Seven Things Everyone Needs to Know About Grief

1) Grief belongs to the griever. It’s no one else’s responsibility. No one should tell a griever how to grieve, when to grieve, or how long to grieve. No one can bind grief or limit it, usually not even the griever.

2) All losses aren’t equal for the simple reason that not all relationships are equal. The more deeply committed the relationship, the more roles a person played in your life, the more you will grieve.

3) Grief for a life mate takes much longer than everyone assumes that it does. Many people find a sense of renewed interest in life or at least a sense of peace between three and five years, and even afterward, they can experience grief upsurges.

4) The most stressful event in a person’s life by far is the death of a life mate or a child. Such a loss is so devastating that the survivor’s death rate increases by a minimum of 25% percent.

5) Grief is normal. The whole chaotic mess of new grief, no matter how insanely painful, is normal. Whatever a person does to help get through the shock and horror of losing a life mate or a child is normal.

6) Grief is physical, too. People often tell the bereaved to put the deceased out of our minds (at the same time they tell them that the deceased will always live in their hearts), but that’s hard to do because grief is also in our bodies.

7) Anger is an effect of grief. It is not a stage of grief, not a complication, but an intrinsic part of the process. In fact, we don’t need to be angry at someone or something to feel anger as part of grief. It is the body’s natural response to a perceived danger.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

What Everyone Should Know About Grief – Part 3

Grief for a life mate takes much longer than everyone assumes that it does. Long after our family and friends have grown weary of our sadness, long after the grief experts say we should have returned to our normal life, we still grieve. Even we grievers underestimate the time it takes — most newly bereft think that the one-year anniversary is some sort of magic goal, and it is a goal, though not the end of grief. When we wake on day 366 to continued sorrow, it hits us that this not some sort of test. It’s real. They are gone for the rest of our lives.

The complex and painful experience of grief for a spouse, life mate, soul mate is not something we see on television shows, in movies, or read about in novels, so we get no sense of how long grief takes. Fictional folks shed a fictional tear or two, perhaps go on a fictional spree of vengeance, then continue with their fictional lives unchanged.

Of course, there is always that one old woman in Mafia movies who, draped in black from head to toe, throws herself on the casket, screaming for her Joey. Or the even older woman, also draped in black, who moans for her long-deceased Vinnie. These characters are so overdone, we cannot believe their grief is normal, but in many ways, this portrayal of grief is more realistic than the character whose life isn’t affected at all by the death of a life mate.

Despite the experts’ belief that our lives should return to normal after six weeks or even six months, our lives never return to normal. Usually, by the fourth anniversary (though sometimes not until the fifth or even longer), we’ve created a different normal for ourselves that makes room for the absence of our life mate as well as the possibility of future happiness.

Even then, grief isn’t completely gone. Many people feel a strong resurgence of grief during any life passage, such as the wedding of a child or the birth of a grandchild. Any subsequent loss brings back grief for that special someone. Any trauma brings with it a yearning for support from the one who is gone.

Still, the pain and the sorrow do pass. It just takes so much longer than anyone ever assumes that it does. So if you are grieving, be patient with yourself. If you know someone who is grieving for longer than you think is healthy, think again. They are doing the best they can, finding new ways of living, filling the emptiness (or trying to fill it). And yet, through it all, the dead are still dead. You might not remember that fact, but believe me, your grieving friend will always remember.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.