Grief: Grief is what we feel when we experience a psychological trauma. Unlike physical trauma, it is not always outwardly visible and you may not be aware of what it is your feeling.

Mourning: Mourning is the process of psychological healing. It is not the same for everyone. We all mourn in different ways and at different rates. There are however similarities in how we all mourn. Everyone eventually goes through four tasks in the mourning process.

1) Acceptance of the reality of the loss
2) Experiencing the pain of grief
3) Adjusting to the environment in which the loss is missing from.
4) Withdrawal of emotional energy and reinvestment in new relationships


When is mourning done? When all the tasks described are done. A sign is when you can think of the person without experiencing physical symptoms like crying, feeling tightness in your chest or a hollowness in your stomach.
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The death of a loved one or fellow soldier is one of the most profound of all sorrows.  The grief that comes from such a loss is intense and multifaceted, effecting our emotions, our bodies, and our lives.  Grief can be preoccupying and depleting.  Emotionally, grief is a mixture of raw feelings such as sorrow, anguish, anger, regret, longing, fear, disappointment, blame and deprivation.  Grief experienced physically can be felt in forms of exhaustion, emptiness, tension, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite.

“Grief” is usually defined as the response to loss.  Grieving is an internal process involving various psychic tasks, including changing our relationships to the deceased, making sense of the loss and establishing a new identity.  For soldiers experiencing a sudden or violent loss of one of their comrades, dealing with the grief may be a difficult but not an impossible process if done constructively.



1)        We’re taught (in our culture) to acquire things not to lose them.

2)        We’re taught that acquiring things will help them feel happy or (more) complete.

3)         We’re taught that if they lose something that its quick replacement makes the loss easier.

Though necessary, grief is not easy. Sometimes we attempt to “numb the pain” with alcohol and drugs.  While this works initially, it may make pain last longer and can cause severe complications. Research shows that when people don’t deal with the emotions of grief, pain remains and can emerge in unrecognizable and sometimes destructive ways.

WHAT TO EXPECT: People who lose something important to them may feel depressed, sadness, anger, frustration, guilt, shock and numbness. Physical sensations can include fatigue, generalized weakness, shortness of breath or tightness in your chest, and/or dry mouth. Behavioral manifestations may include appetite loss, insomnia, retreating socially, crying, and/or nightmares. These are normal responses to loss. If they continue beyond a few months, you might consider seeking professional assistance. People grieve differently. Some find talking to others eases their pain; others prefer to keep  to themselves. Grieving takes time—weeks, months, and even years. People don’t heal on schedule; emotions do ease over time. Often, several emotions are experienced at once; depth and duration depends on the relationship to the deceased, our past experience of loss, and how those around us are grieving.

[toggle title=”WHAT YOU CAN DO:”]

1. Feel the pain—emotions are normal and healthy; everyone feels something.

2. Talk about your sorrow with those that really listen.

3. Write a letter to the person who died or to yourself; honor then and saying goodbye.

4. Ask for support—it feels good to help others; let someone be there for you.

5. Recognize your loss; reflect on the good/bad times, how the deceased enriched life.

6. Laugh as you can—realize life continues and there are things to be happy about.

7. Find comfort in your religion or spirituality.

8. Take time for nature’s slow, sure, stuttering process of healing; it occurs if you let it.

9. Forgive yourself for things you didn’t say or do.

10. Balance yourself with doses of relaxation and routine busyness.

11. Do PT; it’s a physical outlet for your emotions.

12. Surround yourself with life—plants, animals, friends and family.



Causes of Death

How one dies will have a powerful effect on how we grieve.  Sudden deaths, especially violent or accidental deaths, provoke our greatest shock, anxiety, and distress.  Violent deaths may make us feel vulnerable and fearful.  Such deaths may provoke our rage or indignation at the injustice of the death.  Suicide may arouse unfounded guilt or a sense of failure among the survivors.  Any sudden death can provoke many questions, doubts, and concerns.  We wonder “why did this happen?”,  “who is to blame?” and  “could it have been prevented?”.  Sudden deaths feel unnatural.  The search for meaning of the loss can challenge a survivors belief system.


[toggle title=”Myths of Mourning”]1.Deaths by means of murder, terrorist acts, combat can complicate bereavement because there is no end to the stimuli (TV, media, court proceedings, training, etc.).

2.There is a “normal” bereavement process for everyone.

3.There are stages of recovery that people go through, in their own time and way.

4.If you stop thinking about the lost person, you’ll forget about them.

5.Bereavement is time-limited.

6.There are cultural guidelines for grieving.

7.Early in bereavement, people need information and support.

8.In the middle of bereavement they need to be left alone.

9.Late in bereavement, they need to focus on instrumental tasks and realignment of responsibilities.

10.Those in positions of authority (parents, leaders) need to be strong for others.

11.Your relationship with the deceased ends when they die.

12.It is wrong to speak of any negative traits of someone after they die.

13.It is wrong to be angry at or about the person who died.

14.Drinking helps you forget the person, or the pain of their loss.

15.Compartmentalize grief so work is not affected.

16.Once one starts grieving, they won’t stop.

17.If you grieve a lost attribute or ability, it’s self-pity.

18.Crying means you are weak.

19.A loved one’s death can teach us, help clarify, re-prioritize things for us.

20.If you stuff your feelings, they will go away.

21.If I move on, have a new relationship: I betrayed the deceased.

22.It is o.k. to remember flaws and foibles of the deceased.

23.If people give you space after someone dies, it means they are abandoning you.

24.You could have prevented that person’s death. Really…?

25.If you lose someone close to you – you’ll never love/be close to anyone again.

26. Grief and mourning decline in a steadily decreasing fashion over time.

27. All losses prompt the same type of mourning.

28. Bereaved individuals need only express feelings to resolve their mourning.

29. Grief affects the mourner psychologically but not in other ways.

30. Intensity and length of mourning testify to the love of the deceased.

31. Losing one to sudden, unexpected death is the same as to an anticipated death.

32. Mourning is over in a year.

33. Time heals all wounds.


 What can you do for a grieving person?


•Be present if you can
•Be a good listener
•Encourage independence
•Be patient
•Reassure him or her


•Helpwith everyday chores
•Assist with cards and letters
•Lend a hand with meals
•Answerthe telephone

Helping Children Grieve

Children who experience a major loss may grieve differently than adults. A parent’s death can be particularly difficult for small children, affecting their sense of security or survival. Often, they are confused about the changes they see taking place around them, particularly if well-meaning adults try to protect them from the truth or from their surviving parent’s display of grief.

Limited understanding and an inability to express feelings puts very young children at a special disadvantage. Young children may revert to earlier behaviors (such as bed-wetting), ask questions about the deceased that seem insensitive, invent games about dying or pretend that the death never happened.

Coping with a child’s grief puts added strain on a bereaved parent. However, angry outbursts or criticism only deepen a child’s anxiety and delays recovery.  Instead, talk honestly with children, in terms they can understand. Take extra time to talk with them about death and the person who has died. Help them work through their feelings and remember that they are looking to adults for suitable behavior