Understanding Your Grieving Heart after a Loved One's Death

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Many books touch upon the subject of grief, but none so comprehensively as Understanding Your Grieving Heart. Whether you've experienced the loss of a loved one last week or years ago, you'll find solace and comfort in these pages. Mary M. Wong's conversational writing style, coupled with her own personal experience, makes Understanding Your Grieving Heart an invaluable resource that you will turn to time and ...
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Many books touch upon the subject of grief, but none so comprehensively as Understanding Your Grieving Heart. Whether you've experienced the loss of a loved one last week or years ago, you'll find solace and comfort in these pages. Mary M. Wong's conversational writing style, coupled with her own personal experience, makes Understanding Your Grieving Heart an invaluable resource that you will turn to time and time again on your road to stability and healing. Inside you will learn:
  • the myths surrounding the grieving process
  • the emotional, physical, spiritual, social, intellectual and financial challenges of grief
  • How to deal with anger, fear, stress, loneliness, regrets and depression
  • How to handle your loved one's belongings
  • How grief affects your marriage
  • How to help your children through the grieving process
  • How to balance the needs of your family, friends and business colleagues with your own needs
  • What to do for yourself when the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries come around
  • How to honor your loved one's memory
Additionally, you will find a list of the national bereavement organizations complete with phone and website information, and over 175 books on the grieving process, all reviewed by the author and categorized by need. Learning more now about what you may encounter in the future will help alleviate unnecessary pain. Take this bold step to learn practical ways to help yourself through this difficult time. Begin this new journey here.

About the Author

For nearly two decades, Mary M. Wong (www.marywong.com) has counseled bereaved individuals and groups nationwide, primarily survivors of homicide victims, to better understand the grieving process and how they could gain more control during overwhelming circumstances. She has received many awards including Best New Directory, First Edition at the SIMBA Awards for Excellence in Directory Publishing for "The National Directory of Bereavement Support Groups and Services" as well as being recognized by the New York State Senate for her work with survivors of homicide victims. She and her husband, Angelo, are crime victim rights' advocates, starting the first chapter of Parents of Murdered Children in NYC and as founding board members of Justice For All, a political action committee to lobby for more effective crime victim legislation. She offers seminars, trainings and speaks on this subject. Mary and Angelo are thrilled that a recent arrest has been made in the 1984 murder of his 11 year-old daughter, Angela - a Long Island case which has gone unsolved for nearly 18 years. Although native New Yorkers, Mary now makes her home in the Orlando area.
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Editorial Reviews

Midwest Book Review
Understanding Your Grieving Heart After A Loved One's Death by grief counselor Mary Wong is an invaluable guidebook on how to offer comfort to the bereaved. Wong touches on every aspect of the aftermath of loss, from dispelling myths surrounding the grieving process to how to deal with anger and stress, to how to handle the belongings of a lost loved one and how to help one's children through the grieving process. Wong has also reviewed over 175 other books on the grieving process and categorized them by need in this clear, simple, helpful, and solace-filled reference. Understanding Your Grieving Heart After A Loved One's Death is very highly recommended for personal, professional, and community library and grief counseling collections. Copyright 2001 Midwest Book Review
When we lose a loved one, we are in a wave of confusion and find it hard to deal with the new me---the person who has been changed unlike ever before because of death. We daily face new emotions, new kinks in our relationships and old myths that need to be discarded. How do we do it all? Author and Counselor, Mary M. Wong, shows us how to understand what is happening to our lives in our raw bereavement in her newest book, Understanding Your Grieving Heart After a Loved One's Death. Within these 128 pages, the reader will have the myths about grieving exposed, the stages of grief explained, the manifestations of grief described, the effects of grief on children, the changes grief brings in relationships among family, friends and co-workers, how to deal with the special days and concrete ways to honor a loved one. Wong encourages us to take care of our bodies in order to alleviate stress. "If all you do is walk outside your door," she writes, "and breathe in the air, or walk a block down the street and back, it is far better than had you stayed in bed all day." She tells us to acknowledge and recognize all the feelings we experience once our loved one is gone because restricting and denying them only builds more stress. Understanding Your Grieving Heart is a practical guide to living life after the unthinkable death of a loved one has happened to us. Mary has the gift to hold our hand and tenderly show us how. Alice J. Wisler, Editor. Copyright 2002 Tributes, Volume XV - Tributes assists bereaved parents, siblings and those with tender hearts.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After debunking myths about the grieving process, e.g., that it lasts only a few months, Mary M. Wong (editor, The National Directory of Bereavement Support Groups and Services) traces the stages of grief (shock, denial, despair, renewal), manifestations (e.g., regrets, depression, anger, workaholism) and effects on marriage, children, friendships and work relationships in Understanding Your Grieving Heart After a Loved One's Death. Even if we've seen others mourn a loss, says Wong, we may be taken by surprise at our responses to the death of an intimate, particularly the sense of being out of control that often accompanies bereavement. Grieving readers will appreciate this warm, wise guide by an experienced bereavement counselor and crime victims' rights advocate. ( Dec.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

