Grieving is often the most painful and overwhelming experience a person may have. Inevitably grief touches all of our lives at different times. Good Shepherd’s grief and bereavement program is designed to help people coping with grief and loss. In addition to providing bereavement support to our clients’ families and loved ones, our program offers a broad range of services to all community members.
A compilation of texts and guides, self-help and personal experience books, and mixed media, our Community Resource Library offers many titles related to various stages of grief and loss, including books for children and adolescents.
Because we recognize that navigating the transition from life to death to bereavement is often complicated, our Community Remembrance Room is a space for members of the community who have lost a loved one to honor and experience the process of grief and bereavement.
Good Shepherd also offers a variety of Support Groups which are open to the community.
Many of the Workshops and Programs Good Shepherd offers as part of our commitment to community education touch upon issues of grief and loss, and many of the topics available through our Speakers’ Bureau provide information about the various stages of bereavement, grief and loss.
Each year, Good Shepherd hosts an Evening of Remembrance to honor all of the clients we have cared for over past years and to remember with their loved ones.
Good Shepherd Community Hospice is available to help people through this time of adjustment.
Please call us any time at (617) 969-6130 or email us at: email@example.com
We’re here and we care.
A free resource to help Jewish mourners, family, and their friends at a time of loss.
WE ARE BENT BUT NOT BROKEN
The above words were written by a bereaved mother describing how she and her family were dealing with the one year anniversary of her son’s death. Never forgotten…they remember him everyday. Lives forever changed, they live on, just differently.
These very words also apply to the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. Individual, family, and community losses persist. Victims of the bombing still recover from injuries. Families still grieve for their loved ones. And for the Massachusetts community – and people nationwide – The Boston Marathon, a world-renowned event that for years has represented sportsmanship, celebration, and achievement, is now riddled with somber and heartbreaking images of the devastation that occurred that day.
Throughout the year we have been grieving these losses, simultaneously trying to make meaning out of the unimaginable terror. We have observed many moments of silence, praised the bravery of so many, watched the Red Sox win the World Series, and witnessed numerous acts of generosity, people giving to those in need. We have seen the strength and power of a community that is Boston Strong.
A year later, Boston is again preparing for the Marathon. On Monday, April 21st, runners will take to the streets for those 26.2 miles and fans will enthusiastically cheer them along – from Hopkinton to “Heartbreak Hill” to the finish line on Boylston. Security will be tighter. The pangs of our lingering grief and other feelings may arise. But as the bereaved mother stated so eloquently, we may be bent but we are not broken.
How to help a friend or loved one who is grieving
Death is a part of life. Inevitably, we will all be touched by loss at some point in our lives. Sometimes, however, it is your friends and/or loved ones who are affected. This can be an overwhelming and emotional time for them. When someone you know is grieving, while you support, listen to, and care for them, there are also practical things that you can do.
- Offer to care for children, pets or houseplants or perform any other routine task that may need attending to. Your friend or loved one may be feeling overwhelmed and may not be able to identify what it is he/she needs assistance with. Having a specific task in mind when offering can be helpful. For example, you might offer to do a load of laundry, pick up dry cleaning or walk the dog.
- Offer to help with out of town guests by organizing trips to and from the airport, train or bus station.
- Offer to help keep people informed about funeral arrangements. This may include responding to emails and making phone calls.
- Offer to stay at your friend or loved one’s home to answer the phone and receive guests who drop by with food, flowers, gifts, etc. Keep a running list of gifts and offer to help write, address and mail thank you notes.
- Offer to go for a walk together.
- Offer to lend a hand with the funeral program; you can help with content or production by helping to type out or have copies made for the service.
- Refer your friend or loved one to helpful resources related to death and grief. When appropriate, you may help your friend or loved one locate support groups.
- Be aware of holidays and anniversaries as intense feelings can arise at these times.
- Offer your presence. You may offer to accompany or drive your friend while he/she runs errands. Having a trusted friend at his/her side will often ease feelings of loneliness.
