My research is based on interviews and conversations with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people. Over the years of graduate study I researched grief and spoke with leaders in the field. With the help of the National Funeral Director association and the Dodge Company, I met numerous funeral directors who wanted to help and who reported similar stories of people' helplessness and lack of knowledge about helping.
To get practical knowledge two friends, a pastor and a psychologist and I offered a simple program in Madison. We began a group meeting entitled "The Grief You Feel" and advertised it around Madison Wi. We were stunned when on a below zero night in January 16 people suffering all kinds of death related losses showed up.
One of the most striking and significant observations we observed in working with the bereaved is the multiplicity of losses when we lose a loved one. We not only lose the person who dies we lose all of the small and large things that person meant to us. The person we love is gone and we will be sad for that. Over time we will also find ourselves being sad, angry, lonely as we realize all the ways the person intertwined in our lives. The loss of a companion to talk or relax with, the loss of a helper with chores , the loss of the dream that a growing child brought to our lives, the loss of a spouse to help with and enjoy the happiness of our children. These individual losses make every loss unique. In many ways they also prolong our feelings of loss as we encounter thee individual meanings at times we most would have wanted to be with or needed the deceased. Enjoyable holidays, graduations, weddings, walks in the evening, help with housework and many more seemingly mundane activities that we shared, enjoyed or counted on our lost loved one are like pin pricks stabbing us with the painful reminder that our loved one is no longer here and can uncover our sadness or anger or other emotions when we least expect it. It is not uncommon to be caught off guard at such times. While it may be startling it is also common.
It is okay to discuss these feelings with those we love and to understand that our relationships are more complex based on love of the person as well as needs, dependencies, hopes dreams and trust.