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The Mourner's Bill of Rights

By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.


Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.


The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and

cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to

assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.


You have the right to experience your own unique grief. 

No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.


You have the right to talk about your grief.

Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.


You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.


You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.


You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be

frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it



You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs.


You have the right to treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will

always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share



You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.