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Patients & Families

A Bereaved Person's Rights

Your Rights as You Journey through Grief

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell you what you should or shouldn't be feeling. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for instance, is wrong. Don't take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

2. You have the right to talk about your feelings and memories.
You will experience many emotions and feelings that will be different at any given time of day. It’s okay to cry, scream, or do whatever feels necessary as you express your emotions. Talking is healing. Cherish your memories; they are the legacy of the love your shared.

3. You have the right to ask for and accept help.
Allow yourself to be taken care of and nurtured. You may not feel that you are capable of returning the gesture, but that is okay. This is your grieving time and although not everyone will be helpful, it is important that you share what is and is not helpful to you. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. Others want to care in the way that is most helpful to you.

4. You have the right to take care of yourself.
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do. Grieving is hard work. There may be times when you will not have enough energy to get out of bed. Recognize the amounts of emotional, spiritual, and physical energy you are spending, and be kind to yourself.

5. You have the right to delay major decisions.
Right now, you are in a state of confusion. This is not the time to make decisions that may have lifelong impact, such as buying or selling a home, or changing jobs. As you work though your grief, pay special attention to those decisions that produce uneasy feelings for you. Those decisions may need to wait a while.

6. You have the right to embrace spirituality.
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry with God, find someone to talk with you who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

7. You have the right to search for meaning in your loss.
You may find yourself asking a lot of questions. “Why was my loved one taken from me?” “Could I have done something to prevent this?” “Why was my loved one taken in this way?” Don’t let these questions stay in your mind. Explore them. Talk about them. Some may have answers but others may not. Because they care, friends and family may offer you answers they think will be helpful, but you may not find them helpful at all. Find the answers that are right for you, but be open to the idea that some questions may not have answers today, and others may not have answers at all.

8. You have the right to heal.
Working through your grief probably will not happen quickly. Grief is a process, and not an event, so be patient with yourself and take all the time you need. Avoid people who are impatient and intolerant of your feelings. Remember that losing someone you love changes your life forever. Once you have reconciled your grief, live your new life as a reflection of the special relationship you shared with your loved one.

Adapted from: Journey Through Grief, Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D