Read an Excerpt

Welcome, my new friend,

Allow me to extend to you my deepest sympathy.  Experiencing a loved one's
death is never easy because the relationship you shared was unique - it was
not the same with any other person.  And for that reason, the emotions and
pain you now feel can be overwhelming.

You hurt so much because you loved so deeply.  One moment you may feel
stable, the next inconsolable.  These varied emotions are something you may
never have experienced before and these feelings of being somewhat "out of
control" can be scary.

Depending on how you learned of your loved one's death, the way they died and
if you were able to say goodbye, all have an impact on how you grieve. 
Additionally, there is no "right" way to grieve.  Most of us do not know how
we will cope until we confront grief for the first time.

There are many things you cannot change but some things you can.  And
educating yourself to what may lie ahead will definitely alleviate some
unnecessary pain.

While a map gives you directions, it will not be able to steer you clear of
every roadblock along the way.  Sometimes a flat tire stalls your progress,
sometimes an unexpected detour in the road for construction.  You learn to
deal with these challenges, when you are confronted with them, the best way
you know how. 

And so it is with grief.  You will not be able to anticipate your reaction to
events down the road, but you will deal with it, not feel guilty for your
reaction and keep moving forward.  Why?  Because you have little choice.  You
survived your loved one.  And as much as you may feel how unfair that is,
it's the way it is.

So let us begin this new journey together to learn how to make the pain more
bearable.  Let us learn specific coping techniques from those who have walked
this walk before us.  Let us remember and celebrate all the wonderful times
we shared with our loved one.  And let us care for ourselves as we take these
steps forward.

Wishing you abundant blessings and much comfort as you come to understand
your grieving heart, 


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Table of Contents

Dedication Page
Welcome, my new friend...
1. Myths Behind the Grieving Process
2. Stages of Grief
3. Manifestations of Grief
a. Emotional Challenges
b. Physical Challenges
c. Social Challenges
d. Intellectual Challenges
e. Spiritual Challenges
f. Financial Challenges
4. Effects of Grief on Marriage
5. Effects of Grief on Children
6. Relationships with Family, Friends and Business Colleagues
7. Holidays, Anniversaries and Special Occasions
8. Honoring Your Loved One
9. A Final Note
10. Where to Find Help: Organizations for Those Grieving a Loved One's Death
11. Selected Bibliography
12. Index
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First Chapter

Chapter I - Myths Behind the Grieving Process

Most people, especially those of us who are experiencing their first
deathloss, have preconceived ideas about the grieving process, usually rooted
from others' experiences we've witnessed.  Unless we've been exposed to a
book such as this, chances are we have little knowledge, nor ever wanted any
knowledge, before we actually had to deal with the death of someone close.

Logically, we expect that at some time in our life we will bury someone
before we ourselves die.  And, if we loved them, that loss will hurt - and
hurt deeply.

If this is your first deathloss, you need to understand that no one else's
previous experience with grief will be exactly the same grief journey you
experience.  And, if you have endured a deathloss in the past, this
particular deathloss may not be anything like your previous experience. This
is a completely unique individual and your relationship with them has been
different from the relationship you had with the individual who previously

Consequently, we begin by explaining what grief is not because you may have
heard many stories about what you will feel, what you will encounter, how
people will treat you and many other sordid details, which may or may not be
true for you.  They may have been true for that other person, but may not be
true for you.

Therefore, begin this experience with an open mind.

What are the myths surrounding the grieving process?

1. Everyone grieves in exactly the same way.  If this were true, there would
be only one book or one tape on the grieving process and every person would
follow a set of directions.   It would be similar to an instruction manual
that would tell you how to get from point A to point B and this was the exact
direction and exact manner, and there was no deviation whatsoever. 

