My grief rights

Grief is a complex emotional response to loss, usually of someone important to us. At the same time, it can be caused by decisive life changes such as the end of a romantic relationship. The experience of grieving is different for each person, with no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Therefore, we need to give ourselves space and time, understanding our grieving rights.

  1. I have the right to experience my own unique emotions: I may feel angry, sad or lonely, I may feel terrified or relieved, I may feel drugged or numb. Sometimes I may feel nothing. No one else will feel exactly what I feel.

  3. I have the right to talk about my grief whenever I feel the need: When I need to talk, I will find someone who will listen to me and love me. I also have the right sometimes not to want to talk about it to anyone.

  5. I have the right to express my feelings of grief in my own way: When some people are hurt, they choose to do things to make themselves feel better for a while. I can laugh and play. I can also get angry and scream. This doesn’t mean I’m bad; it just means I’m experiencing difficult emotions and need help to cope with them.

  7. I have the right to need other people’s help with my grieving: Mostly I need them to contain my thoughts and feelings (to pay attention to what I feel and say).

  9. I have the right to be upset about normal, everyday problems: I might whine and have trouble getting along with others sometimes.

  11. I have the right to use my religious beliefs to help me deal with my feelings of grief: Prayer can make me feel better and somehow closer to the person who died.

  13. I have the right to try to understand why the person I loved died: It’s okay if I don’t find an answer. The “why” questions about life and death are among the most difficult.

  15. I have the right to think and talk about my memories with the person who died: Sometimes these memories are pleasant and sometimes unpleasant. In any case, these memories help me keep my love for the person alive.

  17. I have the right to have “grief bursts”: Grief bursts are sudden, unexpected, and unpleasant feelings that sometimes hit me, even long after the loss. These feelings can be very strong, even scary. When this happens, I may feel afraid to be alone and want someone close to me.

  19. I have the right to “move on” to my grief, to feel it and over time to have a peaceful coexistence with it: I will move on by living a good, happy life, however the life and death (or loss) of the person who I lost will always be a part of me. I will always miss him/her.

Adapted from Alan D. Wolfelt, “The Grieving Person’s Bill of Rights”.