Remember, you may be grieving too. It is important that you acknowledge these feelings and allow yourself to be sad, recognizing that your grief and feelings may surface at different times than those of your friend or loved one. Take time to mourn your loss and take care of yourself.
Lastly, be compassionate and be yourself. Understand the uniqueness of each person’s grief and try to remain present during your friend or loved one’s journey.
A Time To Rejoice? Managing The Holidays
As the holidays approach, social norms reinforce the notion that the holiday season is a time to rejoice with family and friends. Yet, for those who have lost a loved one, whether it be a spouse, partner, parent, sibling, child, or close friend, the holidays can take on a very different meaning. This time of year may trigger a variety of feelings and reactions that may be challenging and confusing to deal with. There are ways in which to manage the holidays that allow grievers to experience the range of feelings that they have, as well as maintain the love and honor they have for their loved ones.
If the loss is recent, you may still be in a state of confusion and shock, and be focused on the practical issues of losing a loved one. The very thought of participating in the holidays may be daunting. Some may find surrounding themselves with loved ones to be a comfort, even when the loss itself is all-encompassing and overwhelming. Others may prefer to grieve more privately.
Whether you have lost a loved one two months, six months, two years, or twenty years ago, the holidays can reawaken feelings that may have been dormant for quite some time. Society tends to send a message that after a year, grieving should be over. However, if someone has been significant to the very meaning and existence in your life, there will be times when you may feel more sensitive and need to reminisce about your loved one. Grieving is a healthy reaction to dealing with loss.
It is quite common while grieving to have a sense of fear or dread of the holidays. At times, the loss may feel like it happened yesterday. You may rehearse and replay the last months, days, and hours of your loved one’s death. Feelings of sadness, guilt, disconnectedness, love, relief, and anger are all normal. You may also recall and relish the fond memories you shared with your loved one, or even be angry that he/she is no longer on this earth. At these times, allowing yourself to feel whatever arises is a way of honoring your loved one and respecting your own needs.
There are strategies to deal with the holidays and the more you are attuned to what helps you cope, the more empowered you will feel. This will not necessarily take away how much you miss your loved one, but the strategies can help you to manage the multitude of feelings and concrete issues that arise during this time. This kind of self-care can pertain to both general grieving and issues specific to the holidays.
If you find that you are feeling overly hopeless, excessively guilty, having ongoing sleep disruption, or thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself, you may need to seek professional help. There are therapists who specialize in this area that can be extremely helpful with understanding the issues specific to your grief. Bereavement support groups are another avenue that many people find helpful. There is nothing like being able to share your experience with people who truly understand what you are going through.
It is also normal to wonder if the intensity of your feelings will ever go away. How will you ever be able to enjoy yourself again? Does moving on mean that you will forget what your loved one meant to you? In the words of Helen Keller, “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we have loved deeply becomes a part of us.” The holidays can present an opportunity to explore what is valuable to you and help you to redefine your life in the presence of your loss.
COPING STRATEGIES FOR GRIEF DURING THE HOLIDAY
1. Consistent sleep patterns, good nutrition, exercise.
2. Talking with friends and family; sharing your story.
3. Prayer; attending religious functions.
4. Reading, observing nature, music, journal-writing.
5. Planning ahead (for the holidays); doing what feels right to you.
6. Starting new traditions (noting what makes the holidays most meaningful for you, your family, and your loved one).
7. Accepting invitations (to parties and functions); being mindful of your emotions; what feels comfortable and manageable for you?
8. Having an understanding of where you are; knowing that there may be a range of emotions that arise during this time.
Unique Aspects of Grief for Veterans and their Loved Ones
Grief is a natural response to loss. It is a part of the human condition, a time when a person mourns what has changed and learns to integrate these changes into his/her life. For many, losing a loved one is one of the most profound experiences of their lives. It may be a time of intense, unexpected emotions that seem to arise out of nowhere. It may also lead to changes in diet, sleep patterns, and other daily activities. These grief responses can be frightening and confusing, as they are not considered a "normal" part of everyday life. Yet, in the context of grief, these responses are not only normal but may also indicate healthy grieving.
