Grief / Bereavement Counseling

Our First Vaishnavas CARE Candlelight Vigil held in ISKCON New Goloka (Hillsborough, North Carolina) during Kartika, 2015. We encourage every congregation to hold a similar ceremony for personal and community healing pertaining to the loss of loved ones and friends. Please Contact Us and we will assist you on how to conduct your own Candlelight Vigil in your community. 

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. The world is filled with change, both positive  and negative. Changes are often accompanied  by loss and may involve grief. But no loss hits as hard as the death of a loved one or friend. People cope with the loss of a loved one in many ways. There is no right way of coping with death. The way a person grieves depends on the personality of that person and the relationship with the person who has died. How a person copes with grief is affected by their

experience and relationship with the person they lost, the way the disease progressed, the person’s cultural and spiritual background, their emotional coping skills, their mental history, their support system, and their history with previous loss. 

The terms “grief,” “bereavement,” and “mourning” are often used in place of each other, but they have different meanings. Grief is a natural response to a loss. It is the emotional suffering we feel when we lose someone, as in the case of a loss of a relationship or losing someone to a death.  Bereavement is when we suffer a loss or grieve for someone. To mourn is more of the showing of the grief for someone you have lost, such as attending the memorial service and performing certain rituals.

 How long you have known the person, how meaningfully and closely your lives have been

intertwined, how unexpectedly he or she has died will all affect the depth of your grief and your feelings of loss. Also the age of the person who passed away and the length of the time he or she suffered with a disease may effect your grief. Most of the support that people receive after a loss comes from friends and family. For those who experience difficulty in coping with their loss, grief counseling or grief therapy may be necessary. Grief counseling helps mourners work through the tasks of grieving. Grief counseling can be provided by professionally trained people, or you can receive support in self-help groups where others who are also experiencing grief help one another. This is done with the help of a “Grief Facilitator” who is experienced in this type of counseling.

Types of Grief and Loss:

Everyone has an idea of what they expect grief to look or feel like. But, did you know that there are many different types of grief?

It’s important to know that everyone grieves in unique ways, and it’s okay if your grief is different than those around you.

At times you may even be unaware that you are grieving or that you’ve experienced a loss that deserves to be grieved.

Grief is the reaction you have to a loss in your life. This loss can refer to a death but it can also refer to the loss of physical or cognitive abilities or the loss of something that was routine in your life such as a job.

In addition to the emotional expression of grief, grief can be expressed in physical, behavioral, social, and cognitive ways.

Below are descriptions of the various types of grief:

Anticipatory grief:

For family caregivers, grieving can start long before the person you are caring for actually passes way. Anticipatory grief often starts when the person you are caring for gets a significant diagnosis and their health begins to deteriorate. Feelings are related to the loss of what was or what you thought life was going to be like. It can be difficult to speak with others about anticipatory grief because the person you care for is still alive and you may have feelings of guilt or confusion as to why you are feeling this kind of grief.

Normal grief:

Contrary to what the name might suggest, there really are no set guidelines to define normal grief in terms of timelines or severity of grief. Instead, think of normal grief as any response that resembles what you might predict grief to look like (if that makes any sense!). Many people define normal grief as the ability to move towards acceptance of the loss. With this comes a gradual decrease in the intensity of emotions. Those who experience normal grief are able to continue to function in their basic daily activities.

Delayed grief:

Delayed grief is when reactions and emotions in response to a death are postponed until a later time. This type of grief may be initiated by another major life event or even something that seems unrelated. Reactions can be excessive to the current situation and the person may not initially realize that delayed grief is the real reason for becoming so emotional.

Complicated grief (traumatic or prolonged):

Complicated grief refers to normal grief that becomes severe in longevity and significantly impairs the ability to function. It can be difficult to judge when grief has lasted too long. Other contributing factors in diagnosing complicated or prolonged grief include looking at the nature of the loss or death (was it sudden? violent? multiple?), the relationship, personality, life experiences, and other social issues. Some warning signs that someone is experiencing traumatic grief include: self-destructive behavior, deep and persistent feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, violent outbursts, or radical lifestyle changes.

Disenfranchised grief (ambiguous):

Disenfranchised grief can be felt when someone experiences a loss but others do not acknowledge the importance of the loss in the person’s life. Others may not understand the importance of the loss or they may minimize the significance of the loss. Disenfranchised grief can occur when someone experiences the loss of an ex-spouse, a pet, or a co-worker. The other side of disenfranchised grief is when you experience a loss such as when the person you are caring for has dementia or a decline in their physical abilities. The person is physically present but they are also absent in other significant ways.

Chronic grief:

This type of grief can be experienced in many ways: through feelings of hopelessness, a sense of disbelief that the loss is real, avoidance of any situation that may remind someone of the loss, or loss of meaning and value in a belief system. At times, people with chronic grief can experience intrusive thoughts. If left untreated, chronic grief can develop into severe clinical depression, suicidal or self-harming thoughts, and even substance abuse.

