Part of the Plan
Grief is a natural and necessary part of dealing with great changes and losses in life. It is an instinctual healing process that allows the body, mind and spirit to release a flood of emotions and reconnect with the world in a new and meaningful way.
There is no set schedule for how feelings should and will evolve. At Good Shepherd Hospice, we’ll stand beside you every step of the way, providing information and ongoing support.
We encourage you to contact a Good Shepherd Hospice chaplain whenever you need comfort or guidance.
Ministering to Grief
Doug Manning’s career has included minister, counselor, business executive, author and publisher.
In 1979, he wrote his first best-selling book, Don’t Take My Grief Away From Me. In 1982 he began a new career devoting his time to writing, counseling, and leading seminars in the areas of grief and elder care. His publishing company, In-Sight Books, Inc., located in Oklahoma City, specializes in books, video and audio productions specifically designed to help face some of the toughest challenges in life.
The Care Community is Doug’s website offered free to the public by In-Sight Books, Inc. It is designed to be a resource of help and support in the areas of Grief and Elder Care.
In Grief Safe Place, you can read Doug’s blogs on grief in the categories of: The Mysteries of Grief, The Impact of Grief, The Questions of Grief, The Journey of Grief, The Challenges of Grief, The Role of Faith, Living Alone, and The Needs of Grief.
There is also a special blog for those who are fresh in their grief called Beginning the Journey.
Doug invites the readers to make comments to his posts and enjoys your input and often uses these comments as springboards for new ideas for his blog.
“My definition of grief is that it is the natural response to any loss.”
“I think it is important to understand that grief is a natural response to loss. It’s nature’s way of healing a broken heart. We have a built-in process imbedded within us that is designed to walk us through these dark valleys of our lives.
There is no set pattern to this process. Most of the early authors on grief referred to the “stages” of grief. But I have never liked that word. Stages are too clear cut and set. I don’t think grief is that organized. I think people flip flop through the stages. You might be in stage three in the morning and back to stage one that afternoon. I think a person can be in two of them at once.
I have looked for other ways to describe the process of grief and the best I have found is “grief is like peeling an onion, it comes off one layer at a time and you cry a lot.” I love that analogy because it allows for so much flexibility. If every person in a large audience were given an onion, no two onions would be exactly alike. If they were told to peel their onion, everyone there would approach the task in a different manner and with different speeds. Some would take it painfully slow, while others would tear into the job like some kind of challenge. You will grieve in much the same way as you would peel an onion…”
Doug Manning From Discovering Permission to Grieve.
Reprinted by permission of In-Sight Books 2007.
Loss And Grief
Grief is the reaction we have to the losses in our lives. When you care for someone over many days, months, or even years, their illness and death may have a deep impact on you, just as their life did. Illness and death bring us face to face with many of our most difficult emotions and lingering fears.
Everyone grieves in their own way, in their own time. There is no “right” way to express grief. It is a personal experience that is unique to each of us and presents itself differently each time we go through it.
Many things influence how we grieve. Our past encounters with loss and death influence our feelings. Our culture, faith, gender, and background affect how we grieve. Finding ways to attend to and express feelings of grief will in time help lead to healing.
Grief work is good, honest, hard work that takes time and nurturing.
Common Expressions of Grief
Grief is personal and individual. Survivors will commonly experience all or a combination of the feelings listed here:
Shock or Numbness
It is particularly common to feel shock or numbness when a death is sudden or unexpected. Even when a death is anticipated, it is difficult for our rational, logical minds to understand death. It is not at all uncommon to wonder why we don’t “feel” anything, that this can’t be “real.” It takes time to grasp the reality that at one moment a person was here then suddenly is gone. We may feel disconnected from what is going on around us. People often describe this as “I felt as though I was outside myself.” As our mind becomes able to recognize the reality of the loss, the numbness of disbelief will gradually fade away.
As the reality of the loss begins to sink in, we may find ourselves longing and searching in our mind for the presence of the person who has died. We wish to see them, hear them, and touch them again. This is normal. Their presence in our life was part of who we are. Their absence seems unnatural. We miss them. It is not uncommon to think we hear their voice or sense their presence. These experiences may bring you a sense of peace or reassurance.
