It is traditional in Judaism that the community come together to support a mourner during their time of grief. Additionally, finding the right match and partnering with a counselor with whom you are comfortable is important. When mourning, please do not give yourself short shrift. Finding the best fit for you might also entail transcending region, bargain basement pricing, or field of training (i.e. psychology, pastoral care, LCSW). In the aforementioned spirit of traditional community support for the mourner, below are listed a variety of grief resources, including additional grief counselors, who might accompany you in some wonderful and perhaps remarkable ways. Even if it’s not through Hineni, please choose one which hopefully feels right for you:

Insights and Common Grief Experiences

  1. Grief is normal. Just as joy is a natural response to birth or marriage, so too is sadness and mourning a natural response to death and loss. Humans and animals both mourn, which illustrates the universality of grief to all sentient beings.
  2. Grief is literally messy– on all levels, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  3. Often those we expect to be there for us are not, and those we didn’t expect to be supportive in fact become our best companions during grief.
  4. If we are older and have a social circle of friends who are couples, once we lose our spouse, we can suddenly feel that we are no longer a part of that same social group, or the dynamic has changed.
  5. People say unhelpful things thinking that they are being supportive. Such phrases as: “get a dog,” “they are in a better place now,” “you can have more children,” or “now you can start dating,” and so much more, can make us even more upset or deepen our pain and sense of isolation.
  6. Our society is often too quick to push us to the “healing stage.” Sometimes we just need to be in our grief, whatever that looks like for us.
  7. Thoughts of suicide are very common, and is often connected to our sense of loneliness, longing to be with the person who died, the sheer intensity of the pain of the loss, regrets, or other factors connected to the person, the relationship, and their death.
  8. Often we will be asked “how are you?”, but not be given the time to respond authentically, and, therefore, we almost feel forced to respond by simply saying “I’m fine,” when, of course, that’s not the case. Similarly, sometimes we will receive a sympathetic hug, and may feel it’s not quite the right moment, person, not authentic, or just not wanted in that circumstance for a variety of reasons.
  9. We start to recognize the value of a good listening presence.
  10. A sense of relief after the person has died is common, but can also be accompanied by a sense of guilt for feeling relieved. Illness and death can be a long, prolonged, and even burdensome process, especially if you have been caretaking. It is more than normal and okay to feel relieved. It does not mean you didn’t love and care for that person.
  11. Being a caregiver for someone who is dying can result in complicated grief. One has spent an intense period of time caring for someone, helping to keep them as comfortable as possible, and when they die, we may feel that our purpose has also vanished. The intensity of the caregiving and the time spent with that person as well can intensify our grief.
  12. Our friends and family may stop talking about the individual who died, when, in fact, we still very much want to talk about them, to say something about who they were, to hear their name continue to be spoken. Others may think they are protecting us by not saying anything about the person, but it actually may feel more isolating. Just because we cry or weep when their memory is shared does not mean we are being damaged, it can be an opportunity for release and to grieve in a much needed way.
  13. Within days or weeks after the funeral, often people will stop asking about the person who died, yet we, ourselves may still be very much in grief and could use someone to be present to what we are currently dealing with.
  14. Sometimes we will see the person who has died, whether it’s in dreams, standing in front of us, out of the corner of our eye, when we wake up, go to sleep, etc., or we may pick up on other signs of their presence.
  15. We will be hit by “grief waves”– moments when all of a sudden grief will overwhelm us again, even if we feel like we are “getting better.” This does not mean we have failed, or are not progressing in some way. It just happens. There are triggers (a song, location, smell, etc.). Sometimes the trigger is known, sometimes not readily apparent, that will bring the sense of grief and pain right back up again. It’s okay and to be expected.
  16. Moving through grief is not a straight line. It is a spiral on which we move back and forth, up and down.
  17. We become discombobulated and sometimes feel like we’ve lost our mind. We may even wonder if our cognitive abilities have declined. It’s grief. We also can become more accident prone, as grief can be so distracting and all consuming.
