Creating Grief Support Spaces

Locating Resources / Locating Resources : Eleanor Haley

You know, life is hard. Well… I know you know life is hard, but let me say it anyways. Life is hard and, at one point or another, each and every person walking the face of this Earth will experience a significant loss.

7.4 Billion People x However Many Losses They Experience = A Lot of Loss.

According to the World Health Organization, 56 million people died worldwide in 2012. Let’s make a really conservative estimate that, on average, each person who dies leaves behind 5 people who grieve them.

56 Million People x 5 = 280 Million People Experiencing Their Own Individual Grief.

280 million people trying to figure out how to live a life redefined by death.

280 million unique expressions of grief.

Litsa and I abide by the philosophy that grief is different for everyone. Here are the reasons why:

  1. We all come to grief from different points, with different life experiences, carrying different loads.
  2. Oftentimes the person who died had a unique relationship with each individual person who grieves them.
  3. No two people are the same.

We’ve made similar points on WYG a hundred times, like here and here… So why are we circling back?

Recently, an Internet passerby told us that we should know our place and not get carried away developing different ways to offer online grief support because one-on-one therapy and group counseling is the gold standard for grief.  This person felt it was irresponsible to offer online options to help people develop the tools that they self-identify as being useful (I’m paraphrasing here) because they are vulnerable and should be directed to free hospice counseling and groups if they need support.

This isn’t the first time (and I am sure it won’t be the last) that we felt like we had to say:

“We get that you don’t get us. We get that we’re not for everyone. We get that what we do is a little unorthodox by some standards.”

We’re used to saying these types of things. We’re used to asking people to try to believe that ‘different’ doesn’t have to equal ‘bad’ and that ‘new’ doesn’t have to replace ‘tried and true’.

We get it. We cut our teeth in the field of grief and bereavement, providing in-person support and psychoeducation to grieving individuals. This work taught us so much. Honestly, way more than either of our graduate school educations could have. Through working directly with people, providing bereavement aftercare, running groups, workshops, and therapy, we experienced the value of in-person support firsthand. However, we also learned that grief support can never, and should never, be conceptualized as one-sized-fits-all and to keep an open mind about the many forms that “coping” and “healing” can take.

Also, if we’re being realistic, we have to look beyond tried and true because (1) Many people will never be open to seeing a therapist or support group; (2) Many people don’t have the resources to attend sessions on a consistent basis; (3) Many people will try these things and have unsatisfactory experiences; and (4) Many people will want tools and education to supplement the support they receive in-person. While the experience of finding the perfect grief therapist or support group is transformative for some, for others tools like writing, art, advocacy, memorialization, and continued bonds bring the most healing.

When prominent grief theorist, Dr. Kenneth Doka, was asked: “How do you even know if grief counseling or a support group or some other type of intervention is necessary to begin with?”, he responded by saying…

“…the truth is that most people—and studies vary between 80% to 90%—probably do pretty well without any formal intervention or may just need what we would call grief counseling in the sense of just some validation that says, ‘No, it’s understandable. No, you’re doing okay’”.

He goes on to say that, for that 80-90%, reading grief books is often helpful, because it:

“…provides that basic validation. It provides some good psychoeducation. It may provide some ideas for coping and certainly says that most people get through this.”

You can read more here, and his sentiments are consistent with many others that we won’t share in the interest of time.

In reality, many people grieve somewhere in the space between “I’m handling thing on my own” and “I’m going to a therapist or a support group.” And, although innovative and creative resources come along everyday, many people grieving in this space will find that things like validation, psychoeducation, ideas for coping, and support are hard to find.

So, as you may have guessed–and as I’m sure we’ve said too many times to count–this is why we started What’s Your Grief. We left the traditional world of in-person grief support to exist in the wild west of online grief support because we wanted to expand beyond tried and true. Our tagline is ‘Grief Support for the Rest of Us.’ By ‘the rest of us,’ we basically mean anyone who has ever felt left high and dry by the grief resources available to them.

