Weekly Tips & Insights

Top Expectations for Grieving Caregivers

by Jamesetta Roach, Chaplain & Bereavement Coordinator


It is important to understand that not everyone’s grief journey is the same. What one experiences, another may not. Here are some helpful insights on what you can expect that might happen during your grief process.


Expect mixed emotions

Expect to possibly feel guilty about having good days

Expect to feel pressured to rush your grief journey

Expect to have thoughts of numbing your pain

Expect times of ambushes

Expect people to say hurtful things

Expect possible feelings of not being able to live without your loved one

Expect NOT to go through the grief process alone


Expect mixed emotions


Grief can be intense, like a tangled ball of emotions. It is normal to be sad one day, angry the next, or confused, lonely or like you can’t go on. Dealing with your grief is the best way to reach a place of healing. One way to deal with it is to “lean into the grief.” Don’t try to run from it; just let it happen. Like a wave in the ocean, feel the pressure. It can be overwhelming to think about your “to-do” list. Just do the next thing. If that is sweeping the floor or taking a nap, just do what comes next.


Expect to possibly feel guilty about having good days or happy moments


You may have some really good days where you don’t cry and you feel like you are progressing, then you may feel guilty for enjoying life and not mourning. It is okay to embrace those good days. Others may even make you feel guilty about having fun, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the moment. Those days are important to you and should be welcomed.


Expect to feel pressured to rush your grief journey


Not only will you be ready for the grief process to be over, but grief also makes others uncomfortable. It is not uncommon for those around you to want you to be “back to normal” quickly. Be okay with saying, “I’m not ready to go there” or “I don’t want to do that.” If you find it difficult to share your feelings, write a letter to your friends and/or family. Let them know that some days you may feel like talking and other days you won’t. Ask them to be patient with you and understand you are not trying to push them away. Most of all, be patient with yourself.


Expect to have thoughts of numbing your pain


There may be times you want to “escape the pain.” Thoughts of numbing your pain with food, drugs, alcohol or other things will not help you. It will be extremely short-lived, and when the substance wears off, you will only feel worse. We were created to have emotions; we have pain because we love. To never experience pain would mean we would never love. Feel the pain. Honestly express your emotions. Simply give yourself permission to grieve.


Expect times of ambushes


You may be feeling fine and all of a sudden something may trigger a memory of your loved one, and you have a melt down when it’s least expected in a place that you’d prefer it not happen. You may hear a song that reminds you of your loved one or pass by their favorite store or restaurant. It’s best to let that ambush moment take place. Eventually, it will pass.


Expect people to say hurtful things although they don’t mean any harm


Well-meaning people will say things that simply make you angry or hurt your feelings. Comments like: “Well, he is in a better place.” “At least she lived a long life.” “Don’t you think it’s time for you to move on?” “God took him, and the Lord knows best.” Although they mean well, some of the comfort others provide is not comforting at all. At all times, be sure to have a safe and trusted outlet where you are able to share your thoughts and feelings without being judged. It’s important to find a trusted place to give you the ability to feel the pain and to forgive others to prevent a build-up of damaged emotions.


Expect possible feelings of not being able to live without your loved one


There is a difference in wanting to die and wanting to commit suicide. When you are grieving, it is normal to feel like you just can’t go on and would be okay if you died, but you are by no means actively doing something to cause your death. It is NOT normal to actively want to do something about ending your life. If you are having thoughts of suicide, don’t wait to get help. Reach out right away and talk to someone about what you are feeling. If you don’t feel like you have anyone you can reach out to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Expect NOT to go through the grief process alone


Some people have a good support system, and others not so much. If you feel alone or would like help, contact the Bereavement Coordinator at VNA for help and/or referrals to other resources available. At VNA, we offer virtual grief support groups and individual and family Grief Share Sessions. You may need a grief counselor, connection to a religious institution, church or parish or other community organizations with additional programs and services to help you on your grief journey.



Remember your grief is unique. No one knows exactly what your loved one meant to you. There are trained individuals that can help you process your feelings. You may feel like you’re losing your mind at times. What you are feeling is normal, but the pain of it does not have to last forever. You will never forget your loved one, but you can learn to embrace the good times you’ve shared with them. Those memories will last a lifetime!


Note: Some of this material was taken from Grief Share: Your Journey from Mourning to Joy.


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