Grief: there is no right or wrong way to grieve

Living Hope Funerals provides after funeral care and bereavement support

Grief describes the various responses we experience when facing a loss. Everybody’s experience of grief is different. It’s important to grieve how you want to, rather than how you think you should grieve. 

When a close friend or family member dies, you may feel shock, numbness, and even disbelief. Some weeks later, when you think you should be getting over their death, things may be even worse. Over the months that follow, it may seem as if you are on a roller-coaster – experiencing a range of emotions when you least expect.

The grief experienced in response to a death is unique and personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people seem to manage their grief more “easily” than others, yet it doesn’t mean they are free from grief.

Grief includes a wide range of responses which vary with each person, depending on the available support, individual personality, culture, life experiences and the nature of the loss.

While everyone’s grief is unique, there are some things everyone is likely to experience. Many bereaved people say they know their family member has died but they find it hard to believe that the person is really gone. There might be a desire to talk about the person who has died and the events leading to their death.

It can be distressing to have your thoughts occupied by memories of ill health or the death of a loved one, when you would prefer to remember happier times. You might feel confused or experience some difficulty in concentrating and find that you forget things easily.

It is quite normal to experience intense and painful emotions when you have experienced a loss, but those feelings will feel less raw with time. Not everyone will feel the loss in the same way. At times, it may feel messy and chaotic. We don’t necessarily move smoothly through a process of grief: instead, we go back and forth between living life as normal and experiencing times of feeling the loss deeply, as though it only just happened.

Grief is not about ‘letting go’ or ‘moving on’; it is about becoming accustomed to a world which will be different without that person and intentionally remembering the person who died, in whatever way is right for you.

People die but relationships do not. There is a unique and ongoing relationship between you and the person who passed away. Perhaps it is in the way you hold their memory or the way you live your life that reflects who they were and what you learned from them. Perhaps it is marking special days or anniversaries in meaningful ways.

In our grieving, we can intentionally give time to receive healing from God. We can sit with Him, not trying to do too much other than rest in His presence, letting His love into our sadness and comfort in our hearts. We read in John 11 how Jesus wept when he saw Mary and Martha’s grief over the death of their brother Lazarus. Even though Jesus knew he would momentarily raise Lazarus to life, he was still deeply moved with compassion for the sisters’ heartbreak. Just as He was with the sisters, so He is with us when we grieve.

Grieving is also a time to find help from your family and friends. It can be useful to accept offers of assistance. Where possible, tell your friends and family what feels right for you. It is also important that you look after yourself at this time, taking care to eat as well as you can, and getting plenty of rest.

If you feel overwhelmed or simply that you need more help, see your local GP, local health centre or church pastor and ask about grief counselling. Here are a couple of web site links that you could consider:

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