As an Ordained Minister (since 1988) seminary trained in grief counseling, The Rev. Ms Lyndsey felt the need to pull information together that she has shared with others over the years who have lost loved ones. "If you or someone who love has lost a loved one, a friend, a family member, and are having grief issues, I hope that you will read this article."

More importantly, if you or someone you love or care about is having trouble dealing with loss and with the grief, please refer to the Resources at the end of this article to find a trained professional for help.

Hospice provides free Grief Counseling ~ all you have to do is ask for it!

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Grief is handled by people in many different ways. Many people use the words, grief and mourning interchangeably, when actually they have distinct meanings:

Grief involves the many reactions we have to a loss. This may include sleep and appetite disturbances, difficulty concentrating, problems with decision-making, intense and varied emotions, social withdrawal, loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed, etc. As you can see from this short list, grief reactions can greatly impact your day-to-day functioning.

Mourning involves adjusting to your loss over time. It involves changing yourself to fit your new reality. This includes changing the way you see yourself, your life, and the world. Mourning also involves developing a new relationship to the person who died—a relationship of memory. Developing a new identity and bringing the past together with the present are also tasks of mourning, along with reconstructing a new meaning in your life.

It is also important to know that when a partner loses a loved one, that not just the partner whose loved one passed away is grieving, but the other partner(s) is or are also grieving. Partners who grieve the loss of a child, grandchild, parent, sibling, or another loved one face particular challenges together. First of all, your main source of support: your partner (or partners), is (are) grieving too, and may not be able to be there for you in the ways you would like. Additionally, you may find that your style of grieving is very different from your partner(s).

It is important to understand and acknowledge the way each of you grieve. The way grief is expressed has little to do with love. In other words, if your partner(s) does (or maybe you partner does not) "normally" express feelings outwardly, or is/is not currently openly communicating about his/her grief, be careful to not assume that she/he is not grieving, or that she/he did not love the one who died. Remember, you both hurt, yet that hurt may be expressed very differently.

You may each need to identify and utilize outside sources of support. You cannot be everything for each other. Spend time with each other doing things together that you use to do that you both love & enjoy when you can. Do special little things for one another, yet take breaks from each other. Allow yourself to be replenished by others who are able to be there for you.

Tips for Family and Friends


When someone you know experiences a major loss, it can be very difficult for you, too. You may feel torn about calling or visiting. You may even put off contacting her. You may have many fears: Fear that you will say the “wrong thing”, fear that your expression of caring will cause her to cry/feel worse, fear that it will be awkward and uncomfortable, and so on.

Whatever you do, do NOT let these fears stop you from offering needed care and comfort. In other words, call, visit, and send notes. In whatever ways you are able to, convey to the person that you care, and you want to help and be available.

What to say is a big issue for most of us. Some basic suggestions about helpful and not-so helpful things to say are listed below, but please remember the old adage: ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. In the case of loss, words are not nearly as important as the gesture of reaching out to someone in need. If you really care, that will come through in your willingness to show up, in your willingness to spend time together, in your willingness to listen, and in your willingness to love. If you show up, are honest, and show that you genuinely care, you can get away with saying the “wrong thing”. Your kindness and caring are what your friend or loved one will remember. The fact that you took the time, you expressed genuine concern, you listened, or you just sat quietly with them, sat and held them, cuddled them, etc., these are the things she will remember. She will also remember if you stay away.

The concern about what to say is common and comes from the mistaken belief that we have to somehow “fix” the person. The best thing you can do for yourself and for your bereaved loved one or friend is to accept the reality that there is nothing you can do that will “fix” her. Just go, and BE with your loved one. There is nothing more important than the presence of a caring person.

The Visitor – a poem

You came and did not try
To cheer us up with facile jokes
Or false philosophy or some pious cliché
About how God knows best.
You did not attempt to comfort, console, or pray,
But sat with us a while.
And by your simple presence seemed to say
I’m here, I understand and share your pain.
(Author Unknown)


Regarding what to say and what not to say, here are a few "suggestions." Adapt them according to your own personality and who it is you are supporting.

