Guilt, Anger, and Other Normal Reactions to Loss

By | AfterCare, Grief/Loss

We experience a wide range of emotions when faced with the death of a loved one. And those emotions aren’t the same for everyone. Perhaps, if everyone grieved in the same way, we could craft a formula for grief – something that worked every time. But that’s not how it works. There’s no “correct” response to death. Every grief journey is different, as are the emotions swirling around within us.

As you deal with emotional stress, it’s important to name your feelings and acknowledge them. Nationally renowned and respected grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt says, “I have worked with thousands of grieving people and they have taught me about many, many different thoughts and feelings after a death. Rest assured that whatever you are thinking and feeling, while in one sense your thoughts and feelings are completely unique to you, they are also usually a common human response to loss.” Whatever you’re feeling – whether it seems typical or unusual – is normal. There are, however, a few normal emotional reactions that are often viewed negatively – ones that we think we shouldn’t feel after a loss. Let’s take a few moments to discuss them.


If you are feeling angry, you are not alone. Your anger may stem from feeling helpless, powerless, or abandoned. It may also be directed at someone or something in particular, like the doctors, your loved one’s health choices, God, or even life in general.

It’s important to remember that being angry is a normal response. As long as you don’t hurt yourself or others, it’s good to find a way to vent your feelings. If you are able to articulate what you feel, then consider writing it down or talking with a safe person (either a counselor or a good friend). However, if your emotions are more explosive, you might try using a punching bag, running, or participating in some other physical activity to help you release your anger.

Also, pay close attention to your words and actions. You may be more irritable and easily triggered than normal, causing you to be short-tempered with those you love.

Anxiety, Fear

For some, death can stir up anxiety or fear. Questions may arise in your mind. Will I be okay? Does my life have any purpose after this? Will other people I love die soon, too? What if something happens to me?

Feelings of anxiety or fear are often triggered by feeling vulnerable or that your security is threatened. For example, a child who loses a parent may feel anxious or fearful about whether something will happen to their remaining parent as well. Other options are that fear and anxiety are learned responses (a previous experience has conditioned you to respond this way) or that you aren’t sure how you will be able to cope so your anxiety rises, or you are worried that other sad things might happen.

Guilt & Regret

Another common emotion after a loss is feeling guilty about what happened or what didn’t happen. However, in many cases, it is misplaced guilt, though that doesn’t make the feeling any less real. Someone might feel guilty for not being a donor match, for not calling or visiting more often, or for not doing more to prevent the death (such as in the cases of depression, suicide, or substance abuse).

If you are dealing with feelings of guilt, remember that, while it’s a normal reaction to feel this way, your feelings may not be accurate. Consider why you feel guilty and whether you might actually be feeling regretful. There is a difference. Guilt, by definition, means that you have intentionally done harm to the person who has died. However, regret means that you wish you had done something differently. The main difference between the two is intent.

If you determine that you are guilty of some wrongdoing, look for ways to make up for your mistake – write a letter to your lost loved one to apologize or ask forgiveness of other people affected by your actions. Also, try to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. On the other hand, if you are feeling regret, work through your emotions. Determine what changes you can make to avoid regret in the future.


Relief may be one of the most common yet misunderstood emotions a person may experience after a death. We feel so strongly that we shouldn’t be relieved that we sometimes hide the fact that we are. But relief is to be expected, especially after a period of intense or prolonged suffering (as is the case with terminal illnesses). If a person dies after a long period of illness or was the cause (directly or indirectly) of increased stress in your life, it’s only natural to feel relieved when you are no longer suffering under high levels of stress. It doesn’t mean you wanted them to die or that you didn’t love the person. It simply means that you have been through a difficult time and are now emerging on the other side. Relief is normal and natural in such circumstances. As human beings, we are complex and can feel both relieved and sad at the same time. What you feel does not minimize your love for the person or the depth of your grief.

A Few Tips for Dealing with Your Emotions

  1. Don’t bottle them up. Let yourself feel what you feel.
  2. Realize and accept that your emotions are complex.
  3. Find a way to express yourself.
  4. Give yourself time to grieve and process. There’s no rush.
  5. If you need additional help, consider joining a grief support group or visiting a grief therapist.

Taking time to process and confront your emotions is a necessary part of every grief journey. Experiencing any or all of the emotions we’ve covered is normal, as are others we didn’t cover, like sadness, numbness, denial, and confusion. However, as time passes, and you do the work of mourning, the emotional intensity should lessen. As Dr. Wolfelt puts it, “Your feelings of loss will not completely disappear, yet they will soften, and the intense pangs of grief will become less frequent.  Hope for a continued life will emerge as you are able to make commitments to the future, realizing that the person you have given love to and received love from will never be forgotten. The unfolding of this journey is not intended to create a return to an ‘old normal’ but the discovery of a ‘new normal.’”

Embrace your grief in all its complexities and allow yourself to feel all of your emotions (they are natural!). In time, if you do the work of mourning, you will find your “new normal.”

Nature & Your Grief Journey

By | AfterCare, Grief/Loss

Grieving is not easy. In fact, it can be one of the most difficult but potentially strengthening journeys in life. But to become a stronger person on the other side of the grief journey, we have to walk through the pain. As Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected author and grief expert, puts it, “You don’t get to go around or above your grief. You must go through it. And while you are going through it, you must express it [if] you are to reconcile yourself to it.” One habit that has helped many people process and deal with their grief is spending time in nature. You may be thinking, “Nah, I’m not an outdoorsy person. That won’t work for me.” Before you throw the idea out, take a moment to read through some of the benefits of incorporating time outdoors into your schedule.

Nature reminds us that death is part of the cycle of life.

As much as we could like to escape death, it is a part of life. The natural cycle is very evident in the cyclical nature of the seasons. In the spring, life begins anew, continues into summer, begins to fall in autumn, and dies in winter. But there is hope – life begins again. In many ways, our individual lives experience these seasons. Perhaps you are in the winter of your grief – feeling lifeless on the inside – but if you allow it, spring will come.

Nature provides physical evidence that life does go on.

