In my contemporary romantic novel, “Julia’s Star,” the main female character is a widow with young children. In order to better understand what my characters are going through, I do extensive research into the specific life situations they face so I can portray their reactions realistically.
In the United States, we tend to be uncomfortable dealing with death and in many ways behave as though there is a stop watch on the grieving process. ‘It’s been three months since your loved-one died now it’s time to get back to normal.’ Unfortunately, since talking about death and recognizing someone’s grief is basically a taboo subject most of us have no idea how to deal with the situation.
We don’t know what to say or what to do to help our friend or family member get through the grieving process. That is why the bereaved so often hears the platitude, ‘I’m so sorry for you loss. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.’ Typically the grieving person has no idea what he or she needs so responds with ‘thank you’ and then keeps their grief private. Julia is lucky because she is surrounded by supportive friends but like so many of us is unprepared for the depth of emotion and the uncertainty that what she is feeling is normal.
One of the books I read on the subject was, “On Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, an early writer about the grieving process. She identified 5 stages of grief that individuals go through – though later in life she clarified that it is not a simple step-by-step process and each person experiences the stages in different orders, different intensities and for varying lengths of time. You can find a good recap of Kübler-Ross’s findings at the website PsychCentral.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of grieving and a fascinating discussion of Kübler-Ross’s work, check out the 2010 article in the New Yorker, “Good Grief” by Meghan O’Rourke.
“How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies” by Therese A. Rando
“I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping, and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One” by Pamela D. Blair Ph.D. and Brook Noel.
“I Never Know What to Say: How to Help Your Family and Friends Cope with Tragedy” by