Nothing is further from the truth.  Every one of us deals with death in a
different way.  Your reaction may be completely different from your mother,
sister or son's experience.

How you grieve depends on a number of things:

- the way you learned to cope with stress in your life before
     this death. 
- the quality of the relationship you had with the person who
     was killed or died. 
- the circumstances under which they died. 
- the practice of your faith and ethnic customs. 
- the emotional support you receive from your family and
     friends while you are going through the grieving process. 

2.  We handle all deathlosses in the same way.  Again, untrue.  You respond
to each deathloss during your life based upon many things:

-   whether this is your first deathloss or you've experienced more than your
share.  Many of us can recall the incapacitation and shock we felt at our
first serious deathloss.
-   how mature you are when your loved one died. Experiencing a loved one's
death when you are a child will be much different when you are in your 40's.
-   how the person died.  You will deal with police and district attorneys
when a homicide occurs, whereas a natural death allows you to grieve without
outside interruption.
-   the relationship you had with them.  You will grieve the death of a child
quite differently than a business colleague.
-   the proximity of their physical body to you when they died.  A loved one
killed in a car accident where you were a surviving passenger will feel quite
different than your 90 year-old grandfather's death in another state.
-   the quality of the relationship you had with them.  If you had strained
relations with a family member, perhaps their death will not affect you
nearly as much as a neighbor with whom you socialized on a regular basis. 
Just because you were related to an individual doesn't mean the grief will be
-   the geographical distance between the two of you.  Chances are you will
grieve more deeply for a beloved grandparent who lived in your home since you
were a child, than one who lives 3,000 miles away with whom you had little
contact throughout your lifetime.

3.  Parents are supposed to die first.  When a child dies or is killed, no
matter whether that child was one or fifty-one, parents and grandparents
struggle with the unnatural order of their death. All the hopes and dreams
they had for their children are gone.

Parents endure great sadness knowing a child who dies young will not
experience their sweet-sixteen or graduation.  They won't walk them down the
aisle at their wedding, or see grandchildren from them.  They lose their

When we deal with the loss of a parent, we lose our past.  Although we know
our parents will leave us at some point, we never really are ready for their
death.  They provide a sense of family, a sense of security.  We now become
the senior generation of our family structure.

4. The grieving process is completed in a few months.  And quite frankly, to
some business managers, that could be a few days.  But the reality is,
griefwork can take upwards of 18-24 months for a natural death. For survivors
whose loved ones have died in an accident, by sudden death, homicide,
vehicular homicide or suicide, and for those grieving a child's death, those
timeframes can be prolonged. 

Please note that there is no set timeframe; everyone's timeframe is different
and it depends on the relationship you had with that person.  If you had a
superficial relationship, you will not, of course, need to grieve to the same
extent as you would for someone whom you loved more deeply. (And chances are
you wouldn't be reading this book if you have only a superficial deathloss.) 
This also does not mean you grieve with the same intensity throughout this
entire time.  As time moves on, the grief softens, may come back intensely
for shorter periods of time and then softens again.  This is why many
bereaved individuals call grief a roller coaster of emotions because they are
not consistent.

5. If I get rid of everything that reminds me of my loved one, somehow this
process will be easier.  Throwing away or giving away the possessions of a
loved one immediately after the funeral or shortly thereafter is not a wise
move.  At this stage, you are still numb and not thinking clearly. Leave
these decisions until you have had an opportunity to get more control over
your emotions and are able to make clearer decisions about what you would
like to keep and how you would like to distribute part of their belongings. 
Please do not let others make these decisions for you.  This is something you
need to do in your own time, in your own privacy, when you feel more stable. 

Some family members actually think if they rid the room of all pictures and
memorabilia, somehow you won't be as upset.  They are trying to make us feel
better.  They want to do what is best for us.  But in that process, often
times, they are really doing what is better for them - what makes them more

Understand that out-of-sight does not mean out-of-mind.  Belongings are very
precious possessions.  Having pictures out may be extremely cathartic for
you.  It is not uncommon to stand there and talk to the picture when you need
to talk to your loved one.  It's not uncommon at all.  Having his belongings
still in the closet so that you can smell how he smelled, and embracing the
clothing will help to comfort you.

Therefore, do not do anything with your loved one's belongings until after
everyone has gone home from the funeral.  Don't wash any piece of clothing or
give anything away until you are stronger and thinking more clearly.