In a similar vein, just as the seasons show us that death is a part of life, they also remind us that life goes on. This cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth helps put life and death in perspective. Even though it may feel like life has stopped with the death of a loved one, it hasn’t. In some ways, this truth may make you angry (how can life just keep going on when the one I love is dead?), but there is also comfort and assurance in the certainty of the continuation of life.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.’ Albert Camus

Nature nurtures our mental and emotional health.

A Harvard-led study found that people who walked in natural areas (versus urban) showed a marked decrease of activity in the part of the brain associated with depression. When there is high activity in this area, a person is more likely to become depressed, so a decrease in activity is a positive thing. In fact, research shows that there is a link between connecting people with nature and faster recovery rates, reduced stress, and eased symptoms of mental and physical disorders. Just looking at nature can be beneficial to your health.

Nature demands nothing from us.

During times of grief, you may feel pulled in many different directions. Work. Family. Friends. Grocery shopping. All the big and small responsibilities of life. In contrast to all of these things (even though they are good), nature asks nothing of us. In many ways, it gives to us. It accepts us as we are and doesn’t demand answers from us.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” John Lubbock

Nature affords us quietness and solitude.

For many of us grieving, time away to think and process is necessary but hard to achieve. Taking a walk, going for a bike ride, hiking a mountain trail – all of these things give us the time and solitude needed to process our thoughts. We have an opportunity to enjoy the quietness without feeling cut off from the world. And when needed, we can talk out loud – to ourselves or to our loved one – without an audience.

Nature allows us to disconnect from the world around us.

In a world that is becoming increasingly chaotic and negative, sometimes we just need time to unplug, especially when we are dealing with feelings of grief. For some of us, it’s hard to completely unplug but doing so is valuable and healthy. Taking time to enjoy nature gives us the opportunity to embrace the world without its distractions and miscommunications. Even if something is good and positive, couldn’t we all use some time away?

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

Nature brings wonder back into our lives.

When we’ve lost someone we love, life seems a bit dimmer. Its joys aren’t as joyful; its mysteries aren’t as fascinating. But nature can help bring wonder back into our lives. The majesty of the Rocky Mountains; the beauty of a sun-kissed beach, flanked by turquoise waters; the rolling green hills of spring. Nature is limitless in its artistry and can remind us that there is still beauty in the world.

Nature draws our attention outward.

Grief is often mentally exhausting. In some cases, the events of the death play in our minds over and over again, especially in the case of an unexpected or traumatic death. We live most of our lives in our own minds, where we can get caught up in circular thoughts that may not be healthy for us. Nature can be an outlet for your thoughts and draw your attention outward to give your brain a much-needed break.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

Nature activates social support if you enjoy it with others.

As human beings, we are wired for interaction and community. During times of grief, some of us have a tendency to isolate ourselves, perhaps as a defense mechanism against further pain. But, despite the pain, it’s important to receive support from others. We aren’t meant to go through life alone. If you enjoy walking or hiking, invite a friend to join you and allow them to support you through your grief.

These are only a few of the reasons why nature can be quite beneficial to any grief journey. If you decide to incorporate outdoor activities into your life, make sure to start out slow. The act of grieving is tiring. If you can only walk for five minutes before you need a break, start out with five minutes. Over time, you will be able to go for longer periods. This is about you and your grief journey – don’t worry about what other people are doing to deal with their own grief. Find what works best for you and stick with it until you come to a place where the pang of loss doesn’t sting quite as deeply.

Grief & Self-Care

By | AfterCare, Grief/Loss

The word ‘bereaved,’ which to our modern-day ears can sound like an old-fashioned term that only a funeral director might use, means ‘to be torn apart’ and ‘to have special needs.’ So, despite its obsolescence, the word is still accurate and useful. Perhaps your most important ‘special need’ right now is to be compassionate with yourself. In fact, the word ‘compassion’ means ‘with passion.’ Caring for and about yourself with passion is self-compassion.” – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

Grief is hard. It’s unpredictable and grueling. It’s mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing. It is almost like a fog descends around you, and everything looks somewhat gray and dim. Depending on the nature of your loss, these feelings may persist for quite some time. That’s why self-care is so important. Every person’s grief journey is different, encompassing a range of emotions and an unknown time span, but in the midst of it all, taking care of yourself is important. You may not feel like making the effort, but self-care may be one of the most beneficial things you do for yourself.

When you think about self-care, personal fitness may first come to mind, but really, it’s a much broader term. It does mean taking care of yourself physically, but it also encompasses your emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and even social health. So, what can you do to take care of yourself while you’re grieving?

1. Don’t be afraid of your feelings.

You feel what you feel. It is what it is, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the emotions that may be coursing through you. We all feel loss differently, and every loss is different because every person and individual relationship is unique. Try not to stifle or ignore your feelings; don’t stuff everything down. Instead, accept that you feel what you feel and that it’s okay.

2. Give yourself time.

Grief is a journey, not an event. You will need time to come to grips with what life looks like without your loved one. You aren’t necessarily going to spring back into life the way it was. It’s okay to give yourself a little space and to take more breaks. Grief is hard work, and you need time to work through it.

3. Find ways to express your grief.

What you do is going to depend on your personality. For some, it’s helpful to go out into the backyard and chop wood or go to the batting cages and just whack the balls over and over again. For others, creative expression is helpful. Many times, journaling, creative writing, painting, drawing, arts & crafts, or other types of self-expression help us make sense of the seemingly senseless feelings going on inside. And if you are a person of faith, prayer, meditation, worship, or traditional rituals can help you express your grief.

4. Don’t neglect your health.

Most people feel more tired and less energetic when they are grieving. For this reason, it’s important to get plenty of sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, try to stay hydrated, limit your caffeine intake, and make sure that your bedroom is dark and relaxing. Additionally, you should make sure that you are eating healthy foods and taking time to participate in some kind of physical activity on a regular basis. One thing to watch out for is numbing activities. It may start out as a coping mechanism but beware of allowing numbing activities to distract you from dealing with your grief. Common numbing activities are: food, alcohol or drugs, anger, excessive exercise, TV or movies, books, isolating yourself, shopping, or losing yourself in work. While these may help you cope, they don’t help you move toward reconciling your grief and moving into what life looks like after a loss.

