. One of the best ways adults can help young grievers is to listen to their stories.

As adults, we´re often too quick to offer advice, give opinions and make judgments. We think we know what´s best for our children, and we want to make sure they get the right information. But while we´re busy talking, sometimes we miss important messages from children about what they need and how we can best help them.

Answer the questions they ask. Even the hard ones.

Kids learn by asking questions. When they ask questions about a death, it´s usually a sign that they´re curious about something they don´t understand. As an adult, one of the most important things you can do for children is to let them know that all questions are okay to ask, and to answer questions truthfully. Be sensitive to their age and the language they use. No child wants to hear a clinical, adult-sounding answer to their question, but they don´t want to be lied to either. Often the hardest time to be direct is right after a death. When a child asks what happened, use concrete words such as “died” or “killed” instead of vague terms like “passed away.” A young child who hears his mother say, “Dad passed away” or, “I lost my husband,” may be expecting that his father will return or simply needs to be found.

Give the child choices whenever possible.

Children appreciate having choices as much as adults do. They have opinions, and feel valued when allowed to choose. And they don´t like to be left out. For example, it is a meaningful and important experience for children to have the opportunity to say goodbye to the person who died in a way that feels right to them. They can be included in the selection of a casket, clothing, flowers and the service itself. Some children may also want to speak or write something to be included in the service, or participate in some other way.

After a death, having choices allows children to grieve a death in the way that is right for them. Sometimes children in the same family will choose differently. For example, one child may want pictures and memorabilia of the person who died, while another may feel uncomfortable with too many reminders around. If you are a parent, ask your child what feels right to them. Don´t assume that what holds true for one child will be the same for another.

Talk about and remember the person who died.

“My daddy tickled me. He danced with me. He read to me.” Sarah, 9.

Remembering a person who died is part of the healing process. One way to remember is simply to talk about the person who died. It´s okay to use their name and to share what you remember about them. You might say, “Your dad really liked this song,” or “Your mom was the best pie maker I know.”

Bringing up the name of the person who died is one way to give the child permission to share his or her feelings about the deceased. It reminds him that it is not “taboo” to talk about the deceased. Sharing a memory has a similar effect. It also reminds the child that the person who died will continue to “live on” and impact the lives of those left behind.

Children also like to have keepsakes of the person who died. Usually, they are interested in objects which hold an emotional or relational significance. When his father died of a heart attack, Jeremy, 12, asked if he could have his work boots. Although they were old, worn out and too big for his feet, they served as a memory of all the times his father had taken him to the construction site where he worked. Tom, 16, wanted to keep his dad´s flannel shirt. When they went fishing, his dad always wore that shirt; now Tom wears it when he goes fishing.

Respect differences in grieving styles.

For 8-year-old Jolie, whose mother died of a heart attack, grieving was a series of crying jags, one after another. In the days and weeks after her mother died, tears and talking helped soothe the pain. Meg, Jolie´s teenage sister, never shed a tear and showed little emotion when the topic of her mother came up. Meg said she liked to be busy, and felt better when she was shooting baskets and spending time with her friends. This was all very confusing to the girls´ stepfather, who concluded that Meg wasn´t grieving because she hadn´t cried and she hadn´t talked much about her mother. In fact, Jolie and Meg´s responses to their mother´s death were both typical. Children´s grieving styles – even in the same family – can be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Recognizing that each person grieves in their own way is essential to the healing process for a family. Listen to children talk about their feelings and watch their behavior, and you will help clarify and affirm these natural differences.

Amy R. Barrett, M.S., is Director of Children´s Grief Services of The Dougy Center for Grieving Children in Portland, Oregon. Available through The Dougy Center: 35 Ways to Help a Grieving Child, Helping Children Cope with Death, and Helping Teens Cope with Death. Web site:, P.O. Box 86852, Portland, Oregon 97286, (503) 775-5683.

by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D.

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

To help you understand what you might encounter with your own children or those you care for, we have roughly divided children into age groups ranging from babies to young adults. This should give you some guidance as to what to expect and how you can be most helpful depending on the child´s stage of development at the time of the death.

As children grow, they will need to re-experience the loss at each stage of

development. For example, at age five a child´s understanding of death has moved from fantasy-based to reality-based. As they learn and understand more, they may need to review and re-experience the loss. When children realize the finality of death, they need to re-interpret what the death means to them. It´s important to know this so that you don´t feel you are “taking two steps backward,” if your child becomes preoccupied with the loss at different stages of his development.