For Veterans and their families, grief may have additional implications that can add to the complexity of their experience. As part of the We Honor Veterans Hospice-Veterans Partnership, Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd is making consistent efforts to understand and educate others about the unique needs of Veterans and their families so as to improve the quality of care they receive in the community. While there is a broad range of ways in which Veterans and their family members experience and process their grief, it can be helpful to be aware of feelings that many share in common.
Families who have lost Veterans may experience many different emotions depending on a number of factors, including how the Veteran experienced, reflected on, and integrated his/her service; how much the Veteran shared with his/her family about the experience; and how a Veteran's military service influenced his/her end-of-life experience. Some common emotions for families and loved ones who have lost a Veteran may include:
- Pride in their loved one’s service, history, and contributions;
- Confusion over the ways in which the Veteran’s military service affected him/her;
- Anger at the ways in which the military and reintegration into civilian life affected their loved one physically and emotionally;
- Sadness or guilt for not knowing the stories from their loved one’s service;
- Loss over the person's inability to pass on the legacy directly;
- Emotional/physical depletion after expending so much energy in caring for/supporting their loved one;
- Relief that such a difficult struggle is now over;
- Isolation or feeling as though “no one understands me” from having had an end-of-life experience different from others;
- Sorrow from having watched a once strong warrior become so vulnerable at the end of life.
These feelings may happen at various times or in close succession. Some family members may want to talk about their feelings and find this to be a healing experience in their grief process. They may want to commemorate their loved one formally or informally (e.g. using Veterans' burial benefits or a family pinning ceremony). Others, however, may find sharing their experience to be distressing because of what it brings up for them and therefore prefer not to engage on this level. Either response should be considered normal and respected as an individual process.
Veterans themselves also may have grief responses unique to their military experience. Some find that that losing someone rekindles old losses, emotions, and experiences, such as losing friends, losing a sense of innocence, and even the losses inherent in leaving the military to return to civilian life. This may come as a surprise, as many Veterans feel they addressed these issues long ago, yet it is not uncommon for new grief to trigger such recollection and reflection. When a Veteran loses a close friend or spouse, he/she may also mourn the loss of one who knew him/her as a whole person, especially when trust issues are present. On the other hand, a Veteran might mourn the lost opportunity for the loved one to know him/her more intimately. Just as with families, Veterans may or may not find discussing their experience to be healing and must follow their own promptings regarding what is best.
Ultimately each person must process grief in their own way based on what they feel is right for them at any given moment. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and, often, even those who mourn the same loss may vary in their responses and needs. Grief can provoke a person to consider his or her own mortality, values, and spirituality; bring up past losses; and at times even lead to major life changes on the part of the bereaved. It is a time for evaluating not only what once was but also what is right now and how this contrasts with what a person would like to see in his/her life.
There are many ways to deal with grief - some people find reading true stories, poetry or self-help books are ways to help with the bereavement process. Our Center for Life Transitions has a lending library with a wide array of selections. Here are reviews of a few of our offerings.
Life without Lisa by Richard Ballo
This book evolved from journals Richard Ballo kept during his wife’s illness and after her death. “Grim Reality,” “Depression,” “Memories,” and “Ups and Downs,” are a few of the chapters in Richard Ballo’s book about his wife’s death from cancer. Before her illness, Lisa was a medical professional, gently reminding us that no one is immune to sickness and death. This book offers stories and hope about a family adjusting to the loss of their mother.
This book demonstrates how every day grief offers a unique set of challenges and pitfalls, but with the support of relatives and friends often, new beginnings evolve.
Widow to Widow by Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S.