5. Allow others to walk alongside you.

You don’t have to walk this road alone. In fact, it will be much less stressful if you do accept help from others. There’s an incredible scene in The Return of the King, the third installment of The Lord of the Rings. Throughout all three movies, Samwise Gamgee has faithfully walked alongside his dearest friend, Frodo Baggins. Together, as they seek to destroy a powerful ring and save all of Middle Earth, they face danger and hardships, feel lost and hopeless, and at one point, Sam even fears that Frodo has died. And then, the moment comes. Frodo is so near the end of this incredibly taxing quest – this journey that has sapped him physically, mentally, and emotionally – and he says, “I can’t do this, Sam.” After some fortifying words, Sam says, “I can’t carry it [the ring] for you, but I can carry you!” This is why we need friends along the hard journeys in life. They can’t carry our burdens for us, but they can help carry us along; they can provide the support we need to move forward and find new life and new meaning.

Self-Care vs. Keeping Busy

It’s important to remember that self-care is not about “keeping busy.” It’s about taking care of yourself as you grieve. Nationally respected grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt puts it this way: “Remember—self-care fortifies your long and challenging grief journey, a journey which leaves you profoundly affected and deeply changed. To be self-nurturing is to have the courage to pay attention to your needs. Above all, self-nurturing is about self-acceptance. When we recognize that self-care begins with ourselves, we no longer think of those around us as being totally responsible for our well-being. Healthy self-care forces us to mourn in ways that help us heal, and that is nurturing indeed.

Taking care of yourself will contribute to giving you the strength to face each day of your grief journey. There are so many ways to care for yourself, and it will vary from person to person. Some will find bubble baths relaxing. Others will care for themselves by exercising, talking with friends, taking walks, sticking to a daily schedule, or enjoying a daily smoothie. No matter what you decide is best for you, be kind to yourself. It’s okay to have a bad day for no apparent reason, and you don’t need to feel guilty when you have a good day or enjoy an activity. The grief journey is not about the pain disappearing; it’s about you learning to reconcile with your loss and finding your “new normal.” You may always deeply feel the loss of your loved one, but you discover what life looks like after a loss and find new meaning in it.

Accepting the Caring Help of Others

By | AfterCare, Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.” – Alexander McCall Smith

For many of us, accepting help is difficult. Naturally, we want to help others when needs arise, but when it comes to accepting help ourselves, we resist. But during times of loss and grief, it’s important to accept the caring actions of others. It may be difficult, it may require vulnerability on our part, but we will substantially benefit from the love and care that those around us want to bestow.

But why is it so hard to accept the caring actions of others? Why do we so often say, “Oh, no, that’s okay; I’m fine”? It’s safe to say that there’s no one reason; in fact, reasons for refusing help may differ considerably from person to person. Usually they are subconscious assumptions that are actually false. The following list offers the most common reasons why people refuse the help of others. Are any of these false assumptions keeping you from accepting the help of others?

1. If I accept help, it means that I’m weak and don’t have it all together.

For many of us, it’s ingrained to be independent, self-sufficient, and capable members of society. We don’t want to appear weak for fear of judgment from others because we don’t “have it all together.” But what do we really gain from rejecting the help that others offer us? More work and more stress, most of the time. What’s worse is that it is all for the sake of keeping up appearances—which will never result in deep or meaningful connections with others. On the other hand, allowing yourself to be vulnerable with others can lighten the load and actually strengthen your relationships.

2. I won’t accept help because I don’t want to be an inconvenience or a burden to you. You shouldn’t waste your time helping me.

Some of us struggle with feeling like our needs might be an inconvenience to others. It’s not that our needs aren’t legitimate, it’s just that we don’t want others to take time away from their own lives to help us. When you lose someone you love, you may feel bad that a friend wants to babysit your kids, clean your kitchen, or cook some meals. But really, when you accept the help that’s offered, a door to deeper friendship is opened.

3. I have to return the favor if I accept help. I don’t like feeling that I owe anyone anything.

There are those who struggle with feeling that if they accept help, then it makes them beholden to the person who has offered assistance. Again, because many of us desire independence, we don’t like to owe anyone anything. But consider when you offer to help someone – are you thinking about when you will ask them to return the favor? Or do you genuinely want to help, regardless of whether you “benefit” in the end? For most of us, the answer is that we genuinely want to help and have no ulterior motives. So, if someone you know offers to help you when times are difficult and the grief is overwhelming, take them at their word and consider accepting the offer. What do you have to lose?

4. If I accept help, it means admitting that I can’t do it on my own.

It can be hard to admit that we need help. And it may be that we could do it all on our own, but it would be so much easier if someone was there to lend a hand. In reality, you don’t have to do it on your own, but it’s hard to break the mold. It really is okay to accept the kindness of others. It’s okay to say “yes” to the casseroles, the offers to go to the funeral home with you or just sit with you in silence as you grieve. Social connection and community are part of our internal make-up, so it’s okay to allow others to surround you and support you at a time of grief and loss. After all, it takes more internal strength to accept help than to shun it.

5. If I accept help, it makes my grief more real and highlights the fact that I don’t have this situation under control.

Many of us strive for control in our lives, but in reality, any amount of control we think we have is just an illusion. We may be able to dictate certain aspects of our lives, but there is so much that is outside of our control. And during times of grief, the emotions we feel need to be expressed, and to do that, we need to relinquish the tight hold we have on control. The reality is, you don’t have everything under control, so why not acknowledge it and accept the help others offer?

6. I don’t need anyone’s help. I’d rather just do it myself.

For someone who won’t accept help because they feel like they don’t need other people or they’d rather do it themselves, the cause is often rooted in past pain and disappointment. Perhaps they have been so hurt in the past, so let down by others, that they’d rather just do it themselves than risk being wounded again. The truth is, we need other people. And yes, people are messy, but even in the mess, there is great beauty, especially when you lower your walls to allow someone to serve you with caring actions.

What’s at the root of it all?

So, what’s really happening when we refuse to accept help that we actually need? Are we putting on a happy face when what we really need is a shoulder to cry on? Perhaps we are afraid of being vulnerable in front of other people and admitting our needs. When it comes down to it, all these responses are rooted in fear.

