These thoughtful articles provide guidance and direction for anyone touched by grief.
Helping Yourself with Grief
Someone you love has died. You are now faced with the difficult, but important, need to mourn. It is an essential part of healing. The following articles provide many practical suggestions to help you move toward healing in your unique grief journey.
- You Must Say Hello Before You Say Goodbye
- You Must Make Friends with the Darkness Before You Can Enter the Light
- You Must Go Backward Before You Can Go Forward
- Mustering the Courage to Mourn
- Love and Grief: In Communion and Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts
- Will I Befriend My Feelings Or Will I Deny Them
- Will I Grieve or Will I Mourn
- Helping Yourself Heal When Someone Dies
- Helping Yourself Heal When Your Child Dies
- Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies
- Helping Yourself Heal When a Parent Dies
- Helping Yourself When a Baby Dies
- Helping Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season
- Helping Dispel 5 Common Myths About Grief
- Helping Yourself Live When You Are Seriously Ill
- Helping Yourself Live When You Are Dying
- Exploring the Uniqueness of Your Suicide Grief
- Healing Your Traumatized Heart: Seeking Safety, Understanding, and Peace Part 1
- Healing Your Traumatized Heart: Seeking Safety, Understanding, and Peace Part 2
- Healing Your Grieving Body: Physical Practices for Mourners
- The Spiritual Path to Healing: An Introduction
- The Spiritual Path to Healing: Mourning Ideas, Part 1
- The Spiritual Path to Healing: Mourning Ideas, Part 2
- The Spiritual Path to Healing: Mourning Ideas, Part 3
- The Spiritual Path to Healing: Mourning Ideas, Part 4
- Dispelling the Misconceptions About Suicide and Grief and Mourning
- The Capacity to Love Requires the Neccesity to Mourn
- Helping Yourself Heal When an Adult Sibling Dies
- Helping Your Family Heal After Stillbirth
- Healing Your Grief About Getting Older
- Embracing the Sadness of Grief
- Helping a Friend or Family Member After a Cancer Diagnosis
- When Your Soulmate Dies
Helping Others with Grief
A friend has experienced the death of a loved one. How can you help? The following articles provide many practical suggestions for helping others with grief:
- Helping a Friend in Grief
- Helping a Man Who is Grieving
- Helping a Friend Who is Dying
- Helping a Friend Who is Seriously Ill
- Helping a Suicide Survivor Heal
- Helping a Homicide Survivor Heal
- Helping a Grandparent Who Is Grieving
- Helping a Grieving Friend in the Workplace
- Helping AIDS Survivors Heal
- Helping SIDS Survivors Heal
- Helping Your Family When a Member is Dying
- Helping Your Family When a Member is Seriously Ill
- Helping Your Family Cope When a Pet Dies
- Helping Your Family Decide if Organ and Tissue Donation is Right for You
- Helping a Friend or Family Member After a Cancer Diagnosis
- Helping Your Family Heal After Miscarriage
- Helping Yourself Heal When Someone You Care About Dies of a Drug Overdose
For and About Grieving Children and Teenagers
Children and teenagers have special needs following the death of a friend or family member. The following articles provide wonderful insight in helping children and teens understand and express their grief.
- Helping Children Cope with Grief
- Helping Teenagers Cope with Grief
- Helping Infants and Toddlers When Someone They Love Dies
- Helping Children with Funerals
- Helping Children Understand Cremation
- Helping a Child Who is Seriously Ill
- Helping a Child Who is Dying
- Helping Grieving Children at School
- Helping Bereaved Siblings Heal
- Finding the Right Words: Guidelines on how to talk to grieving children about death
Funerals, Memorials, Cremation and Related Topics
The days following the death of a loved one can be filled with sadness and confusion. The following articles can help you understand the importance of the rituals surrounding death.
- Helping Your Family Personalize the Funeral
- Helping Create a Meaningful Eulogy
- Ten Freedoms for Creating a Meaningful Funeral
- Why is the Funeral Ritual Important?
For Hospices and Other Caregivers
Caregivers have special needs of their own. The following articles are designed to help caregivers take care of themselves as well as those who are suffering from loss.
- Companioning the Bereaved: An Introduction
- Tenet 1: Companioning Principle
- Tenet 2: Companioning Principle
- The Awesome Power of “Telling The Story”: Why I’m Proud to be a Grief Counselor
- Caregiver as Gardener: A Parable
- Companioning vs. Treating: Beyond The Medical Model of Bereavement Caregiving
- Growing Through Grief: The Role of Support Groups
- Responding to Problems in the Support Group Setting
- The Bereavement Caregiver’s Self-Care Guidelines
Children and Grief
When a loved one dies, it can be difficult to know how to help kids cope with the loss, particularly as you work through your own grief. By being open and honest, encouraging communication, and sharing your own feelings, you and your children cope with painful times and begin your healing journey together.
