3 Things to Know About Grief
Leslie Eames, MA, CT Delaware Hospice Bereavement Counselor
We live in a culture that doesn’t give people permission to grieve. In the United States, it’s pretty standard to get just three to five paid days off for a funeral. When your whole world’s been turned upside down, that’s nothing. But even if you feel like society is sweeping your grief under the carpet, it’s important that you give yourself the space to grieve. Here are three things to know about the grief journey if you or a loved one are experiencing grief.
1. Your grief journey is unique.
Many people are familiar with the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. And sometimes it can be helpful to see your grief through the lens of a particular framework—whether it’s Kubler-Ross’s or another one. But even Kubler-Ross herself said she never intended for her model to become gospel.
In my practice as a grief counselor, there’s a picture I like to show people embarking on their grief journey. It shows a nice neat curve called “Stages of Grief” on the left. Next to it, you see that same curve, scribbled all over with twists and turns and roundabouts, entitled “My Experience.” It’s a great illustration of how someone’s grief journey can’t be captured by a simple model. Your grief journey will be unique to you. And that’s OK.
2. Grief involves more than your emotions.
We often talk about the emotional aspects of grief like sadness and anger, but grieving impacts all aspects of your life — physical, cognitive, spiritual, and social, as well as emotional. And its manifestations are wide ranging.
It’s common for people to experience a loss of appetite, have difficulty sleeping, or sleep more than usual. They may fall ill from exhaustion, especially after a long stretch of caregiving before their loved one’s death. Grievers may neglect their own self-care, like scheduling flu shots or check-ups. They may experience guilt, feel angry with God, or rely more on their faith. Some people have so much difficulty concentrating that they can’t even read a book, have trouble paying their bills, or forget to get groceries. And some individuals pull back from everything—they no longer want to go to the gym, the movies, the mall, or even church.
3. Finding a way to connect can help you reinvest in life.
Even if you’re surrounded by caring family or a faith community, you may often feel alone in your grief, or as though no one really understands what you’re going through. Resources like grief support groups, grief dinner groups, or one-on-one grief counseling can be extremely helpful for finding a way to reinvest in life. There are lots of options out there for grief support, both online and in-person.
- One-on-One Counseling: Some people prefer the one-on-one support of a Bereavement Counselor, or a combination of counseling and support groups. As a Bereavement Counselor gets to know you, they can offer targeted suggestions to help you get through difficult times and reinvest in life.
- Traditional Support Groups: In traditional support groups, grieving individuals share and support each other on their journeys. In addition to general support groups, there are loss-specific groups, such as groups for individuals who have lost their spouse/life partner or adults who have lost a parent. All of Delaware Hospice’s support groups are free and open to the community.
- Social Support Groups: Many individuals simply appreciate the companionship of other individuals also experiencing grief. Dinner groups and even walking groups have formed to offer social outlets and common connection. This is a popular option for individuals who no longer feel the need for a traditional support group, but who wish to maintain the informal support a group provides.
- Grief Book Clubs: Book club conversations focus on exploring death and grief through books chapter by chapter, with less focus on self-disclosure.
- Workshops: Workshops focus on different grief topics, such as coping during the holidays.
- Children’s Grief Support: Grief support tailored specifically to children helps meet their unique needs. Delaware Hospice’s New Hope program offers counseling, school groups, and even a four-day-long day camp tailored to grieving children.
Visit our grief resources for more information and our calendar of upcoming events. If you’re too far from Delaware to join us in person, consider one of our virtual options, or check out the offerings at your local hospice organization.