Margie Warrell, in an article for Forbes magazine, put it this way: “Fear gets in the way of asking for help. Fear of overstepping a friendship…of appearing too needy. Fear of imposing….[or] of revealing our struggle and having people realize we don’t have it all together. Too often though we ‘tough it out’ rather than reaching out to ask for help when we need it most. Fear gets the better of us while depriving others of a chance to show they care and share their gifts.”

It’s hard to admit that we might need help, but we do. It can be scary. It can push us to our limits, but we need relationships. We need others. It’s a proven fact that healthy relationships decrease our stress levels and improve our quality of life. So, what’s keeping you from accepting the caring actions of others? Are you afraid that your grief will make them turn away? That the fact that you aren’t okay will make them view you differently? There’s no need to fear. It is natural and human to grieve and to not have it all together. Accepting help will actually draw truly caring people to you. They will be grateful for the opportunity to express their care for you. It may be difficult at first, especially if you are hard-wired to refuse all help, but in time, it will become easier, and your life will be so much richer.


10 Caring and Creative Sympathy Gifts

By | Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.  – Henri Nouwen

When someone we know and care about loses someone they love, it’s hard to know what to do or say. Some will write a condolence letter, others will attend the funeral, and still others will send a sympathy gift. There are even those who will do all three. It is most common to send flowers as a sympathy gift to the family, and in recent years, to give a memorial donation to a specified charity. These are excellent ways to offer sympathy to a grieving friend. However, there are other options. Not all of them are items to purchase. If you are interested in a few non-traditional ways to support a grieving friend or family member, maybe these 10 out-of-the-box gifts will inspire you.

1. Photos the Family Doesn’t Have

If you possess any photos of the person who has died, you might consider making a copy and sharing it with the family. Not only will it be an image of someone dearly loved, but it will be a reminder that their family member is remembered and missed. If you have access to a lot of photos, you could even put together a thoughtful collage and send it to the family with a condolence card.

2. Self-care Items

It’s important to take care of ourselves in times of grief and loss. When we lose someone, we may experience a wide range of emotions: shock, numbness, fear, sadness. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, respected grief expert and counselor, says, “Good self-care is important [when you’re grieving]. The ‘lethargy of grief’ you are probably experiencing is a natural mechanism intended to slow you down and encourage you to care for your body.” We must nurture and take care of ourselves in emotionally draining times, so self-care items are an appropriate sympathy gift: bubble bath, moisturizing lotion, perhaps gifting a manicure, pedicure, or massage.

3. House Cleaning/Lawn Care

If you’d like to help in a very practical sense, you can offer to clean house, mow the lawn, shop for groceries, or some other helpful task. In general, we all have a tendency to say, “Don’t worry; I’ll get to it,” but during times of grief, it takes an extra measure of energy to accomplish even the most routine tasks. They may say “no” because they don’t want to inconvenience you, but show them that you aren’t inconvenienced, that you sincerely want to help. Be firm and gracious in your reply. “Please, I want to do this for you. Is Wednesday at 2pm okay for you?”

4. Grief Journal or Sketchbook

For some of us, we process our grief best through writing it down, allowing ourselves to pour the emotions out on paper. Others need to sketch or paint their emotions, using various colors to depict different emotions. Creative expression is an effective tool for expressing externally what is sometimes stuck internally. If you know that your grieving friend is a writer or an artist (and even if they aren’t), this might be a good avenue for self-expression, and therefore, an invaluable gift.

5. A Book About Grief

Sometimes it’s helpful to hear about others’ grief journeys, receiving courage and inspiration from their stories. It’s also beneficial to remember that we are not alone in our grief – we are not the only one who feels a deep sense of loss and bereavement. There are many books available about grief since it is something that every single person on the planet deals with at some point in their lives, though an often noted classic to consider is A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.

6. Message Jar

Everyone’s grief journey is different. No two journeys look the same, and we should not expect them to look the same. While the message jar may take a bit more time for you to create, it will provide encouragement to the grieving for a longer period of time. For this idea, you need a jar (you choose the size, color, decoration, etc.), and then, using small slips of paper, write 31 notes with words of encouragement to your grieving friend. After receiving the jar, your friend or family member will have an entire month’s worth of comfort and encouragement from you.

7. Something for the Kids

With this one, it will all depend on the child and their age. Perhaps a stuffed animal for a small child, a remembrance necklace for an older one, or if you know the family well, something even more personal and meaningful. Your options are unlimited. You could bring favorite foods, books, a specially made Christmas ornament to honor a lost loved one, and so on. As you seek to comfort your grieving friend’s children, they themselves will also be comforted.

8. Babysitting

Offering to take care of the kids for an evening is another practical gift you can give to a grieving family. The adult(s) may need time to think and process through overwhelming emotions, which can be very hard to do with little ones around. Time alone, or just the opportunity to go do some things solo, can be a rejuvenating and life-giving gift.

9. Vacation Time

Our jobs do not stop even though we are grieving. Some companies provide bereavement days, though it may be restricted to the loss of specific people, usually immediate family. If you are close to a grieving co-worker, and your company allows it, you might consider donating one of your vacation days to a friend who needs a little extra time to grieve. Of course, it will all depend on if this is possible and if you have days to spare, but it’s an option worth consideration.

10. Your Presence

While some people do want to be alone in their grief, your presence is important. Not your advice or your own grief experiences, but your presence. Silent. Waiting. Present. Available. We all need to know that someone cares, that someone acknowledges our grief and our right to grieve. Consider how you can simply be present and available to someone in grief, and when they are ready, a listening ear to someone who simply needs a friend.

Give Yourself Permission to Grieve

By | AfterCare, Grief/Loss

You give yourself permission to grieve by recognizing the need for grieving. Grieving is the natural way of working through the loss of a love. [It] is not weakness nor absence of faith. Grieving is as natural as crying when you are hurt, sleeping when you are tired or sneezing when your nose itches. It is nature’s way of healing a broken heart. – Doug Manning

Grief is the natural result of love. When we love deeply and wholly, we open ourselves up to the grief that will come when we lose the one we love so much. And while death is a part of life, it’s certainty doesn’t make it any easier to process the loss of a loved one. Did you know that the word “bereaved” literally means “to be torn apart”? So, by that definition, when we are grieving, we are being torn apart inside. It’s no wonder that we can become so tired, withdrawn, and quiet during times of loss.

