Beginning Fall Semester 2013 Disability Services, ADA Coordinator's Office, Housing & Dining Services, the Dean of Student's Office, Parking & Transportation Services, and Via Mobility Services have partnered to create a pilot program that provides more access to campus and to introduce Via's capabilities for CU students, faculty, and staff with disabilities or with temporary injuries that affect mobility.
Please click on link below for more information:
The Boulder County Trans Survivor's Task Force compiled a trans specific brochure for Trans* survivors of violence. Boulder County Trans Survivor’s Task Force is a community-wide partnership dedicated to promoting equitable, inclusive, welcoming care for trans* survivors of sexual trauma. The resources in this brochure are intended for trans survivors and people supporting survivors.
Disasters take many forms and so do the responses people may have to them. Here are some national resources and links that address general and specific disasters. Also visit OVA’s disaster page for more local and campus information. From the APA (American Psychological Association) Help Center:
- Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recovering-disasters.aspx)
- Manage Flood-Related Distress by Building Resilience:
- Strengthening Your Emotional Well-Being-manage flood-related fears and anxiety: (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/flood-preparation.aspx)
- Tips for managing distress related to the wildfires (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/wildfire-tips.aspx)
- APA Psychology Help Center: Recovering from wildfires (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/wildfire/aspx)
- APA Psychology Help Center: Wildfire Preparation (http://www.usfa/fema/gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/wildfire)
- Managing Traumatic Stress: After the Tornadoes (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/tornadoes.aspx)
- Tornadoes, Hurricanes, and Children (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/tornadoes-kids.aspx)
- Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/mass-shooting.aspx)
- Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/aftermath.aspx)
- Building Your Resilience (http://www.apapracticecentral.org/outreach/building-resilience.aspx)
From Red Cross and FEMA:
- Recovering Emotionally (http://www.redcross.org/find-help/disaster-recovery/recovering-emotionally)
- Children Cope with Disaster (http://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/children.pdf)
- Tornadoes (http://www.fema.gov/hazard/tornado/index.shtm)
- Coping with Disaster (http://www.ready.gov/coping-with-disaster)
- Explosions: what one can do before, during and after an emergency (http://www.ready.gov/explosions)
- Taking Care of your emotional health after a disaster (http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4240142_EmotionalHealth.pdf)
From the Centers for Disease Control Emergency Preparedness and Response:
- Tornadoes (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/tornadoes/)
- Floods (http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/)
- Sleep. Regular rest is very important. If you have trouble sleeping, try drinking aglass of milk or listening to soothing music. Sometimes journaling can help to transfer racing thoughts from the head to paper. Find what works for you.
- Eat Well. Be sure to eat well-balanced meals. Seek out people with whom you will be comfortable to share mealtimes as often as possible. Eat meals intentionally; do not rely on snacks or simply eating in front of the television. Gradually your appetite will return.
- Drink Well. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas; avoid caffeinated drinks or alcohol
- Exercise. Get some exercise, whether walking , T'ai chi, swimming, or any physical activity. Exercise helps you release some of your tension. It will help you feel stronger.
- Breathe. Take "time-outs" and breathe deeply and fully two to three times in the midst of your activities.
- See your Physician. If you are not feeling well, see your primary care physician. Grief takes a toll on your body, and you may be susceptible to illness. Do not hesitate to check it out.
- Find Friends. Find people who are comfortable with your grief and will let you experience your feelings, whether that is crying, telling your story again and again, or sitting with you in silence.
- Be Patient. Try to be patient with people who do not understand your pain. Be patient with yourself as well. Grief takes time.
- Do Something with your Feelings. Find an outlet for your feelings. You may want to try journaling, which is a good way to externalize all that is going on inside of you. Some people find creative outlets, such as painting, sculpting, or writing and playing music. Others may just find talking to be the best outlet. Find what works for you.
- Allow Yourself Time to Grieve. Allow yourself grieving times. Try to declare other times non-grieving times. This way you may find at least short times of peace.
- Pamper Yourself. Set aside time each day to do at least one activity that brings you comfort and feels like you are pampering yourself. Even if it does not bring the pleasure it used to bring, it will help you relax and begin to heal.
