All About Grief
-- Updated October 7, 2010 --


    Welcome to the "All About Grief" page at™. DearShrink is an Internet Mental Health Center hosted by Ron Sterling, M.D., a General and Geriatric Psychiatrist who also specializes in Adolescent and Family Therapy.

    The mission of this page is to provide information and resources for understanding grief, and the grieving and mourning processes. Just type in your Web browser address window to find us again, or bookmark us.

    Dr. Sterling starts with an answer to a reader question that was sent to him in June 2004. Although this answer is directed more to older adults, it contains important information for all of us. Links to more resources and articles about grief and the grieving and mourning processes can be found below this article.

Life After Loss

    Dear Dr. Sterling:

      I had a much stronger reaction to Ronald Reagan's recent death than I thought would ever be possible. Every time I saw Nancy Reagan near Ronald Reagan's casket, I cried. Just the week before that, it was all about D-Day and Memorial Day. Funerals and observances of death and dying were everywhere and deeply affected me. Now, I worry about how I am going to handle it if my wife dies before I do. -- Signed: Worried About Life After Loss.

    Dear Worried:

      Thank you for writing! Like you, I found the television coverage of all the Reagan family members to be very heart-rending. Grief and the mourning process are very complicated emotional experiences that cannot be summarized easily. However, I will try to cover a few important issues about life after loss.

      People do not usually experience grief without a real loss or an anticipated loss. In your situation, you may already be experiencing grief reactions based on an anticipated loss of your wife. Although most of us agree on what might constitute a loss, the perception of loss and the reaction to it are very unique and individual. You have a perfect right to have your feelings.

      For us older folks, loss is a predominant theme in our lives. We are challenged by many losses: deaths of friends, colleagues, and relatives, changes in work status, prestige, and loss of physical abilities and good health. Due to this "loss-ridden" environment, it is very important to remember that losses may hit us much harder and may take longer than expected to resolve. Note to younger folks: give older folks more sensitivity and support in times of mourning than you might think you need. The impact of a loss on an older person can often be underestimated due to beliefs such as "aging prepares a person to cope better with losses." It doesn't.

      The major myths about mourning are (1) there is a predictable, orderly set of stages to mourning, (2) it's best to move away from grief rather than toward it, and (3) following the death of a loved one, the goal is to "get over" it. It is significant to note that in 1927 Emily Post reported that a widow's formal mourning period was three years. Yet, in 1972, Amy Vanderbilt advised a bereaved person to pursue, or try to pursue, a usual social course within a week or so after a funeral. Current society tends to pressure for quick recoveries. Although three years is thought of as a bit lengthy, resuming regular social activities in a week is definitely too short.

      How we handle losses (mourning) has much to do with our resilience. Factors that contribute to resiliency are flexibility, creativity, optimism, sociability, openness to learning, and the ability to redefine loss or failure in terms that allow for continued learning. Trauma and loss can give rise to personal transformations and growth. The Chinese symbol for "crisis" is identical to the symbol for "opportunity."

      Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote extensively about the "defiant power of the human spirit." He noted that there is a fundamental difference between pain and suffering in that "suffering" is how we choose to react to pain. "Conditions cannot completely condition us. Everything can be taken from us, but the last of human freedoms, to choose one's attitude, can never be taken away." Frankl called this the spiritual dimension.

      Aging and the losses it brings may present us with our greatest opportunity to connect with our spiritual dimension and to defy conditions and choose our attitude. This may just be the ultimate meaning of growing older. I hope this is helpful. -- Best wishes.

Links to More Information and Resources about Grief.

Links to Information about "Complicated Grief."

Other Advice Destinations at

    Other Advice destinations at DearShrink include:, where you will find information and links about forgiveness;, where you will find information and links about understanding the factors involved in mental wellness -- self-appreciation, resilience, affiliation, negotiation, and mental and physical exercise; and, where Dr. Sterling provides comprehensive answers and information about senior mental health and caregiver support.

Thank You for Stopping By!

    Thank you so much for visiting this Web page. Please check back often for new links, resources, and information.

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