Today, it can be difficult to grieve well. We live in a world that’s all about feeling good and embracing what makes us feel pleasure rather than pain. In fact, many of us shy away from pain, especially our own. Our feelings can be scary. So many of us don’t want to feel “out of control.” Our minds rebel against the idea of anyone seeing our pain, how deeply affected we are, how not okay we feel inside. But grief is not only in our minds, it’s most deeply rooted in our hearts and must find a way to be expressed.

Nationally respected author, counselor, and grief educator, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, puts it this way: “Over many years of walking with people in grief, I have discovered that most of us are hard on ourselves when we are in mourning. We judge ourselves and we shame ourselves and we take care of ourselves last.” The simple truth that we must all come to realize is that it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to NOT “be strong” in the face of loss. It’s okay to give yourself permission to grieve, to give outward expression to the internal anguish of your soul. We need to be free to express our emotions, not hide from them or feel ashamed of them. They are what they are, and they are a natural response to what we’ve lost.

Other people may not understand the depth of what you are feeling, and they don’t have to. You don’t need permission from other people to grieve. No matter how you express your grief – silence, weeping, screaming, quietness, thoughtfulness – it’s never going to fit into any particular mold. In fact, there is no “grief” mold. Every single person grieves the loss of a loved one differently, and that’s as it should be. We are all unique, individual people with unique, individual relationships.

By giving ourselves permission to grieve, we begin a journey. It’s a journey that requires much from us, but one that is worth taking. Through the journey, you may feel many things: pain, loneliness, restlessness, vulnerability, fright, peacefulness, comfort, and love. You are on a journey; a journey that will take you to reconciliation. As Dr. Wolfelt tells us, “Never forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever. It’s not that you won’t be happy again. It’s simply that you will never be exactly the same as you were before the death.” Life will not be the same as it was before, but you will find your “new normal” and begin to move forward.

As you begin your personal grief journey, remember these tips from Dr. Wolfelt:

  1. Realize that your grief is unique. No one else is exactly like you, and the relationship you enjoyed with your loved one was one-of-a-kind.
  2. Take time to talk about your grief. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk with a safe person about the emotions swirling around inside you. If you aren’t much of a talker or aren’t ready to be vulnerable with someone, write your thoughts down in a journal. Find a way to express what’s on the inside.
  3. Anticipate feeling a range of emotions. People experience a wide spectrum of feelings at the loss of a loved one: shock, numbness, denial, confusion, yearning, anxiety, fear, guilt, sadness, relief, and more. You will certainly feel some of these. It’s normal and natural to do so.
  4. Be mindful of your physical and emotional limits. You will be more tired, more emotionally sensitive. Learn what is too much for you right now and take things easy.
  5. Find people to support you. You don’t need to walk this journey alone. If you don’t know anyone that you feel would be an appropriate support for you, find an organized grief support group.
  6. Make use of ritual. There is a certain healing to be found in rituals. They encourage us to remember, they comfort us, and they offer us peace. For example, if you and your lost loved one watched a certain movie every Christmas, keep the ritual (tradition) alive as a way to remember them and feel close to them during the holiday season.
  7. Treasure your memories. Write them down. Tell the stories to others. Share the essence of the one you loved with those around you and keep their legacy alive. Your memories are your own to cherish forever and will be a continual reserve of peace and comfort.

Grief is not an issue to be solved or resolved. It’s a process we must tend to and live through in whatever form it may take for whatever length of time it may require. For many of us, the tendency is to ignore our pain. But trying to ignore it won’t make it go away. In fact, stuffing our grief away can have serious consequences on our mental and physical health. Rather than avoid what you’re feeling, give yourself permission to grieve. It just might be the best gift you can give yourself during a time of loss.

For more grief resources (books and websites), see the list below:

  • Canfield, Jack and Mark Victor Hansen. Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL: HCI, 2003.
  • Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hansen, and Amy Newmark. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery. Cos Cob, CT: Chicken Soup for the Soul, 2011.
  • Cross, Darlene F. A New Normal: Learning to Live with Grief and Loss. Las Vegas: Darlene F. Cross, 2010.
  • Curry, Cathleen. When Your Spouse Dies. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1990.
  • Deits, Bob. Life After Loss. Tucson, AZ: Fisher Books, 1988.
  • Emswiler, James P. and Mary Ann Emswiler. Guiding Your Child Through Grief. New York: Bantam, 2000.
  • Fumia, Molly. Safe Passage: Words to Help the Grieving. York Beach, ME: Conari Press, 2003.
  • Grollman, Earl A. Living When A Loved One Has Died: Revised Edition. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
  • Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Grief and Grieving. New York: Scribner, 2005.
  • Noel, Brook and Pamela D. Blair. I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye. Milwaukee, WI: Champion Press, 2000.
  • Peterson, Randy. When You Lose Someone You Love. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 2007.
  • Rando, Therese A. How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Has Died. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.
  • Schiff, Harriet S. Living Through Mourning. New York: Viking, 1988.
  • Wolfelt, Alan D. Understanding Your Grief. Ft. Collins, CO: Companion Press, 2004.

8 Simple Tips for Writing a Meaningful Condolence Letter

By | Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

Words often fail us. We don’t know what to say, how to say it, or when to say it, but we know something must be said. And so, we try our best. This is how you may feel about writing a condolence letter or sympathy card. You know you should say something, but you aren’t quite sure what to say. You worry about saying the wrong thing and making someone’s pain worse. But with a few pointers, you can reach out to others and offer heartfelt, sincere, and meaningful words of sympathy. Here are eight things to keep in mind when writing sympathy cards:

1. Don’t be silent.

It’s human nature to avoid situations that you deem difficult or uncomfortable. But just because something is uncomfortable does not mean it shouldn’t be done. Remaining silent does not help you or the other person. But, if you want someone to feel cared for during a time of loss, write them a card.

