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Commonly Asked Questions

While no two situations are exactly the same, you may benefit from these answers to various situations. 


Since my husband died a few weeks ago, I find myself doing things I never used to do, like losing my keys, and I even have found myself talking to his picture! Am I going crazy?​

This is a very common question from grievers: Am I okay? Is what I’m feeling normal? Be assured that your experience of grief is normal. You’re not going crazy; you are grieving. Each of us is affected by grief in our own way. If it would ease your mind, you might consult a grief counselor or seek help from a support group. In most cases, these strange actions and thoughts are temporary. They gradually fade and disappear as you continue your journey through the mourning process.

Does everyone who is grieving go through the same “stages” of grief? A friend at work asked if I was in the “anger stage” of grief because my son died at such a young age; am I doing something wrong because I have not felt anger about his death.

Grief is not a predictable set of stages. Most of us experience grief like a roller-coaster: there are ups and downs, good days and bad days. There are no universal stages of grief; each of us has our own personal pathway as we experience loss. There is no timetable to grief. Yet, you will likely find that as time passes that the pain lessens and you return to earlier levels of functioning, both in your personal and professional life.


My wife died a year ago. Sometimes I go for a long time without being sad, and I even have thought about dating again. But then I get worried—does this mean I will someday forget about her altogether?

For most people, the pain of grief does lessen over time. But we never forget about the person who died. We continue a bond that always lasts. Sometimes we're afraid that if we let go of grief we'll let go of that connection. But death can never end that; we stay connected.


My father died a few months ago, and I’m still feeling sad. My siblings have joined a bereavement support group and want me to go, but I’m just not one of those people who like talking to others about my feelings. What can I do on my own?

Your question is a great reminder that there is no one right way to go through grief; what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, even in the same family. Some people find support in reading books or poetry to help understand and work through grief... Journaling is another tool that is more private than attending a group; you never have to share what you’ve written with anyone else. Another benefit of journaling is that it can be a way to gain valuable information about ourselves and offer us new insights—helping us to gain clarity as we move along the grief journey.


My husband died after a long struggle with ALS. While I am sad that he is gone, I also feel some relief that he is no longer dealing with the impact of that illness, and that I can focus more time and energy on being with my grandchildren. I miss him, but I worry sometimes—should I be grieving more?

We need not worry then if we are doing better than we think we should be doing; we can be comforted by it. Many grieving people find great comfort in having had the opportunity to say “goodbye” to the person who died, or realize there is little they could have done to prevent the loss. Grievers who have good social support or a strong sense of spirituality often face grief with more resilience, and studies show that is not uncommon.


While I’m still grieving the death of my son, it will be necessary for me to go back to work soon. How can I find ways to cope with my grief while also fulfilling my duties at my job?

Be gentle with yourself; when you experience a rough day you may not be able to accomplish all that you wished. If you are comfortable doing so, it might help if you can share your grief with those who offer support; people may not know what to say, or may not even be aware of your loss. Utilize the resources that your workplace can offer; Human Resources or Employee Assistance programs may offer information, support, counseling, and assistance. And remember that grief is hard work; use whatever has helped you cope with loss and stress in your past.


My wife died unexpectedly a few months ago. As the holidays approach, friends and family are kindly inviting me to parties and encouraging me to visit, but I’m not sure how much I’ll feel like celebrating this year. How can I face what’s supposed to be such a happy time when I’m still dealing with my grief?

The holidays are a tough time to grieve; knowing they will be difficult may help us understand and accept our reactions, and tap into the things we can do to help ourselves cope. A useful guide can be the “Three Cs of Coping with Grief during the Holidays”: Choose. During the holidays it is easy to get involved in activities that increase our pain, but we can decide what activities we wish to participate in and who we want to be with. Finding ways to recognize and acknowledge the person who has died, such as lighting a candle or giving a holiday toast, can bring a positive focus to our grief. Communicate. It is important that we discuss our choices with others, especially those who are affected by them, as their ways of dealing with grief may be different. Compromise. When we communicate, we may find that our feelings and needs, the very ways that we cope, will differ, and we will need to find space for compromise. Nothing changes the fact that the holidays can be especially difficult while grieving. But as we choose our actions, communicate our choices with others, and find suitable compromises, we may find that they are bearable. And that gives us renewed strength and hope.


My mom died of cancer a few months ago and my brothers and I disagreed about whether our sister with an intellectual disability should be told that our mother -- who was receiving hospice care -- would die. I argued that she needed to prepare herself for the death and that she would also grieve my mom’s death. My sister did seem sad after my mom died, but since she does not communicate verbally I was not sure of her exact feelings. Was I right to think she should be told the truth about my mom?

People with IDD form attachments to those they love, to those who care for them, to those who provide services that they access in their group home communities. Deaths of parents, friends, neighbors, caregivers, employers may have a significant impact. If a loved one has a long-term illness, it is important to prepare individuals with IDD for that loss through discussions that are developmentally sensitive and appropriate. If a funeral or memorial service is held, individuals with intellectual disability should be invited to attend, perhaps with an aide who can provide assistance if necessary. It is also important to recognize that individuals with intellectual disability grieve. Like everyone, there may be a wide range of physical reactions including gastrointestinal upset, headaches, or aches and pains. Emotional reactions may be in the form of anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness or regret. Cognitive reactions are also not unusual. These may include disbelief or denial. Individuals with intellectual disabilities should be supported just as the general population is supported by their friends, family and community.

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