We know our readers will come and go (that’s the point, isn’t it?), but while you’re sitting in this space with us–for however long or short that may be–we want to make your time worthwhile. We also want you to know that we believe there is no right way to grieve; there are very few wrong ways to cope; and everyone deserves to have quality grief support and psychoeducation. 

We are two voices and a small community of grief friends (that’s you!) trying to help make the space between a little more livable. If we’re not cutting it yet, we’re sorry… but we’ll keep trying! And by the way, we’re not alone here. There are many pioneers in the space between and we are always ready and willing to point you in their direction if you tell us what you’re looking for.

Finally, to make a long story longer, we just want you to know about the few spaces we’ve managed to construct here in the void. We’ve created the following spaces (or platforms if you prefer) based on what we’ve observed and been told by people who are grieving and grief professionals (so keep the feedback coming!).

The Old Stuff – That’s where you are right now. We have over 400 articles on grief… And, if we ever don’t have what you’re looking for, let us know!

Social Media – We’re on most social media sites. You can find our most active communities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Podcast – If you don’t love reading, that’s okay. Our podcast offers grief support for those who like to listen. Full disclosure, we interrupt each other a lot and make a lot of stupid jokes. Hopefully you find that endearing!? – PhotoGrief is a labor of love and we need your submissions!

Print Resources –  We believe that print materials are really valuable for organizations to be able to give out as a part of their in-person support. For that reason, we continue to grow our library of grief print resources. And FYI, these print materials cost money which recoups our printing costs and allows us to keep eating so we can keep all the other free stuff happening!

The New Stuff

Grief in Six Words – We were blown away (that’s an understatement!) by the six-word stories shared with us by our readers. We were so sad that there wasn’t one easy place for people to post them or for others to be able to read them. So we made a space and we’re calling it Grief in Six Words. We’re still working out some of the glitches but… drum roll please… it is LIVE! Go check it out and add your story.

The WYG School – Something we’ve mentioned before, but which has evolved since, are the interactive e-courses focused on education and constructive coping that we’ve begun to develop. So far, we’ve created a whopping three courses, all around very specific topics like photography, journaling, and parenting while grieving. But the excitement around these courses gave rise to the idea of starting an online grief school where people can learn and, in some cases, connect with others. Our goal with the school is to offer interactive and self-guided courses for people experiencing grief, as well as for grief support professionals. As we’ve said, our intention for these courses is to ofter psychoeducation, coping tools, and–with some courses–an interactive support community. Someday we’d like to host teachers with expertise beyond our own who can run their own courses. But our mission for now, above all else, is to create a reliable and trusted space (in the space between). FYI, this one also costs money so that we can continue to run the school, keep the other free content at WYG up and running, and continue to grow!

The New-Old Stuff

The WYG Bookclub: We were running this over on Facebook and, as wonderful as our nearly 300 members were, the platform just wasn’t working for us. So, we have relocated the WYG bookclub to the WYG forum. We are reading and discussing twelve grief books in twelve months so, if you want to join, just send us an email at

The Future

There it is, an overview of WYG. If you have a good name to sum up this WYG umbrella of stuff, let us know. Seriously. It’s just a start… Something for those who want it. And, for those who don’t, that’s okay… but tell us what you do want. What kind of support do you need? I can’t promise we can provide it, but I can promise that’s we’ll listen.

Leave a comment or send an email to


Let’s be grief friends.