2. Social media isn’t always enough.

So many of us are guilty of only expressing abbreviated condolences on social media. “Praying for you.” “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Occasionally, a “Is there anything I can do for you?” But think how much more it would mean to someone, how truly cared for they would feel, if you took time out of your day to specifically and intentionally write to them. You travel to the store, you dawdle over which card to get (it’s got to be perfect!), you go home and sit down to write, and then express your condolences in your own unique way. That’s time you have given up to care for another human being. Condolences expressed on social media are not wrong, and in fact, they can be helpful. It’s an excellent way to express sympathy to someone you don’t know well. But for those you personally know and have a connection to, just think how much more care you will convey by taking the extra time needed to write a letter.

3. Handwrite it.

By handwriting the letter, you add an extra level of personalization. You took the time to sit down and not only gather your thoughts, but write them out. How many people actually do that these days? Far less than in previous years. It means so much more to receive a handwritten note in the mail than any message on social media.

4. Keep it short(ish).

You don’t have to write a tome for your sympathy letter. In fact, it’s better if you keep it somewhat short and succinct balanced with intentionality and compassion.

5. Make it personal.

If you are writing a sympathy card, it’s safe to assume that you either know a person who has lost someone or you knew the person who has died. With that in mind, make your words as personal as possible. If you knew the person who has died, share a positive story that you remember about them or a way they impacted you.

On the other hand, if you didn’t know them personally, mention that you know how much they meant to the family. Or share a story that you heard from your friend about their lost loved one. No matter how you say it, express your sorrow for their loss.

6. No comparisons.

A majority of us know what it is to lose someone we love. It’s hard, painful, and exhausting. But even though we can relate to someone’s grief, we should never compare our grief to theirs. Everyone grieves differently and uniquely. No two grief journeys are the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. Instead, offer words of comfort about your own grief journey, without comparisons. Share a valuable lesson you’ve learned in your own grief journey while still acknowledging, “I know your loss is so different from mine.”

7. Be real.

Don’t be afraid to use words like “death,” “died,” or “die.” According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a respected grief expert and counselor, acknowledging the reality of the death of a loved one is necessary to move forward in your grief journey. By being unafraid to use these terms, you participate in acknowledging the reality of the loss.

8. Add a thoughtful action.

These days, no matter where you live, you can take thoughtful action toward someone in grief. If you live nearby, take a casserole over to the family. If you live further away, order flowers online. With the internet, there’s so much we can do even separated by distance. But remember, don’t offer anything you can’t deliver.

Now that we’ve discussed some things to do, we should also touch on some things we should NOT do. In many cases, it’s just as important what you don’t say as what you do say. There are some things that we should never say to a grieving person. A few pitfalls to avoid:

  • Sometimes the grieving person needs to tell their story, but leave it up to them if they want to share anything regarding the circumstances of their loved one’s death. They shouldn’t be expected to tell the story again and again if they don’t wish to do so, and they definitely don’t need other people treating it like juicy gossip.
  • Refrain from saying anything negative about the person who has died. If you knew them, you may not have personally liked them, but for the purposes of a condolence letter, your opinions need to be kept to yourself.
  • Avoid saying insensitive things like “you’re better off without them” or “cheer up!” Every person needs to be allowed to grieve in their own way, not feel like they’re doing it wrong somehow.
  • Don’t mention the will or the estate. If you are in line to inherit something, you will be contacted at the proper time. The condolence letter is not the right time.
  • Try to avoid clichés. For example, “It was just their time to go” or “They’re in a better place” are cliché phrases that don’t help a person in grief. Don’t rely on old tropes. Put your heart into the letter and be real and sincere.

The Love Languages of Grief: Identifying and Asking for the Most Effective Grief Support for You

By | Grief/Loss

When it comes to mourning and how others can best help us, there’s no one right way. Every person and every loss is unique. The people we grieve the loss of – as well as the circumstances of the loss – are also one-of-a-kind. After a significant loss, what we think and feel inside, in what ways we’re able to express those thoughts and feelings, and how we feel supported by others vary from person to person and loss to loss.

Yet, in his landmark 1995 book The Five Love Languages, author Dr. Gary Chapman introduced us to the idea that human beings feel cared for by others in five primary ways:

  1. Receiving gifts
  2. Spending quality time together
  3. Hearing words of affirmation
  4. Being the beneficiary of acts of service
  5. Experiencing physical touch

According to Dr. Chapman, each of us “speaks” one of the five love languages. In other words, we feel most loved when we experience the language best suited to our unique personalities and ways of being in the world. We might also respond  to a second or third love language, but we always prefer our primary love language.

In reviewing Dr. Chapman’s love languages recently, I realized that grouping the various helping techniques in this way could help mourners understand and recognize which forms of support and communication might be most effective for them.

I invite you to consider the following five ways of being supported in your grief. Which love language helps you the most?

1. Receiving gifts

In Dr. Chapman’s body of work, gifts of love are actual gifts – tangible, visible objects that we give to someone we care about as a means of expressing our affection and devotion. People whose primary love lan­guage is receiving gifts see presents as physical symbols of others’ love and thoughtfulness.

Do you enjoy getting presents? Are you someone who displays gift items in your home and feels a burst of love and support each time you see them? If so, receiving gifts might be your love language.

If you are someone who values the love language of gifts, consider letting your friends and family know that you really feel supported by tokens of empathy. You might appreciate flowers, for example. You might welcome gifts of food, in­spirational books, photo frames, music, candles and ornaments.

With this love language, it can be tricky to ask for what you need. “Please give me gifts!” would be considered impolite by many. Still, consider sharing what you’ve learned about your love language with a good friend or empathetic family member who is also an excellent com­municator. Perhaps she/he can take on the role of explaining to others the lasting meaning and ongoing support you find in physical objects.

And when you do receive a gift, be sure to write a heartfelt note of thanks or make a thank-you phone call.

2. Spending quality time together

For many people, there is no present more precious than the gift of presence.

Do you love spending time with the people who care about you? Do you enjoy their company, even when you’re not doing anything special together? Do you prefer company to solitude? If so, quality time might be your love language.

