month, and that all their unbearable feelings and fears, of

being unable to function as a human being any more, are normal.

Tell them that although it may take one year or two,

their grief will definitely reach an end and be transformed into


As Judy Tatelbaum says:

Grief is a wound that needs attention in order to heal. To work

through and complete grief means to face our feelings openly and

honestly, to express and release our feelings fully and to tolerate

and accept our feelings for however long it takes for the wound to

heal. We fear that once acknowledged grief will bowl us over. The

truth is that grief experienced does dissolve. Grief unexpressed is

grief that lasts indefinitely. 7

But so often, tragically, friends and family of the bereaved

expect them to be "back to normal" after a few months. This

only intensifies their bewilderment and isolation as their grief

continues, and sometimes even deepens.

In Tibet, as I've said, the whole community, friends and relatives,

would take part during the forty-nine days after the

death, and everyone was fully occupied in the activity of the

spiritual help being given to the dead person, with all the hundred

things there were to do. The bereaved would grieve, and

they would cry a little, as is only natural, and then when

everyone had left, the house would look empty. Yet in so

many subtle, heartwarming ways, the bustle and support of

those forty-nine days had helped them through a great part of

their mourning.

Facing loss alone in our society is very different. And all the

usual feelings of grief are magnified intensely in the case of a

sudden death, or a suicide. It reinforces the sense that the

bereaved are powerless in any way to help their loved one

who is gone. It is very important for survivors of sudden

death to go and see the body, otherwise it can be difficult to

realize that death has actually happened. If possible, people

should sit quietly by the body, to say what they need to,

express their love, and start to say goodbye.

If this is not possible, bring out a photo of the person who

has just died and begin the process of saying goodbye, completing

the relationship, and letting go. Encourage those who

have suffered the sudden death of a loved one to do this, and

it will help them to accept the new, searing reality of death.

Tell them too of these ways I've been describing of helping a

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