The Grieving Experience
No one is ever fully prepared to lose a loved one. At times the pain may feel unbearable. Grieving individuals experience a roller coaster of emotions, where one day they feel okay and the next are overwhelmed with sadness. The grieving process is different for everyone. The level of grief depends on a number of factors including how close you were to the person who died or how prepared you were for his or her death. Although the grieving process often seems endless, it gets easier with time. Individuals suffering from grief can begin to heal when they familiarize themselves with the symptoms of grief and commit to the essential steps of the healing process.

Common Emotions
Although everyones grieving process is different, there are basic emotions that most people experience. The first emotion, shock, usually accompanies the news of a death. An individual may go numb or be unable to comprehend what is happening. A person in shock may practice everyday tasks but is unable to feel anything. Denial typically follows shock. Even though a person knows their loved one is gone, they may not be able to accept the truth.

As soon as individuals accept the death of a loved one, they often develop feelings of guilt. They either become upset over their last interaction with the loved one or they wish they could have done something to prolong the loved ones life. Sadness inevitably follows guilt and may last for a week, a month or even years. During this stage, individuals may feel alone and experience frequent crying episodes.

Eventually a grieving person begins to move forward and braces themselves for life without the loved one. Acceptance is the first clear sign of healing and is usually accompanied by a positive attitude toward life. From this point on, individuals remain in a state of growth, where they learn to turn their loss into something meaningful.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Dizziness
  • General malaise
  • Upset stomach
  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Assuming the loved ones mannerisms
  • Inability to finish simple jobs
  • Need to take care of others
  • Need to repeat memories of the loved one
  • Feeling the loved ones presence
  • Unexpected crying spells
Coping With Grief
Here are some suggested ways to cope with the grief of losing a loved one:

Have a Funeral, Visitation or Memorial. 
Each of these services bring family and friends together and help the grieving form a support network. Most guests want to help the grieving in any way they can. They may offer to help with any difficulties you are experiencing, or they may offer their companionship.

Talk About Your Grief.
The best way to deal with sadness is to communicate it to others. Share your favorite stories of your loved one. This will not only make it easier to talk about the death but also help you form lasting memories.

Find Hope.
Form relationships with people who have experienced similar grief. They will reassure you that the pain will ease and life will get better.

Live A Healthy Life.
Stress and grief are exhausting emotions. Exercise and nutrition will help you regain energy and strengthen your immune system. Make sure you also get plenty of rest.

Make Small Plans.
During the grieving process it is important to go out and interact with others. Go on a walk with a friend or make a date for lunch. These activities will help you get through each day and ease your transition back into a normal routine.

Coping with grief is not an easy task.
Allow yourself plenty of time to experience emotions, and grow to accept a new life without your loved one in your own time. Remember that it is important and healthy to grieve. Keep your friends and family informed on what you need throughout your healing process.

A Friend's Guide
Finding the right words, fear of saying the wrong ones, and perhaps a lack of direct understanding leave many people uncomfortable reaching out to a grieving friend. Often, we feel responsible for alleviating or creating additional pain for our friends in mourning. In doing so, we fail to realize the loss of a loved one cannot be enhanced or relieved by words. Bereavement is a process and friends can offer support and a listening ear, but there is no way to take away the pain from the person who has experienced the death of someone they love. Rather than worry about what to say to a grieving friend, friends should be receptive to the needs of the bereaved and offer assistance whenever possible.

How to Help During the Early Stages
Listen. Take time to sit down with a grieving friend and ask about their deceased loved one. They will be more than willing to share their favorite memories. You should also be content with silence. Sometimes the grieving find it too difficult to talk but find comfort in having a friend close by.

Ask How You Can Help. Take over as many simple tasks as possible. Even small jobs can add to the stress of a grieving person. Offer to pick up family members from the airport for the funeral. Bring over a warm meal. Take the dog for a walk.

Mention the Deceaseds Name. Mentioning the deceaseds name in conversation makes it easier for everyone to talk about the death. Grieving people need to feel like their loved one has not been forgotten.

Call. Pick up the phone regularly and call your grieving friend to see how he is doing. Place a call within a couple days of the funeral to let your friend know you are always free to talk. Follow-up with your friend every few days to see if they need help with anything.

How to Help During the Late Stages
Involve A Grieving Person. Invite your friend to social occasions so they have the opportunity to meet new friends and get their mind off their loss. Plan new activities together so both of you have something to look forward to.

Remember Holidays and Anniversaries. Holidays and anniversaries are the hardest times for people suffering from grief. Plan ahead and invite them to your home or make a visit to their home to wish them a happy holiday. Let them know that they have many friends and family members ready to help them through these difficult days.

Danger Signs
While grieving is a necessary and healthy process, individuals can go to extremes. If a grieving person demonstrates any of these signs, they may need professional help. Communities, religious centers, funeral homes and healthcare organizations have grief counseling programs or support groups.

  • Weight loss
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Prolonged sleep disorders
  • Talk about suicide
  • Lack of personal hygiene

(Source: Hospice Net - http://www.hospicenet.org/html/help_a_friend.html)

The best gift a friend can give to a friend who just lost someone they love is the permission to grieve. Do not force a grieving person to return to a normal life before she is ready. Allow her to go at her own pace, but provide encouragement and emotional support to enhance her healing process.

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