  • Do say: “I am here for you.”
  • Do say: “I don’t know what to say. I know this is devastating for you. It is hard for me too. I want to help you and I don’t know how. I care about you.”
  • Do say: “If you ever need to talk, I am willing to listen. I can’t fix it for you, but I’d be glad to listen.”
  • Do say: “If you ever need a break from your grief, and you would like to go do something together, let me know. I would be glad to provide you with some distraction.”
  • Do say: “If you need help with practical things, like mowing the lawn, preparing a meal, etc., I would love to do that for you on Saturday,” (or whatever day you have available).
  • Do NOT give unsolicited advice. Avoid statements like: “You need to . . .” or “You should . . .”
  • Do NOT assume the role of God’s spokesperson. In other words, do not say things such as, “This was God’s will.” “God does not give you any more than you can handle.” “God needed him more than you.” (How do any of us know?)
  • Do NOT say things such as, “They are better off.” (Again, how do we know?)
  • Do NOT say "your not listening to me" or "you didn't hear what I said." Its normal for a person in grief to "day-dream" about their loved ones. They are not "ignoring" you on purpose, they may even be reliving an incident with that loved one about the very thing you are talking to them about.
  • Avoid suggesting time limits for someone’s grief. There is no time limit. It will take as long as it takes for each individual. Everyone’s process of grief and mourning is unique.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve

there are healthy ways to cope with the pain that, in time, can renew you and permit you to move on with your life.

Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you deal with your grief depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried. Also, there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself ~ allow the process to unfold naturally.

Grief has five acknowledged stages. These are:

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.” (Some people get stuck here).
  • Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

However, not everyone who grieves goes through all of these stages – and that’s okay. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go through each stage in order to heal. In fact, there are some people who actually resolve their grief without going through any of these stages. And if you do go through these stages of grief, you probably won’t experience them in a neat, sequential order either, so don’t worry about what you “should” be feeling or which stage you’re supposed to be in.

Here are some myths and facts about grief:

  • MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
  • Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it. Are you perhaps doing this?
  • MYTH: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
  • Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
  • MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
  • Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.
  • MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
  • Fact: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person.

A very important thing that I learned during my training as a grief counselor is that

Grief can be a roller coaster

Instead of a series of stages, we might also think of the grieving process as a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning, the lows may be deeper and longer. The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss. Even years after a loss, especially at special events such as a family wedding or the birth of a child, we may still experience a strong sense of grief.

This is natural!

Important things to remember while grieving:

  • Take care of yourself. When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time.
  • Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.
  • Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life; or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to him or her.
  • Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
  • Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” These include Anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, and milestones which can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop (or the roller coaster ride), and know that it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing a holiday or life-cycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and agree on strategies to honor the person you loved.

Whether you have been denying myself to grief or perhaps your grief just hasn't or doesn’t go away, that is something to consider as well. Remember it is normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss. But as time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you accept the loss and start to move forward. If you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into a more serious problem, such as complicated grief or major depression. If this is the case, then you need to seek the help of a licensed professional therapist.

If, however you just simply have not grieved, grief counseling sessions with someone experienced in grief counseling should be able to determine why you have not been able to grieve for your loss and then assist you with getting through your grief issues.

Losing a parent, a sibling, a child, another loved one changes you. However, you can get past it and be better than you are now.


How to find a grief counselor:

Most ministers are trained as grief counselors. Please notice that I said "most" ~ this means that not all ministers are trained grief counselors. If they are not, you can often seek out a referral to a grief counselor from a local church. Most churches {especially UCC (United Church of Christ) and MCC (Metropolitan Community Church)} will have pastors who are trained grief counselors who will see non-church members strictly for grief counseling. If not, seek out help from your local Hospice Center.

Hospice Resources

Hospice provides free Grief Counseling ~ all you have to do is ask for it!

In the US:

  • ~ Hospice information provided by the Hospice Foundation of America, or
  • Your community may have information and referral services available through your American Cancer Society, an Agency on Aging, United Way chapter, Visiting Nurse Association, or your place of worship. or
  • Pull up Google Maps. Type in: 'Your City' 'Your state' hospice. Example: Ocala, Florida hospice, then hit "Enter". Find the one closest to you.

United Kingdom Directory ~ is the most comprehensive list of hospices in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

International Directory
NOTE: The information contained in this directory is voluntarily sent to IAHPC (International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care). Listing in this directory does not represent endorsement or support from IAHPC. The organization is not responsible for the accuracy and veracity of the information.
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© 2014 The Rev. Ms Lyndsey