Genevieve Ginsburg has first-hand experience of being a widow; she has lost 2 husbands. She offers compassion as well as matter-of-fact information for widows and widowers alike. “Widow. The word is so dreadful to have no synonym, only a definition. It also has a color: black,” begins Ms. Ginsburg’s thoughtful, practical guide for rebuilding your life. The book is divided into 4 sections: Ton of Bricks, Rebuilding Your Life, From Widowhood to Selfhood and Besides Which.
The author offers advice about what to expect to be feeling, what to expect from others, coping strategies and more. As a fellow widow, she speaks from experience and her own words will be a tremendous support and resource for widows and their families.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Well-known writer Joan Didion offers her account of life after her husband suddenly dies during their evening dinner. This is her attempt “to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about grief, about life itself.” Also in the book is the story of her daughter’s illness that she copes with after her husband’s death.
This beautifully written book is a reminder that death touches us all profoundly, despite our many different walks of life.
Grief is a natural response that occurs when someone we love dies.
The goal of grieving is to help us acknowledge our pain, accept the reality of our situation, adjust to life without our loved one, and discover new ways of experiencing life to the fullest. Grief is an intense condition. It is not an easy journey.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
People often want to know when the grieving process will end, but the truth is that the journey is as individual as you are. Your grief is influenced by your relationship with the person who died, the circumstances surrounding the death, your emotional support system, your religious and/or cultural beliefs, your own life experiences, and your personality and coping style.
There is no timetable for grieving.
In our fast-paced world, your family and friends may seem to have returned to their normal lives within just a few weeks or months after your loved one’s death. They may be urging you to do the same by “cheering up” or “getting more active” or simply “getting over it.” This can be a difficult time because you are still doing the hard work of grieving and may feel out of synch with the world around you or even cut off from some of those who have been supportive of you.
The loss of someone you love affects the mind, the heart, and the spirit.
You will experience a variety of emotions and physical sensations which may be unsettling in their variety, intensity, and unpredictability and sometimes take more energy than you can imagine. These feelings are normal and healthy and are helping you move through the grieving process to a place where you can remain connected to your loved one in a way that will allow you to move on with your life.
When you are grieving, you may:
- Feel overwhelming fatigue, tightness in the throat, heaviness in the chest, an empty feeling in your stomach and loss of appetite.
- Have difficulty sleeping and dream of your loved one.
- Feel restless and look for activity but find it difficult to concentrate.
- Feel as though the death isn’t real, that it didn’t happen.
- Sense your loved one’s presence. You may find yourself expecting the person to walk in the door as they have before, to hear their voice, or to see their face.
- Feel guilty or angry about things that happened or didn’t happen in your relationship with the person who died.
- Feel intensely angry with your loved one for leaving you.
- Need to tell and retell the experience of your loved one’s death.
- Feel your mood change over the slightest thing.
- Cry at unexpected times and in unexpected places.
- Think you are going crazy.
- Find that certain dates, events and seasons will bring up surges of grief.
- Be overwhelmed with details and tasks related to finances and logistics.
It helps to find people you can talk to about your grief – those who are able to simply listen when you need it without offering advice or hurrying you toward recovery. If you follow a religious or spiritual tradition, mourning rituals can provide great comfort. You may also find strength and emotional support from your faith community.
We invite you to visit our Center for Life Transitions’ Resource Library and Remembrance Room. We are here to help you. Please call Good Shepherd at 617-969-6130
THE POWER OF FOOD: TO HELP OR HEAL
The death of a family member, life partner or friend can be the most emotional and trying time in a person’s life. Changes in appetite are common when you are grieving. You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed, overtired and in need of nourishment. During this difficult time, by adjusting your diet to include certain foods and avoid others, you can help to alleviate some of the stresses you are experiencing. Even though it is difficult, maintaining a nutritious diet can help you navigate this period of transition.
Here are some helpful hints.
Try to avoid:
- Caffeine and Alcohol, as they often have a “high/low” affect.