Let friends and family know the best way they can help you during your time of grief is simply to be there for you – literally. You crave and need their physical presence. Maybe you don’t want to be alone. Maybe you like lots of people around. If so, tell them.

Think about how you like to spend time with others. Playing cards? Watching TV? Going out and about? Hanging out in the same house but doing separate activities? Whatever you prefer, let friends and family know because they may feel unsure about what to do.

Consider, too, if you feel supported when you have the opportunity to talk to others about your grief. In general, sharing your story of love and loss is a good idea. It helps you work through your thoughts and feelings. Bottling those thoughts and feelings up inside can seem safer, but it’s actually more dangerous because it puts you at risk of becoming stuck in your grief journey.

Of course, your friends and family members aren’t the only ones who can help you with this love language. Be proactive about getting involved in your community. Volunteering, participating in activities at a place of worship or community group, socializing with neigh­bors – these are all effective ways to build in more quality time with other people.

And don’t forget that grief never completely ends. If this is your love language, you will need the healing presence of friends and family not just in the first month or  two after the death but far into the future. Reaching out to plan ongoing get-togethers will help you receive the support you need.

3. Hearing words of affirmation

This griever feels most supported by words that are kind and encouraging. “Words of affirmation” might be your love language if you have a deep appreciation for hearing others tell you:

  • I love you.
  • I care about you.
  • I’m here for you for.
  • You are so loved/strong/genuine because _______________.
  • I have seen how you _______________.
  • You make a difference in the world by ______________.
  • Many people ______________ you.

If this describes you, let your friends and family know how meaningful you find it when they share these kinds of verbal mes­sages with you. Tell them that their words of encouragement and support lift you up and help you through the darkest times.

Written words may be affirming to you as well. While they’re no replacement for in-person or phone conversations, handwritten notes, emails, and even texts may also be helpful and encouraging to you. If you’re a verbal griever, be sure to encourage all forms of spoken and written communications.

4. Being the beneficiary of acts of service

For some grievers, actions speak more loudly than words or mere presence. Do you appreciate help with tasks? Do you feel cared for when others go out of their way to help you with things that need doing? If so, this might be your love language.

Since the death of your loved one, have others said to you, “Let me know if I can do any­thing?” It’s a natural impulse for friends and family members to want to do some­thing to show their support. Usually what happens, though, is that grievers don’t ask for assistance, so no assistance takes place.

So please, ask for assistance! People often do genuinely want to help, but they don’t know how. Suggest tasks and to-dos that suit their strengths. Ask your gardener friends to help with yard work, for example. Ask your book­keeper family member to help with home accounting, bill paying, or tax preparation.

If one of your friends or family members is a good administrator, you might sit down with this person and go over all of the tasks that you need help with right now. This person can then assign the tasks out to others in your circle of support.

Finally, if this is your love language and you’ve asked your inner circle for help with tasks but aren’t receiving it, don’t be reticent to reach out beyond your inner circle. Others are waiting in the wings. Places of worship, volunteer organizations, neighborhood committees – these and other service­-oriented groups often have programs and maintain lists of volunteers to assist with needs such as yours. It is likely that helping grieving families is something they would be glad to do. All you have to do is ask.

5. Experiencing physical touch

The griever who thrives on physical touch needs closeness. Are you someone who enjoys hugging, sitting close to others, maintaining eye contact, holding hands, and/or walking arm-in-arm? If so, this might be your love language.

If you’re someone who’s always valued physical touch, your friends and family members will know to expect it from you. Don’t stop now! You may, however, want to emphasize to them how extra-necessary you find their hugs and physical closeness during your time of grief.

If this is your love language, you might also be more prone to physical symptoms of grief. It’s common for people in mourning to experience stomachaches, heart palpi­tations, headaches, lack of sleep, and other physical symptoms. If bodily problems are making it hard for you to function and focus on healing, it’s a good idea to schedule a physical exam. Your primary caregiver may be able to help you with insomnia or other symptoms and put fears of illness to rest as well.

Those who crave touch will be soothed by regular contact. In addition to physical closeness with family and friends, physical activity may help you right now. Or consider inviting someone to take a walk with you each day. Physical proximity combined with exercise and supportive conversation may be just what you need to feel loved and supported right now.

I believe Dr. Chapman’s love languages offer a helpful framework for recognizing and understanding your own primary love language so that you know how to ask for and receive the most effective support in your grief. If you are interested in learning more about the love languages, you may want to read one of Dr. Chapman’s books on the topic. He has written versions focused on partners, parenting children, men and other types of relationships. The original and flagship title in the series was reissued in 2015 by Northfield Publishing under the title The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.

About the Author:

Dr. Alan Wolfelt is a noted author, educator, and grief counselor. Dr. Wolfelt believes that meaningful funeral experiences help families and friends support one another, embrace their feelings, and embark on the journey to healing and transcendence. Recipient of the Association of Death Education and Counseling’s Death Educator Award, Dr. Wolfelt presents workshops across the world to grieving families, funeral home staffs, and other caregivers. He also teaches training courses for bereavement caregivers at the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he serves as Director. Dr. Wolfelt is on the faculty of the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine. He is also the author of many bestselling books, including Understanding Your Grief, The Mourner’s Book of Hope, Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies, and The Paradoxes of Grief: Healing Your Grief With Three Forgotten Truths. For more information, visit

Printed by permission of Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, all rights reserved.

The Healing Power of Ritual

By | Grief/Loss, Meaningful Funerals

Throughout our lives, we participate in rituals. In some cases, we may not even know that we are taking part in a ritual. At weddings, we toss the bouquet. And there’s the old adage for brides: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. We all have our holiday traditions (rituals) that we look forward to year after year. Graduation ceremonies are another wonderful example of a ritual that marks a milestone in life. And birthdays – most of us celebrate them yearly with either great or modest, and sometimes reluctant, fanfare. And, for those who are spiritual, holy days throughout the year are full of ritual, tradition, and significance.

But what does the term “ritual” really mean? The word has Indo-European roots and means to “fit together.” It is related to words like “order,” “weaving,” and “arithmetic.” All of these words involve fitting things together to create order. Rituals fit, or put, things back together. This is especially important for a meaningful and healing funeral experience.

