Colorado Front Range Chapter of
Parents of Murdered Children
For the families and friends of those who have died by violence

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We've all experienced grief. We've all felt those intense rolling waves of emotion. But, do we all experience the same feelings each time we lose a loved one? What Are The Stages of Grief?

Many people have tried to explain what grief is; some have even identified certain stages of grief. Probably the most well-known of these might be from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' book, "On Death and Dying." In it, she identified five stages that a dying patient experiences when informed of their terminal prognosis. The stages Kubler-Ross identified are:
  1. Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
  2. Anger (why is this happening to me?)
  3. Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
  4. Depression (I don't care anymore)
  5. Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)
A lesser known definition of the stages of grief is described by Dr. Roberta Temes in the book, "Living With An Empty Chair - a guide through grief." Temes describes three particular types of behavior exhibited by those suffering from grief and loss. They are:
  • Numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation)
  • Disorganization (intensely painful feelings of loss)
  • Reorganization (re-entry into a more 'normal' social life)
BUT Grief like so many other things in our complex lives, can't be reduced to a neat list with absolute definitions, timelines, strategies, goals, and completion dates.

Will You Go Through Every Stage?

If a 98-year old grandfather died in his sleep there would be different stages of grief and loss experienced than if a two-year old child were run over by a car and killed. If a person has had a long life, death is somewhat expected as the natural scheme of things. There will be emotions of grief and loss but they might be more for what we will miss. If a young life is cut short unexpectedly, there may well be feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and in some cases acceptance. Just as we have different emotional reactions to anything that happens in our lives, so too, will we experience grief and loss in different ways. The important thing to remember is that there is a wide range of emotions that may be experienced; to expect to feel some of them and to know that we cannot completely control the process.

When Will I Be Through Grieving?

Grieving used to be much more ritualistic than it is today. In generations past there were set periods of time when certain customs must be observed: Widows wore all black clothing for one year and drab colors forever after. Mourners could not attend social gatherings for months. Laughter and gaiety were discouraged for weeks or months. Today we are unfettered by these restrictions and might even be confused about when we should be done grieving. Actually, we'll probably never be done. We'll never forget the person we grieve for. Our feelings may be tempered more with good memories than sadness as time passes, but that isn't to say that waves of raw emotion won't overcome us way after we thing we should be done. The trick here is to understand that the feelings will occur, try to keep them in perspective, try to understand why you feel a certain way, and if there are any unresolved issues that cause particular emotional pain, forgive yourself and others and if necessary talk with someone about it. There is no completion date to grieving...let your emotions flow through the stages of grief. ---By Judy Bear First published in MSN Cancer Forum


You are in a new reality now. Nothing is going to be the same as it was in your WBM ( world before murder). Much of what you see, feel or hear will be filtered through thoughts of your loved one. In stead of : "What a gorgeous lake!" You may think..."How beautiful._____ would have loved it!" Then a tinge of sadness comes over the scene. Things you may have hated before ( like Rap music) suddenly become your favorites because your loved one liked them.
  • Your moods will fluctuate. Happiness may turn to sorrow in minutes when you hear a song that was special to your loved one, or see someone who bears a resemblance to the person you've lost. Anger flares in seconds, where before there may have been peace.
  • You may forget things. Your mind is busy dealing with the reality of your loss. It doesn't have room for a lot of other tasks.
  • You may be unable to sleep...that alone makes most of us crazy.
  • You may be sad.
  • You may be overwhelmed. Things like housework or filing may seem too huge a project to attempt.
  • You may feel paranoid...unable to relax...always watchful of others



    The empty chair. It's there at the table, and everything else...the turkey, family members, the Christmas tree, presents, everything else disappears. All you see is that empty chair. Why are holidays so hard? Maybe because they usually are where some of our best memories are made. Tradition says we should all be together at the holidays, and we really do expect that. Here are some proven tips for surviving that may get you through.

    Do things differently this year

    This may be the year to do Christmas at Aspen, or at the YMCA of the Rockies or at Best Western or maybe just at Aunt Trudy's instead of at Grandma's. If you just can't bear the empty chair at your traditional holiday, then maybe it's time to change a few things. BUT be careful not to overextend financially, or to overexert yourself physically. The added burden of more debt or physical pain could tip the scales toward more depression-just when you are trying to escape it.

