How long will it take to get through this?

This question is asked when someone is in great emotional pain because of their loss, and they are perhaps surprised that healing is not a straight line upward. Many are surprised when after the initial shock wears off, the pain can be even worse.

So many factors make up pain, such as: How close was your relationship? Was there unfinished business? Was the death sudden and unexpected? Are there other life factors concurrently going on which complicate the grieving process? How supported do you feel?

Give yourself the time that it takes to mourn without pressure from others to "be better." Also, know that your grief will look different in one month, in five months, in a year or two. Notice that I didn't say that you would necessarily "be better." It will just change. I like the term "moving along" in your grief journey, instead of "moving on."

I feel depressed. Should I see a doctor?

If you have had a previous episode of depression and have been under the care of a doctor for it, then yes. It is wise to check in with your doctor. If you are feeling suicidal then tell someone about these feelings now, and get help. But know that grief is a normal response to the loss of a loved one. Feeling devastated, empty, confused, angry, lost, etc. may all be normal when you are grieving.

Sadness may color your world at the moment, but this does not necessarily mean that you are depressed. It is important to feel these emotions and acknowledge them. It may feel like a grief wave could crush you, but just like a wave in the ocean, the grief wave will pass. Make sure that you are supported by a trusted friend, therapist, or grief group.

People are insensitive to how difficult this is. How do I handle them?

In my grief groups, we spend a good amount of time venting about the insensitive things people say. Please realize that death, dying, and grieving are uncomfortable subjects in our culture. If someone has not experienced a loss then it is also not in their experience to know how to comfort or support someone in theirs. Although their intentions are good, their words of comfort often miss the mark.

If possible, let the words pass through you and not stick. You have more than enough to think about without adding this to the heap. However, if you are able to correct or educate without malice or anger, then do so. For example, if somebody attempts to console you by saying "At least your loved one is in a better place," your response could be, "That may be, but I'd prefer that my loved one still be here with me."

My loved one took his own life. I don't even know what to feel.

Without a doubt, suicide puts a whole other layer of complication to one's grief. A multitude of swirling and changing thoughts and feelings are buzzing like a hive full of bees directly in front of your face. No one can see this beehive but you.

There is one myth I'd like to debunk right now and that is, "Suicide is the most selfish act." I have a vast experience of working both with those who attempted suicide and survived, and those family members who survived the loss of a loved one by suicide. A person who attempts or takes their own life has come to believe that they are a burden to their loved one and that "everyone will be better off without me." Although this line of thinking is distorted, they believe it to be true. Therefore, it is a selfless act, not selfish.

In any case, dealing with the Whys, What Ifs, and If Onlys can be overwhelming. It is okay to keep questioning for a long time—this is part of the processing. But at some point down the long road, when there are no firm answers to your questions, then it is time to stop questioning. Seek help with this from a qualified group or therapist. Grief is normal, suffering is optional.