The grieving person’s bill of rights

As you do the work of mourning, it may be helpful to be open with others; yet you are not obligated to accept the unhelpful responses that you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving and you have certain “rights” that no one can take away from you. The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to help you decide how others can and cannot help.


1.You have the right to experience your own grief in your own way. No one else will grieve in exactly the same way as you. When you turn to others for help, it is best that they do not tell you how you should or should not be feeling.

  1. 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, as often as you want, about your grief.
  2. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you may feel as a part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that your feelings are wrong. Find listeners who will accept your feelings without conditions.


  1. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.


  1. You have the right to experience “grief attacks.” 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 out your feelings.


  1. 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 support of caring people. The funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you that rituals are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.


  1. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is a part of your life, express it in the ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your spiritual beliefs. If you feel angry with God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical.


  1. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, “Why did she or he die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. Also watch

out for the clichéd responses some people might 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.


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


  1. You have the right to move slowly toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Try to remember that 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 should forget that the death of someone loved changes your life.


Adapted from  Alan T. Wolfeld, The Center for Loss, Fort Colin, CO

Provided by Gerard’s House, a grief support center for children, teenagers and their families in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For more information please contact us at (505) 424-1800 or

This article was published in “The Grieving Heart,” written and edited by Bob Dorsett, LLC,

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