- Physical Contact. Ask for hugs, get a massage or take a hot bubble bath to get some physical comfort.
- Look to Nature or Animals. Nature and pets can be healing. Tune into the cycles of nature. Absorb the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
- Find Your Coping Skills. Draw on your memory of past experiences that were difficult. What you learned then can help you now. Learn what you can do when the pain overwhelms you. Try not to let helplessness take over.
- Be Gentle with yourself. Above all, be gentle with yourself. Pretend you're a friend who needs your help and support. What would you do for them?
To print this please click on the following link: Care During Grief
The below link, links to a document called "COVA Trauma Tips". There are five handouts from COVA, the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance:
- VICTIM AND WITNESS REACTIONS TO TRAUMA
- HELPING CHILDREN AND TEENS COPE WITH TRAUMA
- TIPS FOR STUDENTS
- TIPS FOR TEACHERS, STAFF, AND MENTORS
- TIPS FOR PARENTS AND FAMILY MEMBER
Disasters can occur in our natural environment, as with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, or fires and the like; or they can be humanly or mechanically generated, as for example with school shootings, an explosion in a building, or lab accidents that have mass impact.
What to Do
Your safety is the first priority. Some natural disasters, such as a flood, a fire, a tornado or a hurricane may require you to evacuate in order to get to a safe place. If mass evacuations are required, the Red Cross and other organizations will likely have set up a shelter for those who do not have other places to live temporarily. Even if you have other places to stay, these organizations can usually help with food, clothing and sometimes can assist with working with your insurance company.
Safety is also the first priority in a mass crime scene such as a school or workplace shooting. If you are directly involved in such an incident, do whatever you can to protect yourself. If you have a cell phone with you, call 911 as soon as you are able to do so safely. As soon as you are safely able to get away, leave the area of the crime scene. If you are not directly involved, but are hearing about such an event, it is important that you stay away from the scene of the incident, both for your own safety and to maximize the ability of first responders to do their jobs.
In many disaster situations, there is a chaotic environment in the immediate aftermath. Do your best to remain calm. It is common for people experiencing an intense situation to experience the fight, flight or freeze response. Your normal processes of judgment and thinking may be affected by the large number of hormones being “dumped” in your body, and you may find that you experience tunnel focus. All of these responses and others are normal in a potentially traumatic situation.
After the immediate disaster has ended, you may have questions about what your options are. Depending on the nature of the incident you may have specific needs such as emotional support, housing or academic concerns. Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) can offer free, confidential counseling and consultation on your options. 303-492-8855
If you have been physically injured and are unable to leave the scene of the disaster, it is important that (if you are able) you let first responders know about your condition and where you are located. If you have been injured but have been able to leave the scene, go to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Boulder Community Hospital is the closest hospital to CU-Boulder. If you are unsure if you have been injured, go to your doctor or to the emergency room for evaluation. Some injuries require immediate attention so don’t wait to get treatment or an evaluation if you can possibly avoid it.
Treatment and Support
Many people who have experienced a disaster--either because they have been directly impacted, because they have friends or family who have been directly impacted, or because hearing about the event was upsetting--benefit from counseling in the aftermath of the event. Some people experience impact from such events even if they haven’t experienced it directly themselves or known people who were impacted. We know that our earlier experiences of trauma can be triggered by current experiences of trauma. Regardless of the reason, if you find that you are experiencing increased anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, numbing or other uncomfortable feelings, you may benefit by seeking counseling to deal with the emotional impact of the event.
In many mass events, the Red Cross and other agencies have counselors available to talk with those impacted. Since disasters take many different forms, you may find that none of these descriptions fit with what you have been through, or how you’re reacting to the event. It may be of benefit to you to seek out individual counseling in order to discuss with a professional what you are experiencing. OVA offers short-term counseling and also has a list of therapists in the Boulder and Denver areas to whom we can refer if longer-term therapy is appropriate.
Depending on the type of the disaster, you may need to find alternative temporary or permanent housing. In mass events, the Red Cross can provide temporary shelter and help find alternative housing. OVA can discuss options for a change of housing in the Boulder area. CU’s Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations can help CU students seeking alternative housing at 303-492-7053. There may be limited availability for housing in the residence halls or at Bear Creek Apartments. Information about these options can be gained at Residence Life Occupancy Management at 303-492-6673.
Sometimes experiencing a disaster can lead to difficulty concentrating, or having the ability to focus on school or get to class. You deserve to be in school and to meet your academic and other goals. The OVA staff can discuss options for managing academic issues with you while maintaining privacy. If you wish, we may be able to notify your professors of the situation you are dealing with. There are concrete things the University can do to help you with your situation.
How to Help
Sometimes people, in the wake of a difficult or traumatic situation, can find it hard to assess their options, or even know where to begin. Friends, family and significant others can offer to listen, or do some of the basic footwork about what resources exist.
You may notice the person who has experienced a disaster having a variety of different feelings, or behaviors. They may seem tired and withdrawn, angry and irritable, or oddly energetic and outgoing. Let the person know what you notice about their behavior and express your concern. Consider referring them to a confidential and supportive resource like OVA.
If you know someone who has experienced a disaster:
- Remain calm. Encourage discussion about the trauma to the extent that the survivor feels comfortable to do so.
- Follow their lead. Use their language as much as possible to describe what happened and their feelings about it.
- Encourage the person to seek counseling from specially trained mental health professionals. The Office of Victim Assistance can be a resource.
- Help the person explore options and choices in their process of healing.
- Leave the control of decision-making up to the person.
- Acknowledge your own feelings of anger, concern, and sadness. Seek support for yourself to help process your own reactions to the trauma.
- Respect the person’s need for privacy and their desire to talk or not to talk about the details of the trauma.
- Overreact or escalate the situation.
- Under-react as this can be invalidating
- Judge or question the survivor’s response to the traumatic situation.
- Make decisions for them or take control from the person.
- Gossiping about what your friend has shared.
- Forgetting about yourself! Getting support for yourself will allow you to be more available for your friend or family member.
Emergency Management at CU-Boulder and in Boulder County
On CU-Boulder’s campus, Emergency Management (part of the Department of Public Safety) is responsible for the implementation, training, coordination and oversight of emergency management and business continuity plans and programs. Their website, http://police.colorado.edu/emergency-management, contains information about Emergency Information and Warnings, Emergency Management Resources, Emergency Plans and Procedures and other information. If you would like to know what is being done on the CU-Boulder campus about emergency planning, they are your best resource. Their phone number is 303-492-6820.
If there is a disaster which has taken place on the campus, in the city of Boulder, or in Boulder County, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management has up-to-the-minute updates on emergency status, as well as a wealth of helpful information at http://www.boulderoem.com/emergency-status. Their phone number is 303-441-3390.
Active Shooter Information and Video
There is information and a video about an active shooter situation on the University of Colorado Police Department website at http://police.colorado.edu/crime-prevention-safety/shots-fired-recommendations-active-harmers
- Ambulance 911
- Boulder Community Hospital 303-786-1968
- Boulder County Emergency Management 303-441-3390
- Boulder County Sheriff’s Department 303-441-4444
- Boulder Police Department 303-441-3333
- Boulder Valley Women’s Health Clinic – 303-442-5160
- Counseling and Psychological Services – 303-492-6766
- Fire 911
- University of Colorado Emergency Management 303-492-6820
- University of Colorado Police Department 303-492-6666
- Faculty and Staff Assistance 303-492-3020
- Psychological Health and Psychiatry in Wardenburg Health Center 303-492-5654
- Wardenburg Student Health Center 303-492-5101
Facing Sudden Death: When someone dies accidentally, unexpectedly, and/or violently
Loss in itself is painful enough, but sudden loss is shocking and the shock can double one’s pain and intensify grief. A sudden loss may seem more painful, complicated and emotional. Besides the common phases of grief a sudden loss has some additional challenges.
- There is no chance to prepare or to gradually absorb the change in your world
- There is an increase in grief over the senselessness or unfairness nature of the death
- Some feel cheated as there was no last good-bye
- Feeling cheated can add to one’s despair and anguish
- “If only . . .” is a common question one may ask themselves
- There may be grief over the lack of dignity of the death
- Feeling the deceased was denied a peaceful or natural death
- The world can feel less safe
- Feelings of disenfranchisement (the world is bad) and vulnerability may increase
- Feeling fearful, uncertain, angry and/or frustrated with the world
- It may be hard to watch TV, read the news, etc.
- There may be feelings of guilt because you have survived
- This is a normal feeling, even if it feels unreasonable
- Taking some responsibility for the death is an attempt to get some control of the senselessness of the incident
- When a younger person dies suddenly or violently the feeling of unnaturalness is heightened for some, “they still had so much life to live”
- Some sudden losses have media coverage making the loss more public
- Some feel a loss of privacy or information is misrepresented
- Yet one may find themselves obsessively gathering/following the reports
- There may also be more involvement of the criminal justice system
- Negotiating autopsies, police reports, legal meetings/hearing can increase emotional turmoil
- The legal system can also go on for some time, possibly delaying parts of the grieving process
- Anger/rage feeling may be overwhelming
- There may be a lack of control over memories and thoughts about the loss
- Some may feel isolated
- Not sure who to trust and lean on for support
Take care of yourself through your grief
- Express your feelings
- Get support from others
- Be it from family, friends, counselor, or a grief group
Adapted from Hospice Care of Boulder and Broomfield and Hospice Foundation of America-www.hospicefoundation.org
To return to Office of Victim Assistance’s Grief and Loss/Death Overview page click here
When confronted with a serious injury which interferes with academic life, it is important that students communicate directly with campus resources which can help. The professionals at the Office of Victim Assistance (303-492-8855) can work with injured students and their families to do an assessment of the injured student’s needs, and to work out the development of a plan which can address those needs. We are staffed by counselors who are familiar with the resources at CU-Boulder campus and in the Boulder community. We are also familiar with the kinds of issues and needs that serious injuries often present. We can talk with you about your situation, assess your needs (academic, physical and emotional), and work in collaboration with other on- and off-campus resources in helping to address those needs. College success assumes high energy levels, ongoing productivity, and sustained effort. A serious injury can interfere with a student’s ability to attend classes and to fully participate in the rigors of academic life. This extra set of challenges can often disadvantage the injured student in the academic environment in which they live.
Because each situation is unique, Victim Assistance staff will help create an individualized plan for your recovery strategies. The decision regarding whether or not to stay in school after a serious injury is difficult and complex. Factors which need to be considered include the nature of your injury, the timing within the academic semester, your current academic performance, the extent of physical and emotional difficulties, and recommendations from “experts” on your condition and its impact on your academic performance.
Listed below are some questions, intended as a checklist, which may be helpful to you if you find yourself in a situation where serious injury interferes with your academic performance.
- If there is impact on your academic work or your ability to be in class, contact your professors to notify them of your injuries and the scope of the limitations resulting from them. Victim Assistance can assist with this.
- Communicate clearly to your professors what your medical or subsequent limitations are and for how long they are anticipated to last.
- Discuss missed classes and assignments with your instructors.
- See if friends or acquaintances in the class(es) may be able to help you by supplying notes for the classes you missed. See if they can assist you by asking for a volunteer in your class to share their notes with you.
- Call the Dean of Students office or the Office of Victim Assistance if you have had difficulty connecting with your professors.
- Get medical documentation of your injury that you can provide if needed
- Be aware of academic semester timelines. (http://.registrar.colorado.edu) If it is past the deadline to withdraw you may need to contact the Dean’s office or your academic advisor for assistance.
- Determine whether or not academic support services are needed.
- If your injury has caused a disability, contact Disability Services (303-492-8671). Here is some information on their website for students who have temporary medical conditions including injury: http://www.colorado.edu/disabilityservices/accommauxaid.html
- If tutoring is necessary, contact department offices to find extra support in catching up. If you live in a residence hall and need tutoring, contact the tutors there.
