The Mourner’s Bill Of Rights

by Dr. Alan Wolfelt

Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.

No one else will grieve in the exact same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.

Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want about your grief. If at times you do not feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

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 example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without conditions.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

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.

5. You have the right experience “griefbursts.”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

If faith is 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 at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to be thankful for,” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, is a respected grief counselor, educator and author. He founded the Center for Loss more than 25 years ago to offer education and support both to grievers and bereavement caregivers. He is known around the world for his compassionate messages of hope and healing as well as his companioning philosophy of grief care. To learn more about Dr. Wolfelt and see more resources, please visit www.centerforloss.com. © Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. 

Upcoming Events

We have several upcoming community events for Hospice of the Red River Valley. We hope to see you there.

Debbie GabelDebbie Gabel Memorial Cancer Ride
Valley City, N.D. | July 22-23, 2016
Join us July 22-23 for the 8th Annual Debbie Gabel Memorial Cancer Ride in Valley City! The event kicks off Friday night with a street dance from 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. at Boomer’s Corner Keg with live music by Front Fenders. The ride starts and ends on Saturday at Boomer’s Corner Keg. Registration begins at 9 a.m.; kickstands up at noon. Cost is $25 per rider, $15 per co-pilot. Supper will be served and a raffle will be held following the ride at Boomer’s Corner Keg. The public is invited to attend for small fee. Net proceeds benefit Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Ole's Ride_2016Ole’s Ride 
Vergas, Minn. | Aug. 27, 2016
The Seven Annual Ole’s Ride is in memory of Ole Barten, who lost his battle to cancer in February 2011. Hospice of the Red River Valley cared for Ole during his last months, and the family wanted to use the event as a way to give back to an organization that cares for so many families in the area. The ride kicks off from Billy’s Corner Bar in Vergas at noon. The cost is $25 per bike, $15 for additional rider, and includes a T-shirt, meal and chances at door prizes at each stop. A meal and live music by the FATCATS follow the ride. For more information visit the Ole’s Ride Facebook page.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.