End of Life

Coping With Grief

Symptoms of Grief

Losing a family member or someone close to you can make you feel sad, lost, and alone. You may have been so busy with caregiving that it now seems you have nothing to do. This is all part of grieving, the natural reaction to losing someone in your life. Grieving can start before the dying person is gone.

Bereavement is the formal term for the period of grief and mourning after a death. You may experience grief as a mental, physical, social, and/or emotional reaction.

  • Mental reactions can include having trouble concentrating and making decisions.
  • Physical reactions can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness.
  • Social reactions can include avoiding the people, places, and activities you enjoyed with the person you lost.
  • Emotional reactions can include cycling repeatedly through feelings of numbness, disbelief, anger, and despair.
  • You may cry more easily. It's common to have rollercoaster emotions for a while. It's a good idea to wait for a while before making big decisions like moving or changing jobs when you are grieving.

The Grieving Period

How long bereavement lasts can depend on how close you were to the person who died, if the person's death was expected, and other factors. Friends, family, and faith may be sources of support. Grief counseling or grief therapy is also helpful to some people.

Some people may feel better sooner than they expect. Others may take longer. As time passes, you may still miss your loved one, but for most people, the intense pain will lessen. There will be good and bad days. You will know that you are feeling better when the good days begin to outnumber the bad.

There are many paths to healing after the loss of an important person in your life. Try not to ignore your grief. Support may be available until you can manage the grief on your own. It is especially important to get help with your loss if you feel overwhelmed, consumed, or very depressed by it.

Support from Family and Friends

Let your family and friends know when you want to talk about the person you’ve lost. They are grieving, too, and may welcome the chance to share memories. It may help to be with people who let you say what you're feeling. Accept offers of help or companionship from family and friends. It’s good for you and for them.

Hospice Support

An essential part of hospice is providing grief counseling to the family of someone who was under their care. Even if hospice was not used before the death, you can ask hospice workers for bereavement support at this time.

If the death happened at a nursing home or hospital, there is often a social worker you can ask for resources that can help. Funeral homes may also be able to suggest where to find counseling.

Support Groups

Sometimes it helps to talk to other people who are grieving. Check with hospitals, religious groups, local agencies, or your health care provider to find out about grief or bereavement support groups.

Choose a support group where you feel comfortable sharing your feelings and concerns. Members of support groups often have helpful ideas or know of useful resources based on their own experiences. Online support groups make it possible for people to receive support without having to leave home.

Therapy, Individual or Group

Sometimes short-term talk therapy with a counselor can help. You can choose between seeing a therapist one-on-one or joining a group, known as “group therapy,” which is similar to a support group. Groups may be specialized—for people who have lost a child or a spouse -- or they can be for anyone who is learning to manage grief.

Spiritual Support

People who are grieving may also find comfort in their faith. Visits with a representative of your religious community (such as a minister, priest, rabbi, or Muslim cleric) may help you move through the grieving process and come to terms with your loss. Praying, talking with others of your faith, reading religious or spiritual texts, or listening to uplifting music may also bring comfort.