    Include your loved ones anyway

  • Plan to honor your loved one's presence with a special ritual or even just a candle, wreath or special ornament. Some families buy a new ornament each year just for their loved one who can not be with them.
  • Decorate a special candle to remind you of your loved one, then light it when you arise and keep it burning all day. Plan a balloon release during the holidays in memory of your loved one.
  • Give to a charity, or buy gifts for a needy family in your loved one's name.
  • Place a photo of your loved one on a shelf or under the tree.
  • One ritual that is especially fulfilling is to go around the room with each family member telling what special gift they believe the missing loved one has given them.( courage to fight for their beliefs, a love for music, etc.)

  • Listen to your inner self

    Try to hone in on what you are feeling. This is one time when the old motto "IF IT FEELS GOOD, DO IT" may be true. If you are getting too tired or too sad, give yourself permission to walk away for a while.

    Don't over-do it

    This is probably not the year to send out Christmas cards to all your extended family, or to enter the home decorating contest. Sometimes we feel driven just to "keep busy" but you may be easily overwhelmed. Try to keep in mind the grief stages you may be experiencing at this time: anger, depression, denial and plan to take care of yourself.

    Pamper yourself a bit

    Bubble baths, aroma therapy, soft slippers, a satin nightgown, an evening bowling or maybe dinner out. This is the time to be good to you.

    Include exercise in your plans

    Physical exercise works off stress and lifts your mood. It causes your body to release substances that make you feel happier and more relaxed. YOU NEED THIS NOW


    Listen to your body: If you need to cry, then cry. If you need to sleep, then do so. If you need to talk to someone, seek out someone who will listen. If you need to reminisce, then take the time. It is important for the grieving process that you go with the flow.

    Lower expectations for yourself: You can't expect yourself to run at full capacity for some time. Give yourself a break and don't expect yourself to perform as well as you did prior to your loss. Educate others that it will take some time before your performance is back to normal.

    Let others know what you need from them: Don't expect others to know what you need. Communicate to family and friends how they can support you.

    If you need counseling, do get it: Get all the support you need. There are many bereavement support groups as well as counselors or spiritual advisors who specialize in bereavement counseling. Don't hesitate to contact a medical and or mental health specialist if you have feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts.

    Take the time to do the things you need to do for yourself: When you feel up to it, engage in activities to which you feel drawn. It could be visiting a place you haven't been to in a while, walks in nature, reading, etc.

    Pamper yourself: Treat yourself well. Without breaking your budget, do things for yourself that are helpful like walks, being with people who are nurturing to you, and inexpensive activities.

    Keep a journal: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you to validate and work through your grief.

    Get physical exercise: If you exercised prior to your loss, try to maintain the same routine. If you did not exercise prior to your loss visit your doctor before embarking on a physical exercise routine. Physical exercise can improve the way you feel.

    Obtain a proper diet and sleep: Maintaining a healthy diet and getting proper sleep is essential for functioning as well as you can. If you are having difficulty with either, visit your doctor.

    Be aware of others' reactions: Many people do not know how to react appropriately to your grief. Some are more comfortable than others in responding to your situation. Be aware that people have different ideas not only about death, but also about how bereaved individuals should react. Be true to yourself and let others know if they say something inappropriate.
    from the University of California at San Diego


    It's hard. You need sleep, but you're afraid to close your eyes. What if you dream about your loved one? Or worse, what if you don't? You are tense and edgy because you need sleep, but you can't get to sleep because you're tense and edgy. Here are a few tips.
    • Make a bedtime routine...brush your teeth, read a chapter in a book, do relaxation exercises ( things like shoulder shrugs and neck rolls...not pushups)...then go to bed at the same time every night if you can.
    • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
    • Don't eat anything before bedtime...especially sugary things or carbohydrates. You might cause a spike in your blood sugar that could keep you awake for hours. Then, when the level comes down, it will plummet and wake you up.
    • Avoid physical exertion right before bed. An exercise program will help you be able to relax and get to sleep, but it should be done earlier in the day.
    • E
    • at a snack several hours before you retire, consisting of a fruit and a protein. ( like apples and peanut butter or cheese) This kind of snack will maintain your blood sugar level for several hours, and the level decline will be gradual.
    • Do not drink anything at bedtime ( for obvious reasons)
    • Keep the bed only for sleeping: don't watch TV there, or play cards or do crafts.
    • Maintain your bedroom temperature at 70 degrees or less.
    • Keep the bedroom dark.
    • Wear socks to bed: your feet have less circulation than the rest of your body, and during the night might get cold--waking you up.
    • Do something relaxing at the end of the day, like reading or hand sewing. NOT playing competitive computer games, etc.
    • Don't use loud-ticking alarm clocks, or clocks with bright displays
    • Take a hot bath before retiring--the gradual cooling of your body may relax you.


