Unit 1

Grief Introduction

The obvious is that every life will experience the death of a loved one or the death of a person of close personal relationship.  The not so obvious is how we will respond mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  What effect will faith have on this sorrow, this grief?  The pain of exempt.  It is certain that life experiences loss, and with loss comes grief.  Grieving is our response to this lost connection, often centering on death, but grief will be connected to any important wound to life.  (Any loss to life that is valued can create grief, such as the loss of a job, divorce, unfulfilled dreams, moving, illness, stroke, etc.)

Your grief reaction is as unique and individualistic as you are, as unique as the relationship lost, and as distinctive as the anticipated life after injury.  Each individual has his or her own expressions of love, and you will have your own expression of loss.  This special makeup will lead each individual into and through his or her peculiar grief response.  The distinctiveness of personal grief arises from one's values, culture, family, community, spiritual beliefs, and understanding of loss and of death.  No two people will grieve the same, but there are similarities.  As individuals, we can complicate the grief experience by a lack of understanding concerning grief and how loss interacts with our present lives.  Knowledge does not cancel out grief, but it helps in understanding and expressing the changing features that each person displays in grieving.  Knowledge is an anchor to the grieving process.  But although an anchor holds a ship, it does not calm the troubled sea.

Grieving presents challenges to everyday living beginning the moment someone informs you of a death.  Each day will have its own uniqueness.  The memories, the absence of your loved one, and that day's activities merge into a day that can feel like a blender.  And as soon as things begin to settle, something or someone comes along, pushes the start button, and life is again in a spin.


David C. McGee

The following information and stories illustrate the grieving process, bringing to you information and experiences that accompany grief.  Many carry the idea that there is something wrong with them when this grief steals its way into life because they have never experienced it before - or at least not to this extent.  The bereaved question whether they can survive for another hour or another day.  Grief is intense and will express itself, but you are not along on this path of grief.  Every individual has traveled or will travel this path.

The importance of having someone explain grief and the distinctive responses we will have to it will not take away the grieving experience; however, it will become an anchor in knowing that you are not "crazy."  This is normal, and there are others like you.  Disclosing grief by relating the experience of loss through conversations, feelings, descriptions, information, and injuries can help in lessening the pressure associated with thinking that personal grief is abnormal or simply a mistake.  Many consider the route of grief to be the most difficult course ever experienced.


Unit 2


The goal for our time together is to deal with that which has taken place in a healing way, discovering and dealing with the "new now" and knowing there is a future.  Handling grief is not as simple as giving things away or being so busy that we have no time to think.  Grieving is not a single act but a series of things accomplished over a period of time - sometimes years.  Do not be frightened by the reference to years.  Focus on accomplishing today's task, and the period of time needed will take care of itself.  In the beginning, grief can be overwhelming; for some individuals, it will include inactivity with no strength or desire to get through the next hour.  Others are consumed with busyness: and endless motion pushing the self to the limits so as not to allow unwanted thoughts to enter.  In handling or dealing with grief, you must have openness to each area of life, face these volatile places with assurance knowing that you have survived the event, and know that you can deal with the memory.  This will take time, and as you will notice being identified several times over, there is no rush or push to an imagined finish.  We approach today with its valued thoughts and experiences, and we seek to deal with them in manageable segments.

The grieving experience is not only for those surviving the death of a loved one but also encompasses all who have experienced any significant loss in life.  The support offered in the stories and thoughts originates from a desire to help those experiencing a shattering loss - primarily those grieving the death of a loved one.  The information, stories, and illustrations are derived from many years' experience serving as a pastor, counselor, chaplain, hospice chaplain, and bereavement facilitator.

One other though as we begin to work through these pages: Grief can be categorized in many ways, such as seasons, stages, phases, timelines, and periods.  These classifications are helpful, and grief does fall into these spaces.  However, in the pages that follow, grieving is presented as being very fluid and shifting, as something moving forward and backward - and


David C. McGee

something that even gets stuck at times.  The transference presented here focuses not so much on finding a place to measure where one's grief is, but rather on being open and honest with ourselves, with our relationships (both past and present), and with feelings, thoughts, and emotions as they now present themselves.

Being open to the "now" means being open to what is presenting itself today.  By dealing with these presentations in manageable segments, we find ourselves moving through the grief experience at a personal pace established by our relationships and our physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental makeup.  Locating the range of grief for one's life is as simple as asking, where am I now?  Your grief is not to be found in comparing yourself to another's - this is simply not fair to you or the other person.  Comparisons will be determined by the day.  One day it will be your strengths compare to the person's weakness, and you will feel strong.  When you feel weak, the comparison  will be their strength to your weakness, making matters worse.  Everyone will grieve differently.  Personal awareness involves answering questions such as, Where was I yesterday, and what has changed?  Am I avoiding, or am I pushing?  Am I willfully avoiding leaving the present?  Or am I dealing with life events as they arise each day?  Deal with today and it will have a meaningful effect on what happens tomorrow.  This chnage is something we do not desire.  Now, since death has transformed life forever we are very guarded about what we willfully want to alter.  For now, life is difficult, for sometimes the moments feel like they will never end.  You may think, I want to wake from this nightmare and find myself normal again.  There is no rush, nor is there a push.  This is dealing with grief as presented, trying to get though this moment.