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20 Comments on "Creating Grief Support Spaces"

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  1. Mandy Haigood  May 9, 2019 at 11:46 am Reply

    Hello! I’m a 39 (almost 40-year-old) mom of a 4.5-year-old and married almost 6 years (together 11 years) to a man who hasn’t had a relationship with his parents since a few months before we met. I lost my mom almost one year ago on May 18th, 2018. She was not only my mom but my best friend. I told her everything! My son was also extremely close to her. My husband and I actually separated for 9 months about 2 or 3 years ago, and during that time my son and I lived with my parents. So, my parents are like my son’s 2nd parents, not just regular grandparents. My mom was 66 years old when she passed. She was the last person anyone thought would die out of our family and friends her age. She was always very athletic and healthy. Being athletic as she was her entire life, her knees started to give up on her. She had her 1st knee replacement 2 years ago. Everything went smoothly! The doctor said he’d never had a patient recover so quickly. Not long after she recovered her mom (my grandma) passed away. They were close like I was with my mom. My grandma had Alzheimer’s and lung cancer. My mom was devastated. I remember holding her in her bed just letting her cry about her mom many times, as my dad was not so great (like my husband) with knowing how to just be there and let her grieve. I think he felt like he had to fix it and didn’t know how. During this time, my mom’s younger brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and her older sister was living with lung cancer (small cell like my grandma – neither of them ever smoked). My 93-year-old grandpa also had to immediately have his 3rd emergency heart surgery a couple of days after my grandma passed away. I know my mom was severely depressed, but she wasn’t the kind of person to ever admit it. While my grandma was sick, she was at my grandparents home an hour or more away more than once a week helping out. Then she became my grandpa’s caregiver (well, 2nd caregiver other than the nurses, etc). She was over at his house after my grandma passed more than before my grandma passed. Sometimes she even stayed the night. My grandpa and she believed they would be the last two people in their immediate family to go, giving the fact that both of her siblings were dying of cancer. Well, life sure doesn’t go as expected! On May 15th, 2018 my mom had her other knee replaced. We all believed it would be like the previous time and she would have no trouble recovering. She was only in the hospital one night. I won’t get into that whole part of the story though. My husband and I had a huge fight a few days before her surgery and were talking divorce. I left again with my son to put some space between us and cool off. I also had this very unsettling feeling about her surgery. I somehow knew it wouldn’t go well, and I wanted to be with her. [I apologize for the length of my story and if I am all over the place with details, etc.] I was afraid she was going to pass away during her surgery of a complication. She made it through though, and I was so relieved. I even posted about needing prayers on Facebook because of this feeling, and I never post anything about asking for prayers. Anyway, right after she came home she kept telling my dad and me that this knee hurt worse than the last time. We just thought she forgot how bad it hurt the first time. The Thursday after her surgery she complained about having really bad gas and feeling as though she needed to burp. She even refused to do her exercises with the PT that day. The PT did check all her vitals and talked with her surgeon about her symptoms. They came to the conclusion that the symptoms were from her medications, and it was normal. That night after my son and I were in bed and watching tv to wind down my dad came in and told me my mom was not feeling well at all and he asked if I would wake up early to sit in the living room (next to their bedroom) to listen for if she needed to get up for a few hours b/c he had an important meeting to attend. None of us thought anything serious was wrong. We just assumed she was in a lot of pain after having a total joint replaced. Of course, we were very mad at ourselves later for the thought of something serious might be going on inside her instead. She was just always so tough, and we assumed she would get through everything fine as usual. The next morning I woke up and went to lay on the couch in the living room. My dad told me she had a really bad night and had just gone to sleep. So, he said to just let her sleep and go in if I heard any noises to check on her. After my son woke up I was mainly concerned about keeping him quiet so she wouldn’t wake up. Once 11 AM rolled around I started to think it was strange that she hadn’t woken up yet. I went in to check on her and I thought I saw her breathing by looking at her stomach but I noticed something coming out of her mouth. It looked like the breathing tube she had to do breathing exercises with every few hours. I had not seen her do them before and did not know what color the tube was… so I assumed it was clear. I even went up close to her and it still looked like a tube coming out of her mouth. Looking back later, I knew something was wrong but