A Message to Survivors - Hospice of the North Coast

(Adapted from a letter by Eleanora ``Betsy`` Ross)

As terrible as your loss seems now, you will survive it even though that may seem unbelievable. But for now, you may be experiencing an overwhelming mixture of thoughts and feelings. Despair, longing, anger, guilt, frustration, questions, and even understanding. You seek relief – you need time to heal. It is a journey and you must work at it.

And so – cry. The pain is real but the tears are healing. Often we must struggle through an emotion to find the relief beyond.

Talk. Talk to each other about your loss and pain. Don’t hide or deny real feelings. Tell others that you need them.

Search for answers. Over and over you will ask, “Why?” It is a question that you must ask. Although you may never learn the answer, realize that it is important to wrestle with the question for awhile. Eventually, you will be ready to give up the search, but it will take time.

Speak. Speak often and freely of your loved one. He or she will always be a part of you. To keep silent about the deceased denies their existence. To speak of them affirms the lives they lived and the lives they touched. Believe that in time, the pain of loss fades and is replaced by precious memories that you shared.

Grieve. Give yourself permission to feel and express all of your grief feelings, even anger and guilt. Know that in order to heal we must first feel and express the pain.

Believe. At a time like this, it is normal to doubt yourself and to struggle with spiritual beliefs. Many find strength and renewed faith as they work through their feelings of loss. Seek out those who can provide spiritual guidance to help you.

Ask for help. The pain of grief can be overwhelming. don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you experience hopelessness, panic, headaches or stomach aches, ongoing school problems, the desire to cope by using drugs or alcohol, new or unusual behaviors, or thoughts of hurting or killing yourself. While it may be normal to have these experiences, you need support to help you deal with them. A parent, teacher, counselor, friend, or member of the clergy can help you get the support you need.

Accept. Accept that in some strange way, this death offers you an opportunity to find new meaning, and to appreciate each moment of friendship, love, and life.

Choose. We cannot control all that happens to us, but we can control how we choose to respond. When we choose to grieve constructively and creatively, we come to value life with a new awareness. Choose to express your pain in healthy ways. Choose to share this common loss with friends and family. Choose to be a survivor.