Babies (birth to eighteen months of age)

Naturally, babies can´t ask questions, however they do experience a visceral response to loss. They feel it in their bones and sense it in their environment. An infant´s view of the world is self-centered and they believe that all things exist for them and because of them. You may experience the baby as more cranky and irritable. This will depend upon their relationship to the deceased.

Naturally, babies will feel more of a loss if it is one or both parents, than if it is an uncle or other close relative that died. Babies often become fussy, hard to calm and fear separation. They may develop sleep problems or night terrors. By maintaining children´s regular patterns, we help offer a safe parameter within which they can experience their grief. During this time, it´s important to offer extra comfort, holding and soothing time.

Keep in mind that older babies often understand what you are saying, even if they are unable to speak. Offer soothing statements and avoid talking of the death within earshot. Immediate physical comfort and a commitment to help the child cope as she ages are the best actions you can take. If you are the primary caretaker of the infant, it can be challenging to care for the baby´s needs as well as your own. If at all possible, find someone outside the family to assist you in caring for the infant so you can give yourself the necessary time to organize your life and to grieve.

Toddlers (eighteen months to three years)

During this phase of development, the parents or caregivers´ main task is to set limits with the child. If your world is upside down because of a sudden death in your home, it is hard to keep up with previous limit setting. However, it is essential to the child´s well-being. Toddlers may also regress and become extremely fearful of separation from their caregivers. If the toddler was toilet trained at the time of the death, they may have a setback. You may experience them as unduly demanding, whining and needy. They may not want to eat the way they had previously or they may not sleep well. Keeping children on a regular schedule will help to alleviate these fluctuations.

It is okay to put words on your experience and to tell the child, “I am sad because ______.” It is also important to answer any questions openly and honestly. Telling a child that the dead person is “just sleeping” or “God came and took him” can create enormous fear and anxiety. The child may be afraid to sleep or fear he will be snatched away by God. It´s okay to use the word dead and to look for ways to illustrate the point.

Direct questions from toddlers are also challenging. At a time when you may be emotionally drained, direct questions can be hard to cope with and answer. For toddlers, the concept of death is hard to grasp. They have experienced nothing that will prepare them for the concept. On their favorite cartoons, characters “die” and then return on the next episode. Finality is unfamiliar. Until now, death has been something that just happens in movies or in cartoons. Nobody really dies. That illusion is shattered when a child faces their first loss experience.

Young Children (three to ten years)

Until children are about four-years-old, they cannot conceptualize death, and because developmentally they believe the world revolves around them, some will even worry that they may have caused the death. Sometime between the ages of five and nine, children begin to understand death, and realize its finality. They will feel abandonment quite keenly and will worry that their needs may not be taken care of, i.e., Who will feed me? Where will I go? Most adults begin the first stage of mourning almost immediately and children usually begin mourning several weeks or months after the death. According to Dr. Roberta Temes in “Living With An Empty Chair: A Guide Through Grief,” children should not be criticized for caring, selfishly, about their own personal needs at the time of parental death. The child who asks, “But who will take me to the ball game?” or “Who´ll braid my hair for me each morning?” or “What´s for dinner?” when everyone else is weeping, is not being unduly selfish. She is responding as a child should respond.

Children between the ages of three and six do much of their learning through repetition. For this reason, it´s common for children to ask the same question over and over or to alter it slightly. While this can be draining for you, take the time to answer the questions. Keep in mind that the child´s peers will have little information on death and will not have the emotional maturity to help their friend. The only support children of this age group can get is yours – or other support you provide.


Pam´s son Ian was 12 when his father died. She shares her story...

“My twelve-year-old son, Ian, was anxious to show his dad the new braces Dr. Mathews had installed that day. This was a new experience, a right of passage if you will, and Ian needed to share it with his dad. Although George and I had been divorced for many years, we were friends and joyfully shared in the day-to-day life of our son. I drove Ian to his dad´s office, he smiled broadly at his dad, showing off his new hardware, and George embraced him. It was the last embrace. George was dead just one day later. Ian, at age 12, was at least able to communicate and express his sadness and anger verbally, although minimally. Imagine experiencing all the intense emotions of a sudden loss, without the ability to express your feelings in words. This is the younger child´s plight.”

Adolescence is a time of mood changes, and under the best of circumstances, a challenging time for all involved. Add to this the sudden death of someone close when they are least prepared and it´s no wonder children find themselves wondering about the meaning of life. Peer support is extremely important to the adolescent. If the adolescent child has lost a close friend, they should be encouraged to meet with and spend time with their peers and to use the time constructively.

