Loss, Grief, and Bereavement | Self Help Article
The Grieving Process
The experience of loss and grief is a universal human phenomenon. Our culture provides few ritual practices to guide the bereaved through this process. In addition there is often a conspiracy of silence where close friends and even family may hesitate to speak openly about the deceased to avoid "upsetting" the grieving person.
Comfort: Support Through Grief and Loss
John Bowlby found in his research on grief that the single variable most likely to bring about a positive outcome was the presence of comfort. By this he meant the supportive presence of other people who were available to listen to the grieving person when they chose to talk about their experience or reminisce about the deceased.
Counsel for Grieving Persons
Too often grieving persons experience not only the loss of the deceased, but also an increased emotional distance between themselves and friends and associates. Compassionate leave is a standard in the American workplace, but after a week or so it is assumed that the bereaved person is ready to get on with it, and life goes on as before. Except for the bereaved family.
The self help books listed in the section on Grief and Bereavement offer sensitive counsel to grieving persons, their friends and families. Most of all, though, they offer permission -- to grieve; to be sad, angry, lost or confused; to tell stories of the person who is no longer with us; to honor them and ourselves by not pretending that nothing has happened.
A widower explained it to me this way: in his back pasture stood two large oaks in whose shade his small herd of dairy cows rested through the hot summer days. The trees' great ball of green foliage shone through the spring and summer; for a few weeks in the fall the orb glowed an orangey-yellow before the leaves fell.
One winter one of the trees died, and he had it cut down in the early spring so the firewood could be ready by the next winter. It was only after the remaining tree had fully leafed out that he could see its shape -- only a partial ball of foliage, with a great gap where the branches of the other tree had filled in. "It's sort of been like that for me since Mabel died," he said.