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"Dealing With Grief" brochure

brochures also available in Finnish, Italian, Portugese, and French

Painful as it is personal, grief is a normal and necessary reaction to the death of a loved one. Although no two people will respond to death with identical emotions, most tend to undergo similar experiences in the process of working out their grief. Recognizing the shared experiences within a typical "grief process" will not necessarily ease the pain and the hurt. It can however, allow the bereaved the comfort of knowing they are not alone in enduring the most poignant of human experiences.


The initial reaction to death is often outright denial. Because the bereaved one's world is suddenly plunged into chaos and confusion, the accompanying shock, alarm and numbness make it difficult to accept or believe that death has occurred.


Following the first phase of numbness, the bereaved may find themselves in a state of intense "longing" for the loved one. These sharp pangs of yearning are normal responses to the loss of a loved one.

Grief is physical and emotional

It is common throughout the grief process to experience physical as well as emotional pain. Physical discomfort may be the result of increased tension, nervousness, insomnia, nausea, and fatigue. Simple tasks such as shaving or combing your hair can take enormous amounts of energy. In terms of human emotions, the bereaved will be faced with feelings of anger, relief, guilt, aimlessness, and sadness. These emotions must be accepted and dealt with individually.

Growing towards acceptance

The bereaved may go through a time of completely avoiding people and situations that are a reminder of the deceased. They may even have illusions of seeing or hearing the deceased, especially before falling asleep or before waking up. Both of these situations are normal ways in which the griever tries to return the other person to life, while accepting the fact that he or she is gone forever.

Living fully again

Eventually, those who are grieving come to accept that the deceased are gone forever. Upon this realization they begin to see themselves in a different light. They are able to make necessary changes in future plans; living can start over again. A wife can admit to being a widow. "We" becomes "I", "ours" becomes "mine". The terms "home", "marriage" and "family" take on a new meaning. This different view of the world is usually a signal that grief is coming to an end.

It is not unusual for a person to take up to a year or more to endure this grief process. Although it may seem impossible at first, it is worth remembering that grief ends as one works through the pain of loss.


Helping Ourselves

A major part in coping with the death of a loved one is simply to be aware that it is normal and necessary to go through this painful process. It is not strange to have all these mixed up feelings of anger, relief, guilt, or sadness. It would be unusual, however, not to show any feelings at all.

Seeking Help and Support

Although some people suffer through a particularly difficult grief process, others may appear to show no signs of distress at all. In some cases an individual can remain "stuck" at a certain stage. A person, for example, who acts as if the deceased was still alive several months after the death might benefit from talking to a professional counsellor or clergyman. It is not a sign of weakness to reach out for help and support following the loss of a loved one.


Helping Others

A large part of helping others to cope with death is understanding and accepting that it is normal to go through these different phases of grief. In this time of comfort and need, let them know you are willing to feel for them and hear what they have to say.


Although bereaved people must endure the grief process from within, the pain can certainly be shared by others. Sharing is being there with the other person, making a cup of coffee at the right time, helping with the chores, or just holding a hand. Family and friends should not be afraid to talk of the deceased.

Similarly, the bereaved should be encouraged to reminisce and talk openly about any feelings that may be felt.

Stay in Touch

After the death of a loved one, even the simplest tasks can be difficult for the bereaved to carry out. Friends and family can be supportive by taking care of the cleaning, shopping and cooking. Helping with these little chores can take the strain off the bereaved person's shoulders.

Little Things Help

Even after death has been accepted, the bereaved person still demands the constant support of friends. So keep in touch. The more family and friends are involved with the bereaved, the easier it is to resume living a full life again. Encourage the bereaved to step out and become involved. Let them know that they are wanted and worthwhile human beings.

Learning to accept death isn't easy. Grief is probably the most intense and painful of human experiences. However with the support and encouragement from friends and family, the bereaved can successfully overcome the grief process and emerge a stronger individual.


Paul Robinson B.A. (Hons.) M.A.
Paul Robinson is a graduate in clinical psychology from Lakehead University and has pursued Doctoral studies at York University. He has studied the processes involved in grief, bereavement and attitudes toward death and dying for several years.

Rev. L. Douglas Snell B.A. M.Div.

Rev Douglas Snell is a Minister of the United Church of Canada in Toronto, and was formerly Minister of First Church United in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He has been trained as a specialist in pastoral counselling and is a certified member of the Canadian Association of Pastoral Education. He has worked extensively in the area of grief counselling.

Alan G. Gardiner, Everest Funeral Chapel, Thunder Bay, gratefully acknowledges the work of the authors in the preparation of "Dealing With Grief". It is the hope of everyone concerned that through a better understanding of the grieving process people suffering loss may be helped and strengthened in returning to the mainstream of living.

Copies of this and other brochuresare available from either of our 2 locations. Please feel free to stop by and pick up a copy for yourself or a friend. Please "click" here to learn more about the bereavement care services available from Everest of Thunder Bay .

- John-Bryan Gardiner, Vice-President, Managing Partner.

299 Waverley Street (at Algoma) | Thunder Bay, ON P7B 5Z7 | Fax: (807) 345-5562 | Email: (807)-344-1121
420 West Gore Street (at James) | Thunder Bay, ON P7E 6J2 | Fax: (807) 473-1940 | Email: 807-473-1121