Grief Support
Comforting Someone
Wbat Happened?
Letter to Loved Ones
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Author's International Work
Author's International Work

Most Asked Questions on Grief

This page is a source of potential questions for interviewers, as is the Insights on Grief page. It is also designed to be a reassuring resource for those who are grieving. They will likely discover that their own questions are ones commonly asked by others who are struggling to cope with death of loved ones, illness, divorce, as well as many types of major life changes. You will find information and answers to these questions by talking with Phyllis Davies, and in her books.

  • Am I going crazy? Am I getting dementia or Alzheimer's? I can't remember anything.
  • What can I do to help a friend who is grieving?
  • How important is it to go to a funeral or memorial service?
  • What is the best thing to say to someone who has experienced a tragic loss?
  • Why is anger a normal part of grief for many people?
  • How long does grief last?
  • How can I make this holiday easier for myself, or family or friends who are grieving?
  • Why are support groups important for those who have had a loved one die?
  • How can I find grief support groups in this area?
  • Where are there checklists of what to do and how to find available help?
  • How is it possible to use goal-setting to help me through my grief?
  • Can you help me understand some of the ways that . . .
    • grief affects a marriage?
    • grief affects siblings?
    • grief affects a family?
    • grief affects one's self image?
    • grief affects one's faith?
  • In what ways can I assist children who are coping with a death or serious illness of a family member?
  • What needs to be done when someone dies?
  • How can a journal be helpful during grief or other difficult experiences?
  • Why is it helpful and even appropriate to mention deceased loved ones many years after their death?
  • How can parents and friends help surviving siblings when a child dies?
  • What are some of the things I can do to move through my grief more easily?
  • Why is everyone telling me to give up my grief?
  • How do people process their grief differently?
  • Who are often the forgotten grievers when a child dies?
    • Fathers
    • Grandparents
    • Siblings
    • Partners
    • Fiancés
    • Aunts
    • Uncles
    • Cousins
    • Friends
    • Caregivers

{short description of image} Note: The guidelines sections in Davies' books cover the following topics:

  • Being Supportive to Someone Seriously Ill or Injured
  • Comforting Someone When Death May Be Near
  • When Someone Dies: My Checklists
  • Children and Serious Illnesses, Injury or a Death
  • Questions to Ask Our Funeral Director
  • Preparing a Personalized Memorial Card
  • Memorial or Funeral Service Details, Other Types of Services and Grief-Related Experiences (including directions on How to Build a Coffin)
  • What Can Be Done to Help
  • Helping Co-Workers (suggestions for everyone)
  • Holiday Survival Checklist
  • Sample Holiday Note Card and Letter
  • Important Information — To give and get now
  • Life-Support Systems Instructions
  • Sample Living Will
  • A Letter to My Physician — My Death Request
  • Helpful Organizations
  • Helpful Resources


To See
& Order

GRIEF: Climb Toward Understanding

When Someone Is Seriously Ill: What You Can Do

When Someone Dies: What You Can Do


{short description of image} Comforting in Someone's Last Hours

Phyllis Davies ©1998, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017.

Occasionally life gives us the privilege of being with a person when he or she may be in the last hours of life. (For the reader's ease in reviewing this list, I have used my Uncle Howard's name. Please substitute your friend's or relative's name to make this your own list.) Like many readers of this book, my middle-class North American upbringing did not prepare me well for the experience of a death. Many other cultures give people the supportive tool of tradition around a death.

This list helps me move to a place of peace within myself so I am able to be "present" for the person who is likely near death. I want to free myself from fears and other concerns, to be fully available, supportive and helpful.

PREPARATION - I want to:

  • Take at least 30 minutes of quiet time, alone, to gather myself and my thoughts before going to be with Howard.
  • Do what I am able to do to make sure Howard does not die alone.
  • Go to be with Howard. Take no expectations but the sense of an adventure growing into a privileged experience.
  • Know that every death is different.
  • Listen with my intuition, my heart and my ears. Throughout this time, allow Howard to lead me and others who are with us.
  • Remember silence is a precious time to visualize Howard relaxing in a lovely garden, by a river or in some other peace-filled place.
  • Play soft, soothing music possibly of a type Howard has enjoyed.
  • Be aware of any of Howard's cultural traditions around dying that may be different from my own.
  • Be aware that these three tasks are usually faced at death: (Hopefully they have already been dealt with, yet an issue in these areas sometimes arises.)
    • Legal matters dealt with and in writing, including organ donation instructions, a Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, A Living Will and A Letter to My Doctor or any upon-death instructions to the family (see pages 297-309 in GRIEF: Climb Toward Understanding).
    • Resolution of emotional work left unfinished.
    • Spiritual work that takes the person to a place of inner peace.

DOING - I want to:

  • Breathe with the dying person, without straining my own body; often a precious closeness comes as a result.
  • Remind myself that pain, especially now, can almost always be managed by additional levels of medication so that a patient is not in discomfort. I may want to — or need to — be insistent on this point.
  • Think of small acts, which are often desired, for Howard's comfort. The need for these may be communicated in verbal or nonverbal ways.
    • Touching or stroking his brow with or without a cool cloth
    • Turning Howard a bit
    • Placing ice chips on lips and moistening lips lightly with lip lubricant
    • Putting a pillow under his knees
    • Hugging or holding Howard in my arms (may be welcomed)
    • (When desired,) lying next to your loved one (is commonly very comforting to both people)
    • Reading favored or underlined passages from one of his loved books.
  • Talk with or speak softly to Howard. This may be comforting to both of us; these releasing phrases are often comforting (if they are appropriate and can be said honestly):
    • I know you love me (or us).
    • I love you.
    • I release you.
    • I forgive you.
    • I surround you with love (light, beautiful memories, prayer, etc.) as I release you.
    • I am here with you in this experience.
    • I have all the time in the world to be here with you.
    • This is a privilege to be with you now.
    • I want to let you know that it is okay for you to "go" now and that I love you.

SPECIAL THINGS - I want to remember:

Take care of myself, eat balanced meals regularly (even if I am not hungry) and discipline myself to take frequent rest breaks, drink at least eight glasses of water (because you are under stress), take frequent walks, breathe deeply, and do additional daily exercise.

If Howard happens to die while I am out of the room, I want to remember that this is all right. There is much about the timing of death that remains unknown. I can know that I was with Howard in spirit, in my thoughts (and/or prayers). I do know I can be a great distance away and still be holding someone in my thoughts, and be and feel very close to that person.

From the book, GRIEF: Climb Towards Understanding, the following worksheet is one of 107 decisions we, as a family, have found are important to consider within the two days after a death (located on page 229.)

{short description of image}Worksheet: Funeral Home Arrangements and Expenses Our Family Can Afford to Consider

(This worksheet is just one of the 107 decisions we, as a family, have found are important to consider within the two days after a death; located on page 229 in GRIEF: Climb Towards Understanding.

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