14. Does the grieving ever end?

Don’t expect the grieving person to be "over it" within weeks or months. Great waves of emotion may sweep in for longer than we expect or predict and then, slowly and gradually, the intensity subsides. It may not happen days, weeks or months after the funeral. Sometimes the real grieving is just beginning by then.

Don’t press the survivor to participate in outside activities until they are ready. Trust them to know what is best. It may seem as if there are no results from your acts of caring and support and you may wonder as the first year goes by if you've been at all helpful, but eventually, when your friend smiles again, feels less pain and regains their enthusiasm for life, you will see the rewards.

Grief may surface at unexpected times. For example, if a man who loved gardening dies, his widow may plunge into grief as spring approaches, though the death may have occurred many months before. Buds are sprouting, the time of growth and planting is near, and memories of her husband’s love for the earth will arise. The widow needs to express her feelings about those memories. She is doing the grief work which will make the season easier to face the next year.

Younger widows and widowers face emotional hurdles as their children grow up and take part in school and church activities--class outings, proms, plays, sports, graduation ceremonies, weddings and other special events. The surviving parent must observe these landmark occasions alone, unable to share them with the one person who would have cared the most. Along with the joy, these times can bring sadness.

Bereaved parents must mourn their dreams of the future. If their child died in infancy, they may feel upset when they attend a baby shower. They may feel pangs of grief when they watch the neighbor's children skip off to their first day of kindergarten and as they see other children in their neighborhood and family pass the age at which their child died and continue on to life's milestones--graduation, college, marriage and bringing children into the world. With each rite of passage, a lost dream is mourned.

We can never guess when an emotional button might be pushed, and we shouldn’t try to out-guess or avoid them. All we can do is be empathic and supportive at those difficult times.