A grief support group comprised of children experiencing the same type of loss will help immensely. You will need to help the child develop a safe way to express his emotions, especially anger. If there aren´t any existing support groups, encourage your child to start one through school or church. Another challenge of this age group is the need to be independent. It is around this age that children begin pulling back from their parents seeking their own identity and independence. Barbara D. Rosof writes in The Worst Loss, “In order to grow toward psychological independence, [adolescents] must loosen the ties of dependency that have bound them to parents all their lives. This is a long process, one that proceeds by fits and starts over the next ten years. As they begin to pull away, the prospect of sharing with you the intense and painful feelings that the death of a sibling [or other close person] stirs up may feel dangerously regressive: It threatens to pull adolescents back into the very dependency they are working so hard to outgrow.”

For this reason an outside support person becomes essential. If you cannot organize a support group through church or school, talk to a school counselor or other professional about being the support person for your child.

Remember, that no matter how old the child, they have experienced the worst possible tragedy. They will feel terrible. They should not be encouraged to forget or deny. They must learn, with your help and guidance, that they can overcome emotional catastrophes. Allowing the child to feel the full power of the sudden loss will help increase coping ability for the rest of the child´s life.

Adapted with permission from “I Wasn´t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing after the Sudden Death of a Loved One,” by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D., Champion Press, 2000,

by Russell P. Friedman & John W. James

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

There are many misconceptions about the pain associated with significant emotional loss. Some relate to the reaction of others, for example: “It´s not fair to burden them with my pain,” or “You have to be strong for others (mom, dad, kids, etc.).” Some relate to how we think we should be reacting to the loss, for example: “I should be over it by now,” or “I have to keep busy.”

One of the most hidden and dangerous fears is that if I ever let myself feel the pain that I sense, I will start crying and never be able to stop. It is precisely this kind of incorrect assumption that can keep us locked into a position of unresolved grief, forever. And yet, based on what we have been taught in our society, it is a most logical extension of everything we have ever learned.

We were taught from our earliest ages that sad, painful, or negative feelings were to be avoided at all cost, and if we were unable to avoid them, at least, not to show them in public. Everyone we´ve ever talked to can relate to these comments: “If you´re going to cry, go to your room, and cry alone”; “Knock off that crying or I´ll give you a reason to cry”; “Smile and the whole world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”

Those are just a small sampling of the kinds of remarks that have dictated your reactions to the loss events in your life. In a previous article, we said that many of our survival habits were developed when we were quite young, and that we may be managing adult lives with the limited skills and perceptions of a child.

If you picture a tiny infant, unhappy about something, you will realize that the infant communicates displeasure at the top of its little lungs. If you think about it, you will recall that infants also express pleasure at the top of their lungs. They make no distinction between happy and sad, in terms of volume or intensity. As children move out of infancy, they are socialized to reduce both the volume and intensity of the expression of their feeling responses to life. This might be somewhat acceptable if both happy and sad were merely muted a little and muted equally. Unfortunately, only the sad side gets severely crimped. The happy, joyful, and positive feelings are allowed to stay, and can even be shared with others. The other half of our normal feeling existence is relegated to isolation, separation, and aloneness.

With all of those beliefs and habits as a backdrop, it is almost entirely logical that we might be terrified to show or express any of the normal and natural painful reactions to losses of any kind. It even makes sense that we might believe that if we started crying, we wouldn´t be able to stop. So, if you have been a little hard on yourself for what you could not do, give yourself a break. You may have been executing your programming perfectly.

It may sound a little harsh and inhuman to say that you were programmed, but if you follow the analogy, you might find it helpful in allowing you to change. At the very least, if you can see how well you executed the incorrect things you learned, you will see that you can also execute correct things with great precision.

We have yet to see anyone not be able to stop crying. However, we have seen too many people not begin the process of Grief & Recovery because of an inordinate fear of any expression of their sad, painful, or negative feelings.

For information about programs and services, write to: The Grief & Recovery® Institute, P.O. Box 461659, • Los Angeles, CA 90046-1659 or call (323) 650-1234 or fax (323) 656-9248. Russell P. Friedman and John W. James are co-authors of “The Grief Recovery Handbook” The Action Program For Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses (HarperPerrenial, 1998).

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

1. Decide what you can handle comfortably and let family and friends know.

Can I handle the responsibility of the family dinner, etc., or shall I ask someone else to do it? Do I want to talk about my loved one or not? Shall I stay here for the holidays or go to a completely different environment?

2. Make some changes if they feel comfortable for you.

Open presents Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning. Vary the timing of Hanukkah gift giving. Have dinner at a different time or place. Let the children take over decorating the house, the tree, baking and food preparation, etc.