When a loved one dies, it makes sense to turn to rituals to help us put our lives back together again. Grief is chaotic and disorienting. It rips our world apart. In fact, the word “bereaved” comes from the root “reave,” which means to be robbed by force. “Grieve” stems from French root “grever,” meaning to burden, afflict, or oppress. The elements of a healing funeral are rituals that work together to restore order to our lives after everything is torn apart by the chaos and pain created by the death of someone loved.

The Comforting Nature of Rituals

Even with a clearer definition, the question still remains, what is it about rituals that is so comforting?

They encourage us to remember

To begin with, rituals connect us to the past and provide stability for the future. As we remember what has gone before, we are comforted by those memories. At Christmas, we often find joy in remembrance of Christmases past. At funerals, we seek to remember, to value, and to honor the life of a uniquely special person.

They bring us together

Rituals also bring us together as families and communities. Whether it is gathering for Good Friday services or joining in the town’s Fourth of July parade every year, we come together, we support each other, and we find unity.

They offer us peace

In many ways, by taking part in rituals, we actively seek peace within ourselves. For example, it gives us a measure of internal peace to pray when someone is sick or injured. Or, after someone we love has died, we receive comfort when we visit their final resting place or do something special and significant on the day of their birth or death. By taking part in ritual, an intentional habit to recall and reminisce, we find comfort and a release for our pain.

They give us focus

By participating in powerful rituals, we gain a sense of focus. We take our eyes off ourselves and see beyond our own difficulties. If you decide to volunteer at a local soup kitchen in tribute to a lost loved one, you are not focused on your own needs but on the needs of another.

They help us in our search for meaning

And finally, rituals play a significant role in our search for meaning. Religious rituals are part of an inner search for meaning and purpose. A search for meaning is found in natural, normal rituals: visiting the graves of lost loved ones, reciting vows at a wedding, and celebrating a significant day. We are all constantly searching for significance and purpose, and rituals are a powerful tool in the search.

The Funeral Ritual

In much the same way, the funeral is a ritual that humankind has participated in since the beginning of time. Noted author, counselor, and grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, puts it this way:

The funeral ritual, too, is a public, traditional and symbolic means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the death of someone loved.  Rich in history and rife with symbolism, the funeral ceremony helps us acknowledge the reality of the death, gives testimony to the life of the deceased, encourages the expression of grief in a way consistent with the culture’s values, provides support to mourners, allows for the embracing of faith and beliefs about life and death, and offers continuity and hope for the living.

By taking part in the elements of a meaningful and healing funeral service, we participate in the long-held and necessary tradition of the funeral. By taking time to mourn, we learn to reconcile with grief and move forward to find continued meaning in life.

Funerals encourage us to remember those we have lost. They bring us together as families, friends, and communities. They offer us peace as we are faced with the reality of our grief and begin to reconcile ourselves to it. Symbols – lighting candles, wearing dark clothing, attending services – give us focus and intentionality. And perhaps most of all, they help us in our search for meaning, our search to understand where we come from and who we are.

The Capacity to Love: The Reason We Grieve

By | Grief/Loss

Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy, but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving…the pain of the leaving can tear us apart. Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”   – Henri Nouwen

“All you need is love,” famously sang the Beatles. I couldn’t agree more. We come into the world yearning to give and receive love. Authentic love is God’s greatest gift to us as human beings. Love is the one human experience that invites us to feel beautifully connected and forces us to acknowledge that meaning and purpose are anchored not in isolation and aloneness, but in union and togetherness.

What higher purpose is there in life but to give and receive love? Love is the essence of a life of abundance and joy. No matter what life brings our way, love is our highest goal, our passionate quest. Yes, we have a tremendous need for love – love that captures our hearts and nourishes our spirits.

In fact, our capacity to give and receive love is what ultimately defines us. Nothing we have “accomplished” in our lifetime matters as much as the way we have loved one another.

Yet love inevitably leads to grief. You see, love and grief are two sides of the same precious coin. One does not – and cannot – exist without the other. People sometimes say that grief is the price we pay for the joy of having loved. This also means that grief is not a universal experience. Grief is predicated on our capacity to give and receive love. Some people choose not to love, and so, never grieve. If we allow ourselves the grace that comes with love, however, we must allow ourselves the grace that is required to mourn.

The experience of grief is only felt when someone of great value, purpose, and meaning has been a part of your life. To mourn your loss is required if you are to befriend the love you have been granted. To honor your grief is not self-destructive or harmful, it is life-sustaining and life-giving, and it ultimately leads you back to love again. In this way, love is both the cause and the antidote. Just as our greatest gift from God is our capacity to give and receive love, it is a great gift that we can openly mourn our life losses.

It is important to understand that grief and mourning are not the same thing, however. Grief is the constellation of thoughts and feelings we have when someone we love dies. We can think of it as the container. It holds our thoughts, feelings, and image of our experience when someone we love dies. In other words, grief is the internal meaning given to the experience of loss. Mourning is taking the grief we have on the inside and expressing it outside of ourselves.

Making the choice not just to grieve, but to authentically mourn, provides us the courage to live through the pain of loss and be transformed by it. How ironic that to ultimately go on to live well and love well we must allow ourselves to mourn well. You have loved from the outside in, and now you must learn to mourn from the inside out.

About the Author:

Dr. Alan Wolfelt is a noted author, educator, grief counselor. Dr. Wolfelt believes that meaningful funeral experiences help families and friends support one another, embrace their feelings, and embark on the journey to healing and transcendence. Recipient of the Association of Death Education and Counseling’s Death Educator Award, Dr. Wolfelt presents workshops across the world to grieving families, funeral home staffs, and other caregivers. He also teaches training courses for bereavement caregivers at the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he serves as Director. Dr. Wolfelt is on the faculty of the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine. He is also the author of many bestselling books, including Understanding Your Grief, The Mourner’s Book of Hope, Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies, and The Paradoxes of Grief: Healing Your Grief With Three Forgotten Truths, upon which this series is based. For more information, visit

Printed by permission of Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, all rights reserved.