One of the basic truisms of bereavement is that everybody grieves a loss differently. There is no one way. There is no right way. There is no best way, at least as far as can be determined. There may be wrong ways. For instance, almost everyone would agree that abusing alcohol or other substances is not likely to be an effective way of coping with grief. However, as a general rule grieving is highly individualized. Everybody grieves a loss differently.

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Let me emphasize: I am not trying to tell anybody how they should grieve. I’m trying to tell people who are interested in evidence-based grief coping strategies how they could grieve if they want to.

This is not for everybody. If you think feelings cannot usefully be studied, that science has no relevance to grief or that there is nothing you can do to help yourself feel better, you are not likely to profit from reading this

But if you’re willing to study, to work, to challenge your preconceptions, to sometimes be uncomfortable and to think hard and long about what you could do to feel better, there may well be something here for you.

I know that personally I feel my grief is literally life-threatening (and research has shown shorter lifespans are common for bereaved parents and others, so this is a real threat.) So I have been willing to invest a lot in this effort. And I’m willing to invest a lot more.

Looking for the Light

After Brady died, I was in a fog for weeks. Part of that may have been due to the clonazepam I was taking for anxiety. Part may have been due to shock and numbness as I tried to assimilate the understanding that he was gone.

I don’t remember a great deal about that time. I do recall almost immediately wondering what research had been done on grieving. And I wondered whether any of it could help me to deal with this extraordinarily challenging episode.

A lot of studies seem to identify traits and practices of people who seemed to get through grief more quickly and with less pain and more positive outcomes.

I can spell “Google Scholar” as well as the next guy. I’d often gone to Google Scholar in my work as a freelance journalist, looking for scholarly studies on topics from small business management to health and fitness.

I had also spent much time reading research papers on suicidality and depression in the weeks before Brady died, when I was trying to figure out how best to help him. While I was unable ultimately to save Brady’s life, after he died I went back to the research to try to figure how to save my own life.

I found there is a pile of research into grieving. A lot of studies seem to identify traits and practices of people who seemed to get through grief more quickly and with less pain and more positive outcomes.

This is not going to be a blog focused on detailing the horror, shock and other painful symptoms of losing a child in the manner that Brady died. It’s about finding ways of feeling better.

For instance, one major theme of research over the last couple of decades has been the correlation between finding meaning in the loss of a loved one and experiencing fewer and less intense symptoms of grief. Basically, this suggested that people who found meaning suffered less.

None of these studies proved that finding meaning always equals less grief. Nor did they identify any process or mechanism by which this might occur. But the correlation was strong and was repeated in many studies. A reasonable conclusion is that if I could find meaning, I might feel better. And, believe me, I really wanted to feel better.

What You’ll Find Here

This is not going to be a blog focused on detailing the horror, shock and other painful symptoms of losing a child in the manner that Brady died. It’s about finding ways of feeling better. So I’m not going to go too deeply into how awful it was. