With the aging baby boomer population, many people are facing the death of a loved one for the first time in their lives.

Americans have often been educated to achieve and succeed. Set goals that are specific, measurable, tracked, and take the steps needed to accomplish the goal within a clearly defined time-frame. Success is a wonderful thing but it can leave people with a false sense of control. This can actually work against them emotionally in times of significant personal loss. Grief emotions are foreign, frightening, and unpredictable.

What happens emotionally when we lose a loved one? How do we navigate in times like that when feeling ill equipped to cope with the emotional excursion of bereavement?

I am grateful for the therapy training that helped me become more comfortable when others share their emotional pain. As a consultant, it helps me find words that comfort, while asking therapeutic questions to help my clients move forward with their highest priority matters.

Remember, though, you don’t have to BE a therapist to listen like one. No two people grieve in exactly the same way. There are, however, some common elements. Knowing them can be very helpful when you, or someone you care about is grieving. The easiest way I have found to remember common responses to grief is using the acronym NEAR:

• Numbness is part of the shock in the early stages of grief. There is often an intellectual grasp of the loss, but the full emotional load is not yet felt.

• Emotions of many depths and dimensions can become nearly overwhelming in their intensity. Often the bereaved feel angry, guilty, lonely, and afraid. The sheer lack of familiarity with such feelings can heighten the fear that they are going crazy. The ability to make decisions is diminished. But emotions like this are normal.

• Acceptance occurs over time, especially with people who pursue healthy avenues of expressing their sense of loss and ways to focus on their remaining strengths to function in a changed life.

• Rebuilding is when life has incorporated the changes brought on by their loss into a new structure.

When I went looking for a book I could give to someone grieving a significant loss, I couldn’t find one. I wanted it to be inviting and beautiful enough to encourage it be opened and read. The loss of a young family friend made Rays of Hope in Times of Loss: Courage and Comfort for Grieving Hearts happen. It was written to help people at all phases of the grief process, offering beautiful nature photos paired with simplicity and meaningful tools for navigating through the unfamiliar terrain of grief.

If you are grieving a loss, honor your grief by allowing your emotions to be felt. Share your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or counselor. If you are the consoler to a grieving person, remember the primary gift is to listen.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Zimmerman is an author, speaker, and licensed marriage and family therapist. She has been on radio and television with her creative programs for navigating transitions. Her ideas have been quoted in the media including First for Women and the LA Times.