I guess my mind needed to prepare itself to deal with things. So, I went back out and called my dad about her tube in her mouth, and I said I thought she fell asleep doing her breathing exercises. He told me to go back in and take it out of her mouth and let her sleep more. After I hung up, my mind was ready to face the truth. I told my son to stay in the living room and not follow me in her room and closed the door behind me when I went back in there. As I reached to pull the tube out, it disintegrated in my fingers and I realized it was foam, not a tube. I felt her skin, and she was ice cold. Her lips were purple and skin was turning blue. I ran out and picked up my son so he wouldn’t try to go in her room while I called the next door neighbor (her best friend) to come over immediately. I hung up quickly and called 911 after that. I wouldn’t let him down b/c I didn’t want him to see his Nana like that. I knew she was gone, but I prayed it hadn’t been long and she would be revived. My mom’s friend arrived within seconds and agreed that she was gone. We were both freaking out and just going with the motions. I was on the phone with the operator at 911, and she went outside to make sure the ambulance saw our house. As she was waiting, three women appeared across the street and asked if we needed help. We said yes. They were coming from a cleaning job to go clean another house. (The weird thing was they had no supplies or anything with them.) They didn’t speak much English either. Thank goodness they were there. The youngest girl took my son to the playroom my mom had set up for the grandchildren so my son wouldn’t see anything. The rest of us went in to try and revive my mom without any luck. She was pronounced dead on arrival by the paramedics. My dad arrived shortly after that and was losing it. It was awful. I just hugged him. They wouldn’t let him go into the room like he wanted to do. They were together since college… married their junior year. The neighbor who lived next door on the opposite side ended up taking my son over to her house to play with her son to get him out and away from the chaos and crying. My brothers showed up soon after. My middle brother and sister in law brought my 5-year-old niece and 7-year-old nephew. I thought it was a bad idea, but of course, I didn’t say anything. They saw the paramedics take away my mom’s body and said their goodbyes with the other 20 people (friends and family) who were there with us. To this day, I feel like it’s my fault. I feel like I should have been in the room watching her. Although the paramedics said she passed sometime when my dad was leaving and I was waking up, but I can’t help but think I could have saved her if I was in there with her or found her sooner. The only positive thing that came out of all of this is that my husband and I realized how trivial our fight had been and are still married. Of course, it’s not a perfect marriage. I still have doubts some days, but I believe that it’s normal. He’s not great about helping me cope, but he didn’t come from the best family either. Other than my depression and dropping the ball with my parenting (I am still a good mom, but I have dropped the ball with some things that are important, like him regressing with his potty training – He’s almost 5, and he is still training), my son has began asking questions that I cannot find ways to answer no matter what I say. He thinks his Nana is trapped in a picture. Before that, he thought she disappeared into her room. It’s been almost a year and it seems like he has more questions every day. My dad is in another relationship, which started about 3 months after my mom passed. At first, I was upset about it. I didn’t tell him I was upset, but I thought it was too soon. Then I realized that he doesn’t really know how to be alone. He’s been with my mom forever. I want him to be happy too, and the lady he is dating is great. I do remember both of my parents saying that after one died they would grieve for a few months and then get back out there and date. So, I’m sure my mom would have done the same thing. I just want him to be happy in the end though. I apologize for this long novel with no paragraphs that I have typed for you to read. I don’t think I have ever typed the entire story out though. So, maybe it’s good for me. Oh, and I want to add that my aunt passed two months later. So, my cousins are dealing with their own types of grief. My uncle and grandpa are still alive and doing good for now. I do need to find some resources to help myself and also help me with my son’s grief and understanding that she didn’t just abandon him or isn’t trapped anywhere and that we cannot rescue her… he believes she will come back no matter how many times I explain that she is dead and gone forever. I have become blunt or to the point (in a nice way though), but he will act as he understands, and then it starts over the next day. No one believed me when I told them he knew something was wrong and wasn’t going to forget her… until now. I have tried talking to a counselor at church, who ended up telling me I haven’t been saved and am going to hell. That was 2 weeks after she died too. So, I am afraid of where to look or who to talk to other than keeping it to myself. Thank you so much for this site, and I apologize again for my all over the place novel. I hope it’s halfway understandable to read.