3. Re-examine your priorities: greeting cards, holiday baking, decorating, putting up a tree, family dinner, etc.

Do I really enjoy doing this? Is this a task that can be shared?

4. Consider doing something special for someone else.

Donate a gift in the memory of your loved one. Donate money you would have spent on your loved one as a gift to charity. Adopt a needy family for the holidays. Invite a guest (foreign student or senior citizen) to share festivities.

5. Recognize your loved one´s presence in the family.

Burn a special candle to quietly include your loved one. Hang a stocking for your loved one in which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings. Listen to music especially liked by the deceased. Look at photographs.

6. If you decide to do holiday shopping, make a list aheadof time and keep it handy for a good day, or shop through a catalogue.

7. Observe the holidays in ways which are comfortable for you.

There is no right or wrong way of handling holidays. Once you´ve decided how to observe the time, let others know.

8. Try to get enough rest—holidays can be emotionally and physically draining.

9. Allow yourself to express your feelings.

Holidays often magnify feelings of loss. It is natural to feel sadness. Share concerns, apprehensions, feelings with a friend. The need for support is often greater during holidays.

10. Keep in mind that the experience of many bereaved persons is that they do come to enjoy holidays again.

There will be other holiday seasons to celebrate.

11. Don´t be afraid to have fun.

Laughter and joy are not disrespectful. Give yourself and your family members permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the holidays.

Reprinted courtesy of Rivendell Resources,, founded in 1995 by Cendra Lynn.

by Joanetta Hendel

A timely selection from My Care Letter, a free, monthly publication from the funeral directors at Lindquist Mortuaries/Cemeteries.

In anticipation of my first Christmas morning, Mamma posed me, freshly scrubbed and curled, before the Christmas tree for my annual holiday photograph. This was the beginning of a lifetime of Christmas celebrations—each one steeped in rituals and traditions built upon those which had gone before. As a child, I delighted in the magical world created in the minds of the very young. We woke to sparkle and glitter, presents stacked high, and bulging stockings. As I grew, the magic of childhood gave way to a different reality and a different joy, but the rituals remained largely unchanged.

Marriage brought family and babies of my own. The photo albums grew and expanded as I made a career of the holidays and the memories they held. Year after year, I lined up the little ones in front of the tree—just as my mother had done before me. Each holiday celebration was an extension of former joys, other times, different places. Importance was placed on building bridges from the past into the present.

Constancy equals comfort and security. Psychologists agree that tradition is important to the development of society and to family structure. Family traditions are healthy and normal. There´s only one thing wrong with tradition—it´s filled with shoulds. “We should have the tree up before the 15th. We should entertain. We should shop...decorate...send cards.

We should be happy....” Tradition creates purpose and connection. Tradition provides roots. But tradition magnifies the pain of our loss.

At our house, we trim the tree the first weekend in December. It´s tradition. But the year Alexander died, I didn´t feel like trimming the tree at all. When we did do it, as many changes as possible were made in the ritual to help me tolerate the empty space left in his absence. The children receive a new Christmas ornament each year to add to their collections. Someday these ornaments will adorn their own Christmas trees in their own homes. But what about Alex´s set? Those three ornaments will never bloom into twenty and will never follow him into adulthood. That first year after Alex´s death I bought him one anyway—an angel in flight. Four stockings hang from the mantel. Do I hang Alexander´s stocking, or do I put it away forever? The first year, I hung his apart from the others. But every year since, his stocking has hung with the other four. I have five children with five Christmas stockings—and I always will.

The key to surviving Christmas as a bereaved individual is flexibility and foresight. It´s important to plan ahead, and it´s important to anticipate the changes you will need to make. Habit is easy, and it does take a little more effort to implement creative change in holiday planning. But change and adjustment are essential for the newly bereaved. Families can spend so many years following the same patterns and routines that they forget these choices were made because they were right for their moment. But choices made under different circumstances may not be the right choices for the newly bereaved.

The early moments of grief demand new rules. Even customs “set in stone” can be bent. Festivities that expend more energy than we have to give can be skipped. Entertaining and socializing can be altered or curtailed altogether. Decisions can be delayed and new plans designed and implemented at the last minute. The bereaved can learn to be creative and flexible in customizing their holiday plans.

Traditions bind families and societies tightly to one another, but altering our traditions to suit our current needs makes sense. Each moment, each stage of life, demands its own customs and its own rituals. By building our bridges moment to moment, we link the past and present to the future.

Reprinted courtesy of Rivendell Resources,, founded in 1994 by Cendra Lynn.

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