A Comprehensive Guide To Grief And Bereavement

Regardless of the circumstances, losing a friend or loved one is a painful and challenging experience. Grief is the profound feeling of loss that occurs when a relationship is terminated due to death, relocation, separation, or some other factor. A related term, bereavement, describes the grieving process; it refers to the period of time during which an individual feels grief and deals with loss. This period may pass quickly, or linger for a matter of months or years. Although grief and bereavement are often accompanied by feelings of isolation, the process is in fact natural and common, something that nearly everyone experiences at some point in life.

Coping with death and loss, whether sudden or expected, can feel jarring, even debilitating. Fortunately, many resources exist specifically to support the bereaved. The statistics, descriptions, and links provided below offer a useful aid for anyone working through the difficult grieving process.

Statistics Relating to Grief and Bereavement

  • 4% of children between the ages of 5 and 16 have experienced the death of a parent or sibling; 6% of children between the ages of 5 and 16 have experienced the death of a close family friend; 13% of children between the ages of 5 and 16 have experienced the death of a grandparent. ( Winston’s Wish )
  • Over a fifteen year period, couples who miscarried had a 22% higher risk of breaking up than couples who carried a baby to term. Couples who experienced a stillbirth were 40% more likely to breakup. ( University of Michigan Health System )
  • There is no set length for the grieving period; in intense cases grief can last for several years or more.
  • Although grief is most commonly referred to in terms of death, individuals can also experience grief over other life-altering events, such as divorce, losing a job, or relocating ( Mental Help).

Symptoms of Grief :

Emotional Symptoms of Grief:

  • Grief is often thought of as a series of five stages, a model first introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Kubler-Ross’ five stages consist of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. While any of these stages can indicate grief, not all of them need be present for grieving to occur. Additional common symptoms include shock, guilt, fear, and even physical impairment ( Help Guide ).

Physical Symptoms of Grief:

  • The physical symptoms of grief present themselves in many ways. Some individuals experience headaches, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, or weight gain. Others may experience completely different symptoms and sleep excessively, work constantly, or lose weight. Although each individual copes with grief differently, leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle proves consistently beneficial across all circumstances ( Family Caregiver Alliance ).

Tips on Coping with Grief

  • Take care of yourself If subjected to poor nutrition, insufficient sleep, and no exercise, a grieving person’s already strained body can develop conditions, medical and otherwise, that further complicate the bereavement process.
  • Stay active and social While withdrawing from activities and relationships may seem the natural course of action for someone experiencing grief, staying engaged can actually provide an important source of distraction, allowing the bereaved to focus on something other than their loss.
  • Be flexible Many bereaved people may want to stick to a normal routine in order to continue to act “normal.” However, rigid adherence to a schedule simply may not be practical after a serious loss. Instead, it is important for the grieving individual to be flexible, and to allow grief to take its natural course rather than ignoring it. There is no need to feel guilty if certain “normal” tasks and responsibilities are not completed as usual during the period of grief.
  • Prepare for anniversaries The anniversary of a loved one’s death can be an especially trying time for those left behind. Even after bereavement has run its course, an anniversary can renew feelings of pain and loss. Therefore, it is helpful to prepare for an anniversary well in advance, perhaps by taking the day off work, and making it a special time to commemorate the lost loved one. ( Mental Help )

Knowing When Grief is Complete

  • With no set timeframe for bereavement, it can be hard to know when grief will come to an end. Grieving people often experience hopelessness, the sensation that they are lost and have nothing to live for. One important sign that grief is coming to a close, then, is a slow return of a person’s ability to feel happiness and pleasure. Other positive signs include re-engagement in activities and friendships, and a return to a present- or future-facing orientation (i.e. living in the present instead of dwelling on the past). In addition to new hope, a final sign that bereavement may be passing occurs when an individual is able to think about the lost loved one as a happy past memory rather than a painful present absence. ( Mental Help )

General Resources on Grief and Bereavement

  • Family Caregiver Alliance: Family Caregiver Alliance devotes a section of its site to grief and loss, providing details on anticipatory grief, the length of the grieving period, symptoms of grief, stages of grief, ethical issues that surround grief, tips for helping the bereaved, and practical assistance for those suffering from grief. The site also lists additional recommended reading.
  • Centering Corporation : The Centering Corporation is a non-profit committed to providing support and education on grief and loss to professionals and the families that they serve. The site offers a variety of grief resources, a monthly digest, an events calendar, and a catalog of suggested reading.
  • Crisis, Grief & Healing : Started by grief psychotherapist Tom Golden, Crisis, Grief & Healing provides a comprehensive exploration of grief, and specific types of bereavement, including infant loss, parent loss, and more. Discussion boards allow individuals to join the discussion and find support.
  • Family Caregiver Alliance: Family Caregiver Alliance devotes a section of its site to grief and loss, providing details on anticipatory grief, the length of the grieving period, symptoms of grief, stages of grief, ethical issues that surround grief, tips for helping the bereaved, and practical assistance for those suffering from grief. The site also lists additional recommended reading.
  • Finding My Banana Bread Man : Finding My Banana Break Man is a site made by a man who lost his life partner. The site has poetry, frequently asked questions, reviews, relevant links, pictures, special events, and more. If you have ever lost somebody close to you, this site will be a great source of relatable and interesting information.
  • Help Guide : Help Guide provides many resources for coping with grief, including information on common symptoms, and advice on how to someone who is grieving.
  • How To Deal With Grief : Information on grief, and resources for finding support, as provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Grief.com : Grief.com provides resources on various types of grief, including books, articles, upcoming events, and a page featuring a Q&A with psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
  • Grief Healing : This site offers suggestions on how to cope with grief, especially in the early stages of bereavement. Grief Healing also includes resources on dealing with the loss of pets.
  • Mental Help : Mental Help offers a comprehensive overview of the grieving process, as well as videos, links, news, book reviews, and a blog on bereavement. The site also provides specific advice on how to help adults and children cope with grief.

General Resources on Miscarriage

  • Bereaved Single Mothers Forum : The Bereaved Single Mothers Forum offers a safe space for single parents to explore the issues surrounding miscarriage or the loss of a newborn. The site’s advice specifically targets relationship loss due to grief, and the experience of dealing with grief along.
  • KUMC : The University of Kansas Medical Center, or KUMC, offers a list of links, articles, and resources on miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death.
  • Missing GRACE Foundation : The Missing GRACE Foundation’s aim is to provide support to families facing miscarriage, infant loss, infertility, or adoption. GRACE stands fort the five core principles at the organizations heart: Grieve, Restore, Arise, Commemorate, and Educate.
  • Pregnancy Loss : Pregnancy Loss allows those grieving to create an online memorial, and to view and submit questions about miscarriage and stillbirth. The site also provides resources and suggested reading for those facing the early termination of a pregnancy.
  • SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support : SHARE is a national nonprofit serving those who have suffered the miscarriage or the loss of an infant. The organization’s services include a bi-monthly newsletter, and information on how to join a local SHARE support group or start one in your community.
  • UNITE : UNITE is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that counsels families suffering from miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. On its site, UNITE offers support groups, literature, forums, training, and educational programs.

General Resources on Death of a Child

  • The Compassionate Friends : The Compassionate Friends’ mission is to help families positively resolve the grief resulting from the death of a child. The site includes informational brochures, videos, and other resources, as well as a listing of local Compassionate Friends chapters.
  • COPE Foundation : The COPE Foundation has a variety of resources, articles, and recommended readings for parents who have experienced the tragic loss of a child. In addition, the site offers a comprehensive FAQ section, and an dedicated specifically to connecting bereaved parents.
  • Feelings of the Fathers : Designed specifically for fathers suffering the loss of a child, this site includes helpful resources for fathers, including a discussion forum, advice, and links to other father-specific websites.

General Resources on Death of a Parent

  • Dougy Center : The Dougy Center is a national center that provides support to grieving children, teens, young adults, and their families. The Center provides support and training to organizations wishing to assist bereaved children, while at the same time providing young people with a safe place to air their feelings and concerns.
  • Grieving Center for Children, Teens & Families : The Grieving Center provides a safe spot for young people and their families to find and provide mutual support in the healing process.
  • Kids Aid : Kids Aid is a partner website of GriefNet, and provides a number of resources for bereaved children including email support groups, a forum for sharing artwork and stories, and a Q&A area where people of all ages can get expert advice.
  • Winston’s Wish : Winston’s Wish is a UK-based charity group for bereaved children and young adults, and provides many resources on how to help you people deal with grief. In addition, the site aims to connect bereaved children and teens to one another through customized tools and networking.

General Resources on Child Abduction

  • The National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children : POMC seeks to make a difference through ongoing education, prevention, support, awareness, and advocacy. In addition to providing a virtual forum for parents to connect and provide support, the organization boasts local chapters around the country.
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention : The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provides a list of readings and brochures about dealing with the abduction of a child.
  • Peace 4 the Missing : Peace 4 the missing is a network for parents and guardians with missing or abducted children. The site features forums, blogs, resources, and links to aid those grieving an abducted child. Peace 4 the Missing also hosts a number of annual events meant to inform the legislature, and draw attention to the issue of child abduction.

Hospice Care and Support Groups

  • Caring Connections : Caring Connections is a website for caretakers and those they care for, and boasts a great deal of information on grief, particularly in response to the death of the elderly. The site provides links to local hospices, as well as a series of specific articles on topics like grief in the workplace, and grief around the holidays.

  • GriefNet : GriefNet offers network of online and email support groups, which cater to specific kinds of grief, like that stemming from the loss of a child, parent, or partner. Additionally, GriefNet allow users to create and share online memorials for those they are grieving. Resources on support groups and suicide prevention are also available.

  • MISS Foundation : The mission of the MISS Foundation, an international nonprofit organization, is to empower grieving families through proactive volunteerism and community involvement. The Foundation provides resources on finding meaningful volunteer work, in addition to useful educational information and research on reducing instances of infant and toddler death.

  • The National Hospice Foundation : The National Hospice Foundation presents information on how to plan ahead for your own death, how to care for someone on the brink of passing, how to live with a terminal illness, and how to deal with the grief of loss.