  2. daisy  September 20, 2016 at 7:21 pm Reply

    i lost my 47 year brother, 17 days later my husbands grandma passed away , 5 months later my 42 yr cousin passed away then 2 months later my uncle passed away. within 7 months we lost 4 so important people i our family. i truly feel like im falling apart. ive tried so hard to stay strong for my children but i dont know how much longer i can .

  3. daisy  September 8, 2016 at 6:47 pm Reply

    HI…i dont know if im on the correct sight,but my husband if 17 years is in horrible condition in the hospital…he had a second spinal fusion, he is bipolar and addict and he has hep c..i am also dealing with his wealthy family for mediacal power of attorney. He had the surgery last week ,but has not made a recovery due to all these problems…he wasnt eating or drinking,but when i went in he did drink a smoothie for me. I am deeply depressed because the Dr.says he could just pass away because of not eating or drinking and it is very challenging to get his mind back…can anyone help me…please!

    • Yam Kahol  September 14, 2016 at 10:44 am Reply

      Hi Daisy, how is your husband now? I just saw this message. You are on the right site if you’re looking for a supportive place, filled with informative articles to help those affected by death, grief, anticipating grief and everything in between. Send you warm regards from me.

  4. Benitw  September 5, 2016 at 5:55 am Reply

    I lost my Grandmother in July 2016. My Uncle is in charge of her estate. His adopted sister lived with my Grandmother most of her life. I have asked her and my Uncle for some of her clothes and shoes. His sister keeps saying next week,next week. Every time I go over to her home to visit and I sat in the living room next to the bed room she will go into the bed room and sat, or go in there and lock the door when she comes out like I’m gonna steal something. I am hurt by this. What should I say or do?

  5. Brenda  September 4, 2016 at 8:52 am Reply

    The variety on your site is what makes it superb. I love your thought-provoking articles. I am one who is not doing the grief therapist or support group options. At some point, I might do the individual therapist route, but I really want to find one who has also lost a (young adult) child. Next month it will be 5 1/2 years since I lost my son.

    Keep up the wonderful work!

  6. Jillian  September 3, 2016 at 6:09 pm Reply

    Eleanor and Litsa, there’s not enough words to express how much WYG has helped me navigate my grief. My only regret is that I didn’t find WYG back in the early, raw days of grief. Because I don’t want to be judged and I don’t always trust people I will never be open to seeing a therapist or support group. One of the best things about WYG (and there are many ! ) is that there’s no judgment. There are also no grief rules. The first time I came here it was like I had found my ‘grief home’ and I knew that I was in a safe place. I don’t post as many comments as I would like to (sometimes I’m speechless) but I do come here often and read. Your articles are spot-on and the two of you are wonderful people for giving so much of yourselves and giving us a space to ‘just be’. Thank you.

    • Litsa  September 4, 2016 at 10:56 am Reply

      Aw, thank you SO much Jillian for taking the time to leave such a kind comment. I am so glad WYG has been a space that has been helpful to you. Take care.

  7. Barbara Young  September 3, 2016 at 11:20 am Reply

    Wow.. someone is judging us for the way we grieve? As my kid says, “Don’t judge me.” This site has given me so much support. As soon as I read ‘The Grief of an Overdose Death,’ I knew found a place to help me grieve the overdose death of my 22 year old son. I needed to hear, “No, you’re OK.”
    And yes, I tried a grief counselor and the first thing she wanted to talk about was how my son could start using drugs at 12 years old in middle class america. Instantly my guilt and shame at being a “bad mom” rose it’s ugly head. I was out of there before the session was over.