Waves of sadness can pass over most unexpectedly and bring tears. It is healthy to allow tears when this happens. Fighting sadness will only leave us more tired and with less energy to handle intense feelings. If we are uncomfortable expressing our sadness, we should recognize this as an important reason to find time to spend alone or with those we trust. If our grief is very deep we may feel fear along with this powerful sense of sadness. This emotional pain can be experienced physically. We may feel overwhelmed, almost panicked. That is normal, too. The intensity of our sadness may come and go in what feels like waves. When we are struggling, we need to take a deep breath and remember that the wave shall pass. That is the natural rhythm of grief.
Regret and Guilt
We may experience feelings of regret about something we feel we should have known to do, or done better or sooner. We may find ourselves examining disturbing memories and wonder if things would have been better had we done something differently. If we dwell on these feelings for long, it may be because we are blaming ourselves for things that were never in our control. It is important to remind ourselves that we did the best we could…as often as we could. Self-forgiveness is important work.
We may have upsetting memories. We might be angry with God, our loved one, or with our family. Anger is an active emotion. It feels more purposeful than regret or sadness. It is normal to feel angry at times. Look for ways to “blow off some steam” in ways that aren’t hurtful to ourselves or others – play tennis, yell into a pillow, stomp your feet. Sometimes anger gives way to tears. That is OK, too. We will stop crying when the intensity of the feeling passes.
Especially soon after the death of a loved one, sleeplessness is common. At night, thoughts and feelings surface that can cause difficulty in falling asleep or in staying asleep during the night. Get up and have a warm drink or do something you find soothing. Taking the time to talk out or write about our feelings during the day may help us rest more calmly at night. If sleep problems persist, discuss this with your health care provider. It is difficult to do the work of grieving when our body is not getting enough rest.
Difficulty concentrating, memory loss and confusion are bothersome but to be expected. Allow yourself to take your time. Try not to take on new or unfamiliar tasks. Make notes – you will need them. Don’t expect yourself to function at your usual capacity for a while. This phase will pass.
Mixed in with all the other emotions, we may find that we have a sense of relief. For so long, we may have been worried about how things would turn out. Now that we know, it is normal to feel relieved of the struggle, the responsibilities, and/or the worry. It is also normal to feel relieved that our loved one’s suffering is over. We may feel that death was a blessing. This does not mean that we did not care. This is a normal part of the grieving process and will lead us to a better understanding of our grief. Finding joyful moments amidst our grief is good. Feeling gratitude for the life we have is a valuable part of healing.
Steps To Surviving Grief
People who are grieving may want to “get over” the feelings of loss, but grief is not something we get over. Rather, grief is like a journey. Along this journey we learn how to live without someone who was once a part of our lives.
Recognize the Loss
Many people try to “stay busy” after a loss. Staying busy or active can be helpful, but too much activity, too soon, may not be helpful. It is important that we do as much as is comfortable for us while allowing ourselves time to heal, reflect and feel. Activities that may help in healing include making time to remember, cry, and laugh.
Recognize How You Feel
The time after a loss is filled with many intense emotions. It is important to take some time to sort out what we are feeling and understand why we are feeling the way we do. “The “normal” responses to loss may not feel “normal to us. It is normal to experience feelings of disbelief, numbness, relief, regret, loneliness, sadness, anger, abandonment, fear, or other emotions after a loss. We may also experience an inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, mood swings, irritability, guilt, trouble sleeping and have changes in appetite. Knowing why we are experiencing what we are feeling may help.
Express Your Feelings
Once we know what we are feeling, it is helpful to express or work through these feelings. Expressing feelings of loss by talking to a trusted friend or counselor or writing our feelings in a journal may help. Drawing, painting, listening to music or playing a musical instrument or using other artistic expressions may also be helpful. Exercising may be a good way to clear our mind if we are feeling overwhelmed. Prayer, meditation, or other spiritual activities may help us feel renewed and may help us release feelings related to grief and loss.
Take Time to Remember
Sometimes we may only remember the illness or the last days of our loved one’s life. Try to remember the other times in the relationship as well.
Remember the happy times and the sad times. Developing a book of memories may help expand our memories. We may also remember our loved one with special activities such as lighting candles of remembrance, attending religious services, planting trees of remembrance or displaying a special picture. By keeping the memory of our loved one alive, he or she remains a part of our life if we so choose.
Holidays, anniversaries, special dates and places may trigger feelings of deep sadness. It is normal to remember and mourn our loss during these times. We must be gentle with ourselves. The hurt and pain of mourning will lessen over time. This is a good time to use the bereavement support available in our hospice and community to help us heal. Our local hospices, churches, synagogues and other faith communities and community centers will often plan special events to provide support through these difficult times. Planning events with friends or family members who are sensitive to our loss may also be helpful.
