At Scripps, we offer our condolences and encourage you to get the resources you need to continue on your journey through grief. Our professional team of nurses, social workers, chaplains and volunteers are here to work together to support you through your process of grief and loss. Download Where to Turn After Losing a Loved One (PDF, 1.9 MB) — this brochure has helpful information including selecting a mortuary or crematory, planning a memorial service and supportive resources.
Spiritual care - Scripps hospitals in San Diego provide non-denominational spiritual care and emotional support for patients, families and staff. Our chaplains are respectful of diverse spiritual beliefs, religious convictions and cultural practices.
Advance directives - Plan ahead and designate who you would like to speak on your behalf and the types of treatments you prefer.
- Light a candle in the individual’s memory. (Do not leave lit candles unattended.)
- Create a memory book of photos.
- Make a gift of money or time to their favorite cause or charity.
- Wear a commemorative photo of the person.
- Start a scholarship in their name.
- Collect a book of family stories about your loved one.
- Hang special ornaments during the holiday season.
- Make a collection of their favorite music and, if possible, write stories that go with the music.
- At appropriate times, provide flowers to their church, synagogue, mosque, temple or workplace.
- Gather family and friends to honor the individual on the anniversary of their death.
- Take turns reading their favorite stories aloud.
- Plant a tree in a park or memorial garden.
Although the mourning process is individual, there are some common grief responses. Grief reactions can be expressed through emotions, thought patterns, physical sensations and behaviors. The information below may help you in talking to, and seeking support from, others about what you are experiencing.
There is not a prescribed reaction to the death of a loved one — no right or wrong response. What you experience following this loss may depend on many factors, including:
- Age and developmental stage
- Your relationship with the deceased
- Cultural, ethnic or religious background
- Support an individual as available
- The circumstances surrounding the death
- Whether it was sudden or unexpected
- Whether your loved one was chronically or terminally ill
- Community attitudes about the type of loss
- Experience with prior loss
- The role(s) he or she played in your life
- Other outstanding stressors and concerns
As you review this information, if you find you or someone you care for is experiencing symptoms you are uncertain about or seem prolonged (particularly physical complaints), it is important for you to check with your physician and not assume they are solely related to the loss you are experiencing.
While the reactions above are normal, you may find yourself leaning toward behaviors that are harmful to yourself or others in dealing with these uncomfortable feelings. Potentially harmful grief reactions may include an increased use of drugs or alcohol, overeating, undernourishment, an inability to get out of bed, lashing out, etc. For any behaviors such as these, it is beneficial to see a physician or mental health professional for assessment and guidance.
With the passage of time, keep in mind that grief will lessen, but it doesn’t have a definitive end point after a loved one’s death — there is no time limit. Reminders may bring back the pain of loss, even years later. For instance, feelings of grief may return on the anniversary of your loved one’s death, on birthdays, holidays or other special days throughout the year. The return of these feelings (sometimes called an anniversary reaction) is not necessarily a setback in the grieving process. Though these reactions may feel painful at times, they are positive reflections that your loved one’s life was important to you. There are resources available to assist you and your family with special days and holidays.
It is helpful to acknowledge we cannot control all things that happen to us, but we can control how we choose to respond. To continue on the path toward healing, learn what to expect and how to cope with reminders of your loss. Many find individual counseling, bereavement support groups or support from clergy helpful following the loss of a loved one.
Whether you seek assistance in the coming weeks or months, the timing is up to you. Supportive resources can help you express your pain in healthy ways, grieve constructively, learn to tell people what you need and find ways to deal with your grief. Supportive resources are available, or you may call the hospital where your loved one was cared for and ask for a social worker or chaplain to discuss your individual needs.
Young children working through loss respond differently than adults. Sensitivity to both their emotions and their perspective is important.
Scripps provides the following information and resources to help you during this difficult time; we make no representation regarding the services provided by a non-Scripps agency. This information has been provided for your reference and convenience.