Good Grief?

by Shep Jeffreys

What is this thing called grief? What should we expect from grieving people and how can we help them – or ourselves? What resources are available in our community?

Join me at 7:00 p.m., on July 23 at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library where I will answer these questions, and read several poems from my book, Helping Grieving People–When Tears Are Not Enough, about my own and my family’s grief journey after the death of our son Steven at age eight.  Here are some thoughts in the meantime.

WHAT IS GRIEF? “My friends say that I should be over this by now! – How long does grief take?” “Shep, am I doing this right?” “Am I going crazy? All I do is cry and cry.” These, and oh so many more similar questions, are asked by my clients. Answers are very individual but there are some general understandings of what human grief is and what role it plays in reclaiming some life after a death, a scary diagnosis, layoff or other of life’s many painful and tragic losses. There is no one right way to grieve.

HOW CAN I HELP? Friends and family of bereaved persons frequently ask, “What should I say? What can I do to help her or him or them?” Most of us feel helpless in the face of a tragic loss because we cannot fix it. There are many ways to help specifically but showing up is an important part of supporting grieving people. Never underestimate the value of human presence. We will review a number of do’s and don’ts and ways to prepare to be with a grieving friend or family member.

WHO ARE THE GRIEVERS? WHO ARE THE INVISIBLE GRIEVERS? There are special needs of certain people based on their stage in life and their relationship to the deceased loved one. Bereaved children, parents, older adults and widowed all have specific, as well as general support needs. I call the terminally ill, disabled and their families the invisible grievers, because they are frequently out of sight, down the block, behind closed doors, as we were for three years during Steven’s battle with cancer.

There will be opportunities for you to share and ask questions. Oh yes, we will also look at the benefits of denial, avoidance and humor.  We may also be doing some laughing. Registration for this program is free but required.  410-313-7800

J. Shep Jeffreys, Ed.D., F.T., is a licensed psychologist specializing in grief, loss, and end-of-life concerns. He holds the Fellow in Thanatology level of certification from the Association for Death Education and Counseling. In addition to maintaining a private practice at the Family Center, Columbia, MD, he is on staff at Howard County General Hospital, is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he provides seminars on loss, grief and bereavement for psychiatric residents and medical students; and is an affiliate assistant professor of pastoral counseling at Loyola University Maryland, where he teaches the Loss and Bereavement course. His current book is Helping Grieving People–When Tears Are Not Enough: A Handbook For Care Providers (2011); and he is also author of Coping With Workplace Grief: Dealing With, Loss, Trauma and Change, 2nd Edition. His column, Grief Psychologist’s Corner, is a regular feature in Living With Loss magazine. For 14 years he worked with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., and for 12 years served as consulting psychologist in the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service. Shep can be found on the web at and you can read more on his blog.


1 Comment

  1. So sorry for your loss. Grief is so all-consuming. I would like to find out more about your book. I am reading a book right now that is bringing me comfort. It is called, “I’m a Widow, What Now? Embracing Life after Loss” by author Patricia N. Muscari.

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