    • If you're not tired, get up. It's frustrating to lie in bed tossing and turning, and only makes you more tense.
    • Take a hot bath.
    • Read, or watch something low-energy on TV (Not CSI re-runs).
    • If your mind is racing with details and things you need to remember to do the next day, get up and write it down.


    The answer to this is ONLY IF YOUR DOCTOR PRESCRIBES THEM.

    How common is depression after bereavement? There isn't a straightforward answer to this. The results from studies vary. A study in 1993 looked at the rate of depression in late-life widows. The results showed that 16 per cent of them had depression 13 months after bereavement. The symptoms of depression associated with grief are the same as those for depression occurring at anytime. Who is likely to get depression? It is difficult to judge who will or won't suffer depression after a bereavement. However, risk factors thought to increase the chance include the following: a previous history of depression, intense grief or depressive symptoms early in the grief reaction, few social supports, little experience of death. Normal grief will resolve within about 6 months. However, abnormal grief normally needs treatment.

    When "normal" grief progresses to "abnormal grief," you may be diagnosed with depression. DEPRESSION IS NOT JUST FEELING SAD. It is based upon a diagnosis by a medical doctor.

    Major depression - The diagnosis of major depression is based upon the presence of at least five of nine symptoms:
    • Sadness most of the day, particularly in the morning
    • Markedly diminished pleasure or interest in almost all activities nearly every day
    • Significant weight loss or weight gain
    • Insomnia or excessive sleep
    • Agitated movements or very slow movement
    • Fatigue or loss of energy
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Impaired concentration and indecisiveness
    • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide


    A certain perfume can bring back wonderful memories. Some scents relax us, some energize. Aromatherapy is the practice of using certain natural substances in oil form, to bring about desired effects in the body. The oils can be put into the bath, inhaled, or used, with other oils, in massage. Some essences recommended to reduce sadness, depression, stress and anxiety are: Jasmine, Lavender , Neroli Bergamot , Cedarwood , Lavender Frankincense , Lavender , Neroli, Ylang Ylang

    Lavender bath soak:

    What You Need: 1 part dried lavender (calms nerves) 2 parts oatmeal (soothes the skin) 1 part black tea (disinfects) Small square of cheesecloth (about 6 inches) Raffia or other natural-color string Instructions:
    1. Lay cheesecloth flat. Place ingredients in center and mix slightly with your fingers.
    2. Bring ends of cheesecloth together and tie in a knot with raffia.
    3. place the entire bag, still closed, in bathwater as tub fills.


    Meditation is a part of every religion. It may include chants, sounds or just concentration and focus. In meditation, the idea is to quiet other thoughts and to "center" on one thing. That thing may be God, or it might be your own innermost being.

    Another term, often linked with meditation, is bio-feedback. Bio-feedback techniques may be used to calm the body and relax the mind.

    The first step is to think about the muscles of your body--all of them--and to concentrate on tensing them one-at-a-time. You hold the muscle tight for a time, say eight seconds, then relax it COMPLETELY. Notice the difference in how the muscle feels when it is tight and when it is relaxed. Progress through all the muscle groups in your body.
    The second step is to control your breathing. Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. Hold each breath 8 seconds and release it slowly.

    The third step is to use imagery--imagine a place you love, and feel safe in. Be a mind traveler. See the place, listen to its sounds ( Are there birds? Moving water? Wind?) Imagine being there, lying in the sun. Feel the sun on your face. Take your shoes off and put them on hot rock or into hot sand and feel the warmth. Then imagine that warmth traveling up your legs, into your chest, over your shoulders and down your arms--to your fingertips. For some reason, if you can get the warm feeling to your fingers, it signals the body to relax more.