- Consider any of the following as a means of coping with the long-term effects of your injury:
- taking an Incomplete
- dropping one or more classes
- withdrawing from school and applying for the Time Out Program or TOP (http://registrar.colorado.edu/students/timeoutprogram.html)
- taking correspondence courses
- Determine whether tuition classification/residency status is affected by your injury.
Mobility and Access (if applicable):
- If your mobility has been impacted, determine how you will get around campus.
- getting to campus
- getting to your classes
- getting into your classrooms
- how long it will take you to get across campus
- Consider mobility aids, such as a power wheelchair or scooter. For full list of rentals click here
- Talk to your insurance agency regarding transportation or mobility assistance.
- Explore the informal supports of friends and other support people for assistance with transportation and mobility.
- Check community resources like the Hop, Parking Services, RTD, or Special Transit.
- Be aware that you, or a friend providing you transportation, may be eligible for a parking permit that will get you closer to your classes. To get a handicapped placard, you will need to secure it from the DMV with appropriate medical documentation. Call Parking and Transportation Services at 303-492-1220 for more information.
- If you are on financial aid, contact the Financial Aid Office at 303-492-5091 to notify them of your situation, or to discuss ramifications to your aid with respect to pertinent timelines. .
- Discuss with them whether or not there are financial consequences related to various decisions about your academic options.
- If you need to drop classes or withdraw, contact the Bursar’s Office (303-492-7496) for more information regarding possible financial reimbursement.
- Be aware that withdrawals (or the Time Out Program) are processed through the Office of the Registrar (http://registrar.colorado.edu/students/timeoutprogram.html).
- If you live in a Residence Hall, inform your RA or Hall Director of your situation.
- If you are planning to leave the residence halls, complete proper procedures.
- If you are returning to the residence halls and have special needs, consider how you will meet those challenges.
Taking Time Out from School:
- If you are withdrawing from school, notify the Registrar’s Office (http://registrar.colorado.edu/students/withdraw.html#withdraw).
- If you are planning to withdraw, and you intend to return to school after one or two semesters, you can apply for the Time Out Program and return without reapplying to the University. (http://registrar.colorado.edu/students/timeoutprogram.html).
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Dean of Students – Center for Community S430 – 303-492-8476
Center for Multicultural Affairs – Center for Community N320 – 303-492-5666
Counseling and Psychological Services – Center for Community S440 – 303-492-6766
Disability Services – Center for Community N200 – 303-492-8671
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center – Center for Community N450 – 303-492-1377
Office of International Education – Center for Community S355 -- 303-492-6016
Office of Parent Relations – Center for Community N460 – 303-492-1380
Office of Victim Assistance – Center for Community S440 – 303-492-8855
Psychological Health and Psychiatry – Wardenburg Health Center – 303-492-5654
Women’s Resource Center – UMC 419 – 303-492-5713
Boulder Community Hospital – Mapleton Rehabilitation Center – 311 Mapleton Ave. – 303-440-2273
To return to the Office of Victim Assistance main page on accidents click here
The University of Colorado Boulder has policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner abuse, and stalking
Conduct that deprives an individual of a benefit of employment or educational opportunity based on membership of a protected class*.Harassment
- Unwanted verbal or physical behavior. Conduct that interferes with an individual’s work, academic performance, or participation in university programs or activities is considered harassment.
- Harassment of a sexual nature
- Severe and/or repeated sexual behavior that is not welcome or asked for
- Comments/innuendos/behaviors of a sexual nature which are inappropriate to the environment
- Sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment
- Intimate partner abuse and stalking are also covered in these policies
- Anyone who has the authority to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, grade or direct faculty, staff or students;
- Everyone who manages or supervises others, including but not limited to faculty, teaching assistants, resident advisers, coaches and anyone who leads, administers, advises or directs University programs.
Reporting duty is part of University policy:
- UC-Boulder policy requires any supervisor who becomes aware of a complaint of protected class discrimination and harassment and sexual harassment (including sexual assault, intimate partner abuse, and stalking) or related retaliation, to promptly report it to the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) if the alleged perpetrator is an employee, or to the Office of Student Conduct (OSC), if the alleged perpetrator is a student.
