1) The loss that you experience may resurrect old problems, unfamiliar emotions, and unresolved issues from your past.
2) Your time of bereavement may involve a variety of uncomfortable feelings and reactions; not solely those that are typically viewed as grief (e.g. depression, sadness, anger, or guilt) (Rando, 1991).
3) Despite what others may tell you, it is OK to be angry. After the loss of a loved one, many people feel frustrated, annoyed, or irritable- this is normal. Do your best to be kind to yourself and to your loved ones.
4) Your grief will most likely take longer than most people expect. Be patient and give yourself some grace during this difficult time. Grieving is a complicated process with no specific timeline.
5) Expect to mourn your loved one as well as the loss of dreams, plans, hopes, and the unfulfilled exceptions that you had with them (Rando, 1991).
6) Your grief will take more energy than you would have ever anticipated. If you feel drained and depleted, this is normal. Engage in self-care and reach out for support. No one should have to endure a loss alone. If you do not have a strong social system, consider seeking professional help from a trained psychotherapist.
7) The grief process involves many changes. There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her book: “On Death and Dying.” The 5 stages of grief are: 1) denial & isolation; 2) anger; 3) bargaining; 4) depression; and 5) acceptance. During our bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each stage with various levels of intensity. The five stages do not necessarily occur in a linear fashion. We often move between the stages before reaching a more peaceful acceptance of our loss.
8) It is not abnormal to suffer from cognitive difficulties during your time of despair (e.g. memory, intellectual processing, decision making, or organization) (Rando, 1991).
9) Holidays, special events, anniversaries, and random stimuli will most likely trigger strong and painful emotions. Expect that reactivity, relational distress, and/or isolation may occur. Learn how to cope in healthy ways (e.g. journal, reach out for support, exercise, get the proper amount of rest, engage in a new hobby, etc.).
10) Expect to encounter physical reactions during your time of suffering. Headaches, upset stomach, & difficulty sleeping can become commonplace. Seek medical attention if your symptoms get in the way of everyday functioning.
11) Society will most likely have unrealistic expectations about your mourning process. Do not be surprised if people respond inappropriately during your time of bereavement (Rando, 1991).
12) Grieving is a personal process. Keep in mind that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to deal with a loss (Rando, 1991). People may tell you how you should grieve, or even how they have grieved, but it is your journey- do what feels right for you.
13) The death of your loved one may influence you to evaluate or confront your own feelings of mortality.
14) Expect that your grief will be more intense than you could have ever imagined. It will manifest itself in many areas of your life (e.g. psychological, social, and physical).
15) Identity confusion after a loss is common. You may have reactions that are quite different than your usual thoughts or behavior. Do your best to make some space for your emotions. After all, they are both valid and real.
16) Your grief will depend on how you perceive the loss. It will also depend on your own personal characteristics, your faith, spirituality, or philosophical beliefs, your social support, physical state, and the type of death (Rando,1991).
Rando, T. (1991). How to Go on Living When Someone you Love Dies. Random House Publishing Group.