- Sugar, as it makes your blood sugar spike and then fall quickly, often resulting in decreased energy.
- Trans fats found in cakes, pies and cookies, as they compromise your immune system causing increased stress and the risk of heart disease.
Do fill up on:
Vitamins A & C, which give you more energy and repair cell damage caused by stress.
- Asparagus – try it steamed or baked; also contains folic acid, which can help stabilize your mood.
- Red bell peppers – add crunch to a salad, or dip in low-fat dressing or hummus.
- Blueberries – great on cereal or with yogurt; they are also full of fiber.
Vitamin B, which is actually a collection of 8 vitamins that enhance immune and nervous system function while helping you have healthy skin and muscle tone.
- Bananas – throw one in your bag for a quick and easy snack; they are also high in potassium.
- Lentils – also a good source of protein. Boil for a few minutes and simmer until tender; a great add-in for many soups.
- Tuna – rich in stress-fighting B6 and B12, it is a great lunch option.
- Cornflakes or Crispy Rice Cereal – also fortified with folic acid which can act as a mood stabilizer. Have them dry as an afternoon snack.
Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin”, contributes to a robust immune system.
- Yogurt – the flavors are tasty these days! Try Key Lime Pie or Blackberry/Raspberry.
- Cheese – a few tablespoons of cheese adds color and flavor to almost any dish. Many are now available in part-skim or reduced fat versions.
- Egg yolks – try an omelet filled with your favorite vegetables; a great meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Vitamin E, which is believed to help your heart health.
- Almonds – try crunching to get your aggression out while fighting free radicals associated with stress.
- Peanut Butter – it’s not just for kids! Spread it on celery or mix with sunflower oil and stir into pasta.
- Tomato Sauce & Tomato puree – pre-made sauces are easy and leftovers can be frozen for another meal.
Protein, which can be a remedy for depression as it helps make neurotransmitters, the biochemicals that your brain cells and nerve cells use to communicate with each other. Zinc & Iron help to stabilize mood.
- Beef - ask for a lean cut if you are concerned about fat.
- Milk – a great source of protein and will strengthen your bones and teeth too!
- Hummus – try on pita bread, in a wrap or as a dip for crackers and veggies.
Try these helpful tips and you may find yourself surprised at how a nutritious meal can increase your energy and lift your spirits. Remember, self-care is extremely important when you are grieving.
The other part of your new meal routine may be loneliness, as it can be very difficult to eat alone.
To help ease this transition, try something new at mealtimes. Try eating dinner in a different place, or perhaps light a candle and play soft music. Small changes like using a pretty plate or placemat and adding flowers to your table setting can stimulate your visual and smell senses.
Here’s a super easy meal to prepare for yourself.
Chicken in a pouch:
2 or 3 chicken tenderloins
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped pepper
¼ cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup Italian salad dressing
Combine all ingredients on a square of tin foil. Wrap tightly and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Open carefully, and enjoy!
Thoughts On Grief From Age to Age
Grief is timeless. Grief is universal. Grief is also personal, framed by each individual’s unique life. The finality of death often brings those left behind a tremendous amount of pain. It can be physical as well as emotional. The feelings can be intense and can be long-lasting. Death is like any great wound, it leaves a scar. It may become less painful and heal, but the mark is always with you.
Here are simple things you can do during when grieving:
- Take time for yourself.
- Do not make any major decisions.
- Cry if you need to.
- Acknowledge there will be good and bad days.
- Seek out people who will listen to you and give you strength.