How best to respond to a disclosure:
- Refer the victim/complainant to the Office of Victim Assistance or the appropriate other confidential office for support and information.
- Explain to the victim/complainant that:
- Because the University takes these allegations very seriously you are required to contact either OSC or ODH to report it;
- Provide OSC or ODH with all of the information received;
- OSC or ODH will contact the university police if the behavior is criminal;
- These offices may contact the victim/complainant;
- The victim/complainant may choose not to cooperate with any of these offices.
- For more tips on how to respond click here
Confidential Resources exempt from this policy:
- Office of Victim Assistance – 303-492-8855, S440 C4C, 140 UCB
- Counseling and Psychological Services – 303-492-6766, S440 C4C, 104 UCB
- Faculty and Staff Assistance Program – 303-492-3020, ARC Rm. A353, 565 UCB
- Ombuds Office – 303-492-5077, N440 C4C, 112 UCB
- Psychological Health and Psychiatry Center – 303-492-5654, 130 Wardenburg Health Center, 119 UCB
For more information go to: www.colorado.edu/policies
*CU's Protected Classes
· National origin
· Political Affiliation
· Sexual orientation
· Gender identity
· Gender expression
· Political Philosophy
· Veteran status
Secondary Trauma/Vicarious Trauma
- Vicarious trauma can occur for those who work with trauma survivors and/or who are exposed to other’s traumatic situations. Vicarious trauma can affect the following areas: physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and spiritual.
- It is important to notice changes in yourself after seeing and/or working close to other’s trauma. Notice if your views start to incorporate the views of the survivor, this can increase with repeated exposure to other’s trauma.
How Vicarious Trauma affects Our World Views
- You may question your basic beliefs about the world, safety, trust, justice
- You may have a heightened awareness of the vulnerability and fragility of life
- Survivor(s) may feel a since of powerlessness and that could start to transfer to you
- Alienation feelings may also develop
Prevention/Decreasing Vicarious Trauma
- Be aware of your symptoms of stress to prevent them from becoming severe.
- Establish clear, realistic stress management goals and incorporate the planning and support needed.
- Incorporate down time in your schedule.
- Take deep breaths and/or do simple meditation.
- Make sure to be eating regularly and including healthy foods and water.
- Develop a support/social system, be it with friends, family, community members, counselors etc.
- Exercise is a good stress reducing activity.
- Sleep is very renewing, so try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
- You may want to limit your exposure to certain media, i.e., the news, newspapers etc.
- Know your limits and when to ask for help, you do not have to do this alone.
“To keep the lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.” Mother Teresa
(this information was adapted from www.crvawc.ca and Cynthia McKenna)
Tips on How to Help Survivors of Trauma
- Remain calm.
- Encourage discussion about the trauma to the extent that the survivor feels comfortable.
- Remind the survivor that they are not responsible for the incident.
- No one asks or deserves to be raped, assaulted, abused etc.
- Avoid saying that “you know”how the survivor feels. Keep focus on the survivor.
- No one can ever really know how another person feels, even if they have experienced the same kind of trauma.
- Also talking about how you feel takes the attention away from the survivor’s feelings and experience.
- Avoid judging or questioning the survivor.
- Do not ask “why” questions such as, “Why were you drinking?” or “Why did you go to their room?”
- Why questions tend to imply blame on the survivor for what happened.
- Do not ask “why” questions such as, “Why were you drinking?” or “Why did you go to their room?”
- Encourage the survivor to seek counseling from specially trained mental health professionals.
- Help the survivor explore options and choices in their process of healing, butavoid making decisions for them.
- Leave the control of decision making up to the survivor.
- Respect the survivor's need for privacy and their desire to talk or not talk about the details of the trauma.
- Acknowledge your own feelings of anger, concern, and sadness.
- Seek counseling for yourself to help process your reaction to the trauma.
10 WAYS TO EXPRESS YOUR SYMPATHY
After talking with numerous grieving people who have said that after a loss they were too much in shock and numb by their grief to answer those who said to them, “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” Below are a variety of things you can do for those who are grieving to express your care and concern without necessarily saying anything.
