Death makes us examine life. We ask: How did this happen? Why did it happen to me? How will I go on? As we struggle to find answers, we must deal with daily tasks — grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills and home repairs. What a bummer.

I had many questions after my daughter and father-in-law died the same weekend in 2007. More questions came to mind when my brother and former son-in-law died several months later. Though I didn’t find all the answers, I found new ways to cope. You may be doing this now.

Laura T. Becker, PhD, writes about finding the meaning of loss in the October 2009 issue of “ADEC Forum,” newsletter of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. In her article, “Pushed to the Limits of Our Fragility: Religion and Rebuilding the Shattered Assumptive World,” Becker says the bereaved cope in many ways. Some of us hide our distress, some of us show it, and some of us struggle to adapt.

“People coping with loss or trauma often feel compelled to make sense of the circumstances, thereby finding ‘meaning’ in the event,” she writes. Becker sees meaning-making as a process that requires reappraising identity, adopting new identities, and finding new roles. Each mourner makes his or her life diagram, according to Becker, based on their experience and self-understanding.

I examined my life after losing four loved ones within nine months. Or, as my neighbor put it, “You need a reason to get up in the morning.” What was my reason? Life answered the question for me. My daughter’s death and former son-in-law’s death made me a GRG, grandparent raising grandchildren, and this is my new life mission.

Spending more time with my husband is another mission. I also made a conscious decision to keep writing, for giving up writing would feel like another death in the family. Volunteering in the community is another reason I get up in the morning. What are your reasons?

They may differ from mine, yet we share the common journey of grief. To figure out why you need to get up in the morning, you need to face some truths.

* Grief is work. You cannot reconcile grief until you do your grief work. Part of this work is accepting the finality of loss.
* Grief is pain. Allowing yourself to feel pain will help you get through grief and past it.
* Grief is scary. “Can I survive this?” you ask. The only way to find out is to muster your courage and move forward.
* Grief is sacred. According to Becker, “Religion increases well-being through the defense against stress.” Life and death are sacred. Your religious and spiritual beliefs make you aware of this.
* Grief is searching. As you search for meaning, you search for your new self, a person who has experienced pain, faced it, and accepted it. You are glad to be alive because you have reasons to get up each morning.

Copyright 2010 by Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit

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