Childhood and Grief
A child’s ability to understand death varies according to his or her age.
Infants and Toddlers feel a loss through the absence of a loved one, interruption in their regular routine, and through the grief and stress they sense in their parents or other family members. Make sure to spend extra time holding and cuddling the child, and try to keep them on a regular schedule as much as possible.
Younger children might have trouble understanding the permanence of death or differentiating between fantasy and reality. They also might believe the death of a loved one is a form of punishment for something the child did. When you talk to young children about death, make sure to use concrete language, avoid euphemisms, and reassure the child that the death is not a consequence of something he or she did.
Older children are beginning to understand the permanence of death, and might associate it with old age or personify it in terms of frightening images or a cartoonish boogeyman. They often know more about how the body works, and have more specific questions. It’s important to answer their questions to the best of your ability, and provide as much specific, factual information as possible. Try to keep them to regular routines, and give them opportunities for the constructive venting of feelings and grief.
Teenagers process grief more like adults, experiencing anger and sadness as they begin to cope. Don’t feel disappointed if it seems that they may want to talk more to their friends than to parents, this is normal and can help them to share their feelings and heal. Because their grief is similar to that of an adult, a teenager may take longer to recover from a loss than a younger child. Questions may come up about mortality and vulnerability, and your role is to empathize with them, listen to their concerns, and remind them that their feelings are normal and things will get better with time.
Tips for Talking to Children about Death
- Use concrete terms when talking about death. Don’t shy away from the words “death” and “dead”. While it might seem gentler to use phrases like “passed away” or “went to sleep”, this can be confusing for a child and lead to difficulty understanding the finality of death.
- If your child doesn’t understand what death means, try explaining it in terms of the body, such as “Aunt Rachel’s body stopped working”.
- Encourage questions, and answer them to the best of your ability.
- Be honest when you don’t know the answer. An honest, “I just don’t know the answer to that one”, can be more comforting than a made-up answer or an answer you don’t believe.
- Your child will probably be dealing with a lot of difficult emotions, some of which he or she may not have experienced before. Give your child a safe space to express his or her emotions, and spend time talking openly about his or her feelings and thoughts.
- Remember that recovery is an ongoing process. Young children often experience periods of normalcy which interrupt their intense grief, and the alternating periods might shift over the course of hours, days, or even years.
- Listen to their fears and reassure them. Children can develop fears as the result of a loved one’s death. Whether it’s an irrational fear linked to the cause of death, a fear of losing you or another family member, or a fear that something they did caused the death to happen, spend time comforting your children and helping to assuage their fears.
- If your family holds particular religious beliefs about what happens after you die, you can share them with your child as a source of comfort (but don’t introduce it too soon, as it might be too abstract for kids under age 5). An alternate approach is to let them decide for themselves, by saying something like, “No one knows for sure. Some people think you go to heaven, while others believe people come back on earth as different creatures. What do you think?”
- Don’t hide your own grief. It’s important for children to know that adults cry when they’re very sad, too, and that their feelings of grief are normal and shared by others. Let them know that you’re okay, and find comfort together by sharing your feelings and remembering the loved one who is gone.
- If your child seems to be struggling especially hard with a loss, or if grief is seriously interfering with their day-to-day activities, routines, and outlook on life, don’t be afraid to seek professional help or therapy when it’s needed.
The following links provide more detailed information on a variety of topics related to helping children and teens cope with loss.
When Families Grieve™ is a special guide that was created by Sesame Workshop, the educational organization behind Sesame Street. This guide helps explore children’s understanding of death and offers information about communicating with a child, ideas for coping together, and ways to move forward with your family after the loss off a loved one.
Barr Harris, a center for children’s grief, created this list of recommended children’s books that help teach ways to deal with death and grief. The easy-to-read stories can open up a meaningful discussion between you and your child and will help children make sense of their feelings in order to understand what they are experiencing.
Here you’ll find a Huffington Post article by Judith Acosta containing advice and guidance from her book Verbal First Aid, which counsels parents on ways to help kids heal from fear and pain in a variety of situations, including the death of a loved one. If you find the advice in the article helpful, you may want to read her book for even more insight.