- Look for an immediate need and fill it. Help with basic needs like arranging transportation and accommodations, helping with kids, and helping with communication between friends and family.
- Be there when needed. Just being present and in the same physical space as the grieving person so they are not alone, if they do not want to be alone, is helpful.
- Provide food. Eating and preparing food can be very overwhelming and often just forgotten by the grieving person, so bringing food is helpful because then they do not have to think about where to get food and it is a reminder to keep healthy and eating.
- Sending flowers or donating to a charity. Some say, “No flowers,” and if that is the case a house plant is an alternative. Also some families ask for donations to a charity or foundation in the name of the deceased, especially if there was an organization that was special to the deceased.
- Reach out and touch (literally). Many have a need, sometimes unrecognized, to be touched during a difficult time. A hug, a handclasp, and hand on the back, can communicate you care without saying a word.
- Listen. Just listening, letting them share their feelings of grief helps them work through their own grief and decreases the odds of prolonged depression. Also do not be concerned about causing tears by listening and encouraging them to talk, if they want to talk, because crying is a normal way to express grief. Silence is also something that is helpful, sharing silence is another way of listening.
- Send a note, card, letter, or make a phone call. You do not have to say much to make your feelings known, a simple, “I am thinking of you” or “I care about you,” speaks volumes. It can also be comforting to recall a shred event or special quality of the deceased.
- Encourage the bereaved to get out of the house. Be it for a quick bite to eat, or to take a walk around the neighborhood. Time is usually forgotten and the griever welcomes an opportunity to get out of the house, because they may not do it on their own at first.
- Give of your talent and experience. Something you know how to do that they do not or are not able to do at the time, like knowing a lawyer, how to fix a clogged toilet, laundry, cooking, etc.
- Help with the days ahead. In the beginning there are usually a lot of people around and offering to help, as time passes stay in touch – it is when people start to get back into their daily routines that friends are needed most, grief and loneliness last for many months.
Adapted from Ten Ways to Express Your Sympathy by Kathleen Cruzic.
To return to Office of Victim Assistance’s Grief and Loss/Death Overview page click here
Appropriate Expectations You Can Have for Yourself in Grief The following is a list of appropriate expectations that you can have in grief. Evaluate yourself on each one and see if you are maintaining realistic expectations for yourself.
You can expect that:
- Your grief may take longer than most people think
- Your grief may take more energy then you may have imagined
- Your grief will involve many changes and be continually developing
- Your grief will show itself in all spheres of your life: psychological, social and physical
- Your grief will depend upon how you perceive the loss
- You will grieve for many things both symbolic and tangible
- You will grieve for what you have lost already and for what you have lost for the future
- Your grief will entail mourning the loss, your hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled expectations you held with what you have lost and for the future needs unmet because of the loss
- Your grief will involve a wide variety of feelings and reactions, beyond only sadness
- The loss usually resurrects old issues, feelings, and unresolved conflicts from the past
- You may have some identity confusion as a result of a major loss
- The reactions you experience may be quite different that what you may had expected
- You may have a combination of anger and sadness, such as irritability, frustration, annoyance, and/or intolerance
- You may experience some form of anger and guilt
- You may have a lack of self-concern
- You may experience “grief spasms,” acute upsurges of grief that occur suddenly with no warning
- You most likely will have trouble thinking (memory, organization and intellectual processing) and making decisions
- Sometimes you may feel like you are going crazy
- You may obsessed with the loss and be preoccupied with the loss at times
- You may begin to search for meaning and may question your faith and/or philosophy on life
- You may find yourself acting socially in ways that are different from before
- You may find yourself having a number of physical reactions
- You may find that there are certain dates, events, and stimuli that bring upsurges of grief
- Society may have unrealistic expectations about your mourning and may respond inappropriately or unhelpfully towards you
- Certain experiences later in your life may resurrect intense grief for you temporarily
- Holidays and anniversaries may also bring upsurges of your grief
- Your grief may look very different from others or even from other grief you have experienced
- Grief usually is based on your personality and how you attach meaning to the loss
Adapted from How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies, by Therese Rando
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