Making decisions may be difficult or confusing after a loss. Sometimes we may have conflicting emotions or get conflicting advice or information about a certain issue. Trusted friends, family members and hospice counselors are good sources for information. They can help us think through our choices, but we are the only person who knows what will work in our situation. It is a good idea to avoid making life-changing decisions while grieving a loss.
Take Care of Your Body
We are often reminded to take care of ourselves after a physical injury. The same type of care is needed after the loss of a loved one. Grieving takes a lot of physical, emotional and spiritual energy. It is easy to forget to rest, eat right, and exercise when we can’t see a physical injury. Our body is working just as hard to adjust to changing emotions caused by the loss. Therefore, we need to remember to eat healthy meals and exercise, and participate in any religious or spiritual activities that are important to us. These activities may help us heal as we go through the grieving process.
Talk to Others Who Have Had Similar Experiences
Grieving may feel very lonely at times. Many individuals wonder if the emotions they feel are normal. It is good to know we are not alone and that there are others who feel the same way. Talking to someone who has experienced a loss similar to our own may be helpful. Keep in mind that each person’s reaction to loss may be different. Bereavement groups are a good place to share and learn more about grief.
Believe in a Less Painful Tomorrow
Along this journey, there will be good days and not so good days. As we heal emotionally the pain of the loss may not hurt as much as it did immediately after the loss, but the fact that someone we love is no longer with us will remain. We can adjust to life without a loved one, but it will take time and support.
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
The NHPCO is dedicated to promoting and maintaining quality care for terminally ill persons and their families, and to making hospice an integral part of the U.S. health care system.
Visit www.caringinfo.org for articles and helpful information for families, patients, caregivers and medical professionals, such as:
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The Grief Experience
- Grief Support
Good Shepherd Hospice / Grove
Grief Support Group
Third Thursday monthly – 3 p.m..
Grove Public Library – 114 NE O Loop, Grove, OK
Grief Support does not promise to take the pain of your loss away, but it does offer a safe place and a safe group of people…many of who are walking the same journey…to walk that journey with you.
Sessions begin with the viewing of Doug Manning’s The Journey of Grief DVD followed by discussion and sharing. Participants may share insights into their own unique grief journey, or participate by simply observing, listening and learning. Concepts we explore include:
- Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.
- Grief is not about death. It is about loss.
- Grief does not store well.
- It’s okay to talk about your grief.
- Whether in our group or another, help is available
For more information contact Darwin King at 918.786.6182 or Darwin.King@GoodShepherdHospice.com
A special thank you to the Grove Public Libray for supporting our Hospice families by providing a room for our meetings.
Good Shepherd Hospice / Wichita and Newton
Coping With Loss Grief Support Meetings
Open to the public. For information or to sign up, contact Tal Tittsworth 316.616.2277or Tal.Tittsworth@GoodShepherdHospice.com
Good Shepherd Hospice / Oklahoma City
Coping With Loss Grief Support Meetings
Because every loss is unique, you may be experiencing a variety of feelings and emotions from sadness and loneliness to guilt, anger and fatigue. Our grief support meetings offer a safe, supportive environment where you will receive educational, emotional and practical support.
Open to the public. For information contact Terri Kiefner at 405.943.0903 or Terri.Kiefner@GoodShepherdHospice.com
Good Shepherd Hospice / Kansas City and Johnson County Areas
Living With Loss Support Meetings
The grieving process is a journey. If that journey is proving to be a struggle for you, please join us for our Living With Loss group facilitated by professional bereavement counselors. Meetings are from 6 – 7:00 p.m. as indicated:
First Tuesday monthly – Good Shepherd Hospice, 11253 Strang Line Road, Lenexa, KS
Second Tuesday monthly – The Guidance Center, 500 Limit St., Leavenworth, KS and
1 to 2 p.m. Riverstone Retirement Resort / 9000 N.Congress, Kansas City, MO
Third Tuesday monthly – St. John’s Church, 6900 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO
Fourth Tuesday monthly 12 to 1 pm – Good Shepherd Hospice, 123 W. Kansas Ave, Independence, MO
All are welcome. For more information, contact Robin Ewy at 816.822.2292 or Robin.Ewy@GoodShepherdHospice.com
A special thank you to St. John’s Church, The Guidance Center and Riverstone Retirement Resort for supporting our Hospice families by providing a place for our meetings.