What to Expect

You will slowly work through the pain, and it will lessen.

My Walkabout
My Walkabout
Pen & Ink/Watercolor by Jim Niesen

One way to view grief is to look at it as a group of transitions that you may face. These include the following:

The first transition is usually accepting that your loved one is gone.

Another transition is working through the emotions and pain of grief. Remember the old saying: "There's no way around grief; you must go through it to come out of it." If you allow yourself to feel the deep pain of grief, you will slowly work through that pain and it will lessen.

Adjusting to being without your loved one is a third transition. There will never be a substitute for him or her, but you will learn to live with this loss. Decisions will need to be made about how to meet the responsibilities this person had. This adjustment will be different for each person in the family.

Last, you will need to find an emotional place for your loved one that allows you to continue to live with a "new normal." You still will feel a connection with them but you will be able to invest in other relationships as well. Although this gets easier with time, it does not mean that you love the deceased any less or that you will (or should) forget them.

Grief is not a forward moving process. It involves coping with difficult emotions as you move through initial feelings of shock and denial to eventually accepting a new normal. As you face different tasks, called transitions, you may get stuck for a while, you may move forward to face others, or you may have to go back and face the same tasks more than once. This is normal. People don't progress through grief in any one direction or on any set timetable.

These transitions do not occur overnight. They take time -- several months, even years. Remember, you may move through these emotional transitions in any order, repeat them or continue to work on them.

Use this guide as you move through these transitions. Inside these pages are tools, helpful resources and ways to recognize when you need help. Remember you are not alone in your grief. Reach out to those around you or contact the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Grief and Loss Program at 1-877-907-0859.

Acknowledgement

Coping Through Transitions was made possible by financial support from the Coach Carr Cancer Fund. Learn how you can help by visiting our Make a Gift web pages.

updated 01/2013

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