  18. We can become much more agitated and lash out, or snap at others, in ways which don’t feel typical to our normal personality. Our threshold and patience has been lowered. It is okay to let others know that you are not yourself given the circumstance. Hopefully they will understand that this is part of grief.
  19. We have a lower tolerance for BS. Authenticity becomes much more important.
  20. Regrets are a big part of grief, whether it’s things we didn’t say or do, or conversely, actions or statements we wish to take back.
  21. We sometimes regret that we were not present when the person died; that maybe they died alone. Very often, however, the person will “let go” when they have the room to themselves. It’s almost as if they are given the space to not hang on anymore. Also, no one can precisely determine when the moment of death will occur. In almost 30 years of working with those who are dying I myself have yet to be present at the exact moment of death.
  22. If the person died in a medical setting, often we will second guess our choices and think that if we had made other decisions the person would still be alive, or the outcomes would have been better.
  23. Every person grieves differently, even if they are mourning the same person. One should not assume that though one may share a similar loss that the grief and how it manifests will also be similar.
  24. The length of time we grieve is different for each person. There is no set length, despite attempts by the medical field to establish limits.
  25. Often grief doesn’t go away, rather it gets folded into our lives, and can shift and change with years and experience. The frequency of intense pain does lessen over time.
  26. Some of us may unexpectedly find that the tears do not come easily. Again, there is no one way to grieve. For those whom crying somehow does not manifest after the death, know that eventually there will be some triggers or events, which will help release the tears, even if temporarily. Embrace that moment as your moment to grieve. It will periodically happen again, and those will be your own opportunities to mourn.
  27. Just because the grief may lessen at some point, does not mean we are losing our sense of connection to the person. Often it is an opportunity for us to create more space to remember them even more fully. One does not have to feel that one has to hold onto the grief in order to remain close to the person.
  28. Finally, many ask: “how long will this last?” Obviously, the answer is different for everybody. It’s also one of the most difficult questions to answer, as there are so many variables. That said, for those who are in the deepest and most unfathomably profound pain, and in the most difficult and intractable cases, my observation is that people begin to emerge in some way no later than at about the 3 year mark. That doesn’t mean the grief has gone away, but they feel they can engage in the world and have moved through some of the more paralyzing aspects of grief. Most, however, will find that they have been able to integrate their grief, and have passed through the most painful period, within weeks, months, or maybe a year.
  29. Holidays and birthdays can be painful and real triggers for grief. We can dread a particular upcoming celebration or observance because of how we used to share that time with someone who is no longer with us. It is helpful to anticipate the occasion, know that it is approaching, and plan something which will both protect and safeguard you. Yet maybe you will discover ways to even transform the holiday which can make it tolerable, if not meaningful, again.
  30. The death of a spouse, or long term relationship, can often feel like we’ve essentially lost one of our limbs– an integral part of ourselves, whose loss is ineffable.
  31. Just because someone dies, does not make them right. We are fallible both in life and in death. For example, sometimes the deceased will have previously requested no memorial or remembrance whatsoever, but we may need for ourselves in our grief. In fact, a memorial can often help move us through grief in much needed and healthy ways. The person who died may not have considered the impact of denying the opportunity to memorialize them would have on others. A grief counselor can help navigate in such a way that the needs and desires of all parties are appropriately honored.
  32. Complicated and difficult relationships can result in what is called “complex grief”; for example, if the person had mental illness, was estranged, or abusive, etc. In such cases, emotions, mixed feelings, hurts, can linger and feel unresolved. Again, this is something with which a grief counselor can be of service, and can work with the mourner on these issues and how they connect to how they may be grieving.
  33. As we age and move through different stages of life, we will find that the death, and our relationship to that person, will take on new and different meaning and significance. For example, the death of a father when we are a teenager will be experienced and mourned differently than it will be 50 years later, as we reflect on what our father’s presence and absence may have meant at this new point in life.
  34. A common viewpoint in the field of grief is that the loss of a parent equates with the loss of our past. The death of a spouse is losing the present. The death of a child is the loss of our future.