Individuals who are not going through the grieving process often do not
understand any of these things.  And, before you had your first significant
deathloss, neither did you.  Take what they do for you as a sincere gesture,
but make up your mind that you will take charge of the possessions at your
own pace.

If you feel it is too difficult to have pictures or other belongings
surrounding you, then safely store them away, but don't get rid of them.  You
will then have the option later to bring them back out or store them away

6.  Grief will never pop back into my life once I feel stronger.  This is
definitely not true because you will experience their birthday and the
anniversary of their death.  As time moves along, different milestones occur.
 If you lost your spouse at a young age, your child will graduate and, as you
sit at the ceremony with melancholy feelings, you might think, "Wouldn't it
be wonderful if John were here to see this.  He would have been so proud of
our son." Or if your mother died when you were a child, you might imagine her
sitting next to your father at your wedding ceremony.  Perhaps you decide to
finally visit The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC and you are
struck by the overwhelming emotion you feel as you read your brother's name
for the first time.

7. I can put my grief on hold until later.  There is no doubt that many
survivors, especially those with busy lives, have successfully, albeit
temporarily, put their grief "on hold."  But the key word here is
temporarily.  What we suppress only comes back to haunt us at some future
time in our lives.  Sadly, it usually occurs when we either experience
another deathloss, or when some other chaotic situation happens which tilts
our lives out of balance. 

Do not ignore your grief as if it will go away.  Although facing the pain and
experience is by no means easy, it is far more healthy than trying to outrun
your emotions by working more, doing more or escaping into an addictive
behavior, lifestyle or relationship.

If you've experienced the anticipatory death of a loved one through illness
versus a sudden death or, perhaps, the murder of a loved one, you will know
that they are two totally different experiences.  Getting to the realization
or "acceptance" stage will take different amounts of time and energy. 
Additionally, those who have experienced a murder of a loved one will be the
first to defend themselves from "accepting" such a death.  They may
"acknowledge" that the murder has occurred, accept their life now, but
"accepting" how the person died is incomprehensible. Varying situations, such
as these, all contribute to how you move through these rather vague "stages."

Let us now look at the flow of the grieving process, recognizing that you may
bypass some stages for a time and dwell longer in others.  You may work your
way through one or two of the stages only to revisit an earlier stage
sometime in the future.  Many people experience this.  Don't be alarmed if
you feel like you are not making progress.  Remember, any form of stability,
from one hour to the next or one day to the next, is progress.  And that
includes such things, which you may have considered minor in the past, like
washing dishes or doing laundry.  If you have the strength and will to do
something today, which you didn't yesterday, you are making progress.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    highly recommended for friends and relatives

    This book helped us understand our daughter's loss of her husband. We gave it to her as well. She thought it was good but it made her sad so, in our situation, it was better for friends and relatives. Very quick read but very valuable for us.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2002

    Walks the Walk, Talks the Talk

    This book helped me so much to understand what I'm feeling now and what could be up ahead. I took a whole bunch out at the library and many were written by professors and Ph.d.s and those with a string of initials (don't know what they stand for anyway) after their name. And their books turned out to be like a textbook telling you about every type of grief imaginable. It was just too much. Mary lived it and was willing to help us who grieve now. I'll take experience over a long list of initials anyday. Survivors are the people who know what's really going on in your heart and in your life. She was a blessing to me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2002

    Nothing better

    I saw the name of this book in an advertisement in the WestSide Spirit, a weekly newspaper in Manhattan some months ago. It was at the time when the World Trade Center site was still being cleared. For many of us forever changed by that day, I hadn't allowed myself to grieve yet because I was still waiting for my friend's body. But it never came. I ordered this at the Barnes and Noble by me and it has helped me tremendously. It really gives a great overall understanding of what I'm going through and might go through in the future. This author talks like your the only one she wrote this book for. Plus in the back is a list of groups and books when I'm ready. What makes this so special, better than the others I received, was it really spoke to me personally and made me feel I wasn't going insane.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2002

    Superior above many

    After Christmas last year and all the family went back to their homes, I was left with many books on this topic as gifts. I didn't open any of them until just last week when I couldn't sleep in the middle of the night and this time needed answers. This book helped me the most. The others talked about divorce and losing a job and when you're dealing with this, those types of losses seem so trivial. I almost resented that they were in the books. This one is only about helping you after your loved one's died and I liked it so much because it spoke only to my situation. Tip: next time you buy a book for someone in my shoes, get this one.

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