    • Litsa  September 4, 2016 at 11:07 am Reply

      Oh Barbara, I am so so sorry that you had that experience with a grief counselor. We just facilitated a training on Wednesday (in honor of Overdose Awareness Day) for professional who are supporting those grieving substance losses. This is no excuse for what your counselor said, but in the training a number of professionals shared how personally shocking the substance use epidemic has been for them and, as a result, even with all their professional training they still find themselves at a loss as to how to respond. Unfortunately, Substance Use Disorders are something that are still so misunderstood and there are so many misconceptions that it leads to so many insensitive comments. Hmmm . . . we should possibly write a post about this in the context of overdose and suicide losses, because that is where we seem to hear most of the stories like the one you shared. Please know, should you ever need support from a therapist in the future about your grief or anything else in your life, that I am sure you could find someone much more understanding. As we have said before, sometimes finding a therapist is a bit like dating. That can be so difficult when you are already struggling and just want some help, but finding someone who is a good fit can be so meaningful.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about out site – I am so glad it has been a support to you. Letting people know they are okay and not going crazy (like so many people feel!) was pretty much our top goal in creating this space, so it is always good to hear that is coming through 🙂 Take care.

  8. Terri Tarango  September 2, 2016 at 10:14 pm Reply

    I have met many people who refuse to do a “grief group” for fear of crying/sharing w/people they don’t know. I’m sure they eventually find out the people they may know are not necessarily the best or most patient in listening to our fears/sadness/grief. Those folks have moved one with their lives. Thanks for all you do. I find your group a wonderful complement to a weekly “hospice” group I attend!!! Love this site.

    • Lisa  September 4, 2016 at 2:01 am Reply

      I never went to grief group I just kept doing what I had to do for me & my daughter but now after so many years without dealing with it I realize it didn’t go away and I do need grief counseling but I don’t know where to go

      • Litsa  September 4, 2016 at 11:22 am

        Hi Lisa – it is never too late to get counseling after a loss! I sent you an email, so if you reply to that and let me know what area you are in we can point you in the direction of some counseling resources.

  9. Sylvia  September 2, 2016 at 6:39 pm Reply

    Poo on anyone who says your site is the wrong way to get help with grief. One on one help is not just out of reach for some, but not available 24/7 and when does the crazy grief monster show up? Frequently, during the night, on the weekend, etc… I personally thank you frequently and suggest it to many.

    • Litsa  September 2, 2016 at 9:31 pm Reply

      Aw, thanks Sylvia. And don’t worry, we try not to take naysayers to heart – we know in doing things that are new and different that not everyone will see value in them. It’s okay though, because we know so many people do. We believe wholeheartedly in the spaces we create but, since not everyone does, we figured it made sense to have a post that explained why we believe it!!

  10. Yam Kahol  September 1, 2016 at 11:12 pm Reply

    Hi Eleanor and Litsa,

    I think you know already how big a fan I am of your work. Using research is always helpful isn’t, and if it doesn’t exist creating your own? Like, what research says about those those people who are unlikely to reach out for some form of face to face therapy. If someone challenges you, prove them wrong!

    Wish you grow from success to success!

    • Lisa  September 4, 2016 at 1:58 am Reply

      Can I ask ur personal opinion am I so devasted by my husbands death at 36 urs old that I’m still hurting or am I using it as a crutch to never feel that pain that way again

      • Litsa  September 4, 2016 at 11:27 am

        Lisa, it would be impossible to answer that question without knowing you and talking in depth. But please know for many people it isn’t one or the other, sometimes it is a bit of both. It is not uncommon to build ‘walls’ after a devastating loss to protect yourself from being hurt again. Often that happens because of the ongoing hurt and sometimes because of not having built ways to cope that can allow you to be open. Talking to a therapist is the best way to assess some of those things and work on ways to cope. This question is actually a great topic for a post – I just added it to our future post topic list 🙂 Take care and, as I said in my other comment, I emailed you so if you email us back we can point you in the direction of some therapy resources.

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