Take comfort in the words of those who have been through similar experiences…
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” ~ from a headstone in Ireland
“In the night of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.” ~ Robert Ingersoll
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which had been your delight.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~ Thomas Campbell, “Hallowed Ground”
“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” ~ Author unknown
“For some moments in life there are no words.” ~ David Seltzer, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
“Good-night! good-night! as we so oft have said Beneath this roof at midnight, in the days That are no more, and shall no more return. Thou hast but taken up thy lamp and gone to bed; I stay a little longer, as one stays To cover up the embers that still burn.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.” ~ Emily Dickinson
“Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow, May looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow.” ~ Author unknown
“When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne, let us think of the great family of the heavy-hearted into which our grief has given us entrance, and inevitably we will feel about us, their arms and their understanding.” ~ Helen Keller
Why Spring doesn't always bring new beginnings
“Everyone is telling me I should feel better, get outside, enjoy the fresh air, but I just don’t feel like it!” I recently heard this from a hospice patient’s daughter. She was disappointed that everyone around her was expecting her to move on and put her grief behind her. As the Bereavement Coordinator for Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd, I contact the family members of our hospice clients frequently after their loved one has died. It is important for them to know we at Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd still remember their loved one and that we are also concerned about them. I remind them that everyone grieves in a different way and timeframe and that we are here to support them.
Spring is particularly challenging as we welcome the longer days, warmer weather, buds, baby birds and renewal of life. Spring reminds us of all the new beginnings in our lives, but it can also remind us of painful losses as we remember past springs spent with loved ones. While some may enjoy the longer days, you may feel the days never end.
When you are grieving you may often feel alone and lost with your feelings. This is normal and emphasizes the importance of reaching out to family members around you, your faith community, neighbors, friends, even the person at the post office or grocery store. You are not alone. The Grief & Bereavement Program at Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd offers a variety of support groups, volunteers, and one-on-one visits. Our Community Resource Library and Remembrance Room offer spaces where you may find comfort and solace through the words and voices of others and gain access to important resources. Our Resource Library and Remembrance Room are open Monday – Friday from 8:30am – 5:00pm.
It is important to remember that you may not “get over” or “recover” from your grief. Instead you may become a different person, and you may grow in ways you cannot even imagine at this time.
Some strategies to help you manage your grief include but are not limited to:
- Exercise…this can increase your energy and and ease some of the physical distress that accompanies sadness and grief.
- Try something new…sign up for a class or volunteer in the community.
- Create a living memorial…plant something in honor of your loved one.
- Be kind to yourself…take care of yourself by sleeping and eating right, don’t push yourself too hard; respect your ever-changing feeling.
Grieving can take time and energy. This may not be what you had anticipated for this spring and summer; however it can be a time of renewal, transition, remembrance and hope. At Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd we will be here for you through this season and the seasons to come.
TIPS FOR MANAGING THE HOLIDAYS WHEN YOU ARE GRIEVING
Decide what you can handle comfortably and let family and friends know.
Ask yourself, can I handle the responsibility of the family dinner, etc.? Or, shall I ask someone else to do it?
Do I want to talk about my loved one or not?
Shall I stay home for the holidays, or go to a completely different environment?
Make some changes if they feel comfortable for you.
- Open presents Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning.
- Vary the timing of Chanukah gift giving.
- Have dinner at a different time or place.
- Let children or other family members/friends take over decorating the house and/or the tree, baking and food preparation.
Re-examine your priorities.
- Greeting cards, holiday baking, decorating, family dinner, etc. Do I really enjoy this? Is this a task that can be shared?
Consider doing something special for someone else.
- Donate a gift in the memory of your loved one.
- Donate money you would have spent on your loved one as a gift to a charity.
- Invite a new guest to share the holiday.
Recognize your loved one’s presence in the family.
- Burn a special candle to quietly include your loved one.
- Hang a stocking for your loved one in which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings.
- Listen to music that was special to your loved one.
- Look at photographs of your loved one with family and friends.
Try to get enough rest.
- Take naps or time out from festivities when you can - the holidays can be emotionally and physically draining.
Allow yourself to express your feelings.
- Holidays often magnify feelings of loss. Know that it is natural to feel sadness.
- The need for support is often greater during the holidays. Share concerns, apprehensions and feelings with a friend.
Don’t be afraid to have fun.
- Give yourself and your family permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the holidays. Laughter and joy are not disrespectful.