Cumulative grief:

This type of grief can occur when multiple losses are experienced, often within a short period of time. Cumulative grief can be stressful because you don’t have time to properly grieve one loss before experiencing the next.

Masked grief:

Masked grief can be in the form of physical symptoms or other negative behaviors that are out of character. Someone experiencing masked grief is unable to recognize that these symptoms or behaviors are connected to a loss.

Distorted grief:

Unfortunately, distorted grief can present with extreme feelings of guilt or anger, noticeable changes in behavior, hostility towards a particular person, plus other self-destructive behaviors.

Exaggerated grief:

Exaggerated grief is felt through the intensification of normal grief responses. This intensification has a tendency to worsen as time moves on. This may result in self-destructive behaviors, suicidal thoughts, drug abuse, abnormal fears, nightmares, and even the emergence of underlying psychiatric disorders.

Inhibited grief:

This type of grief is when someone doesn’t outwardly show any typical signs of grief. Often this is done consciously to keep grief private. Problems can arise with inhibited grief through physical manifestations when an individual doesn’t allow themselves to grieve.

Secondary losses in grief:

Secondary loss is felt after the primary loss and can affect multiple areas of an individual’s life. The grief from secondary loss is the emotional response to the subsequent losses that occur as a result of a death (the primary loss).

Collective grief:

Collective grief is felt by a group. For example, this could be experienced by a community, city, or country as a result of a natural disaster, death of a public figure, or a terrorist attack.

Abbreviated grief:

Abbreviated grief is a short-lived response to a loss. This could occur due to someone or something immediately filling the void, the distance that was felt, or the experience of anticipatory grief.

Absent grief:

Absent grief is when someone does not acknowledge the loss and shows no signs of grief. This can be the result of complete shock or denial of the death. It can be concerning if someone experiences absent grief for an extended period of time.

It’s important to note that in some instances, just because you can’t see the signs of grief,

it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is not grieving. 

Speak with a local health care professional if you need help coping with a loss.

In addition, 

“Contact Us” if you would like to speak with one of our Vaishnavas CARE Volunteers. 

Vaishnavas CARE Volunteers with professional training and experience in the field of Grief counseling have come forward to assist those in need. Please take the opportunity to write us and we will do our best to connect you to one of our volunteers who can assist you in your time of grief. We can assist in one of the following ways:

*Arrange for you to have email correspondence to answer your concerns and questions. 

*Arrange for you to have phone call conversations and/or Skype meetings to discuss your concerns and needs

*If there is a Vaishnavas CARE Team in your area we will be happy to connect you to one of our volunteers to meet with you if you wish. 

There is no need for you to feel alone during your time of loss and grief.  

Please go to: “Contact Us” and let us know how we can assist you.

We are here to help! 

“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver.

But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.”

 —Arthur Golden, Author 

How YOU Can Assist Those Who Are Grieving…


Receiving the sustenance of a good meal three times a week for up to six months.Someone willing to stay present without encouraging them to move past the present by saying things will get better at some “later” or at some “future” time.Someone offering to handle the mammoth paperwork of death certificates, insurance claims, changing names on accounts.Someone willing to go the funeral home and mortuary visits.Access to a financial planner to help plan for future and an estate attorney to help navigate legal matters.Someone who offers to help organize and sort through rooms or houses.Receiving the gift of someone willing to sit with them through searing pain and simply listen.Permission to have their feelings.Someone willing to stay present without encouraging them to move past the present by saying things will get better at some “later” or at some “future” time.Someone offering to handle the tasks of “normal” work while they navigate very real work for grieving. An offer to pick up the mail, shovel snow, refill prescription, get the tires rotated, or walk the dogs are all tangible ways to lessen the burden during a difficult time.Someone anticipating a need and filling it. For example, someone texting or calling to say “I’ll stop by your house on my way from work to water the garden or walk the dogs” instead of waiting for the grieving person to say what is needed.Someone to help think through how to mark special days like the birthday, anniversary of the deceased. The “death-anniversary” is a big deal. Having a friend to make a plan for how to pass the day is very meaningful.A friend who offers to help plan for the holidays or for a child’s birthday party.The gift of sessions with a licensed grief counselor to help navigate their life after loss.A friend offering to treat you to lunch or be an exercise buddy when the time is right.Someone willing to run interference for the newly grieving. The influx of people can be intensely overwhelming and a gatekeeper can do wonders.A phone message or text in the weeks and months (even year) after the passing of a loved one to say someone is thinking of them or their beloved.Receiving a plant or flower months down the line to brighten the day and acknowledge you know they may be having a hard time.Any act of love or consideration that says someone is willing to show up, do something and stand alongside the hole that has opened up in their lives without looking away or pretending their lives are not forever changed.Being available is an act of love.

The Power of “Loving Silence”

…Amidst all the physical actions we take to give care to a loved one it is important that we recall the wisdom expressed by palliative physician, Rachel Naomi Remen who reminds us that “the most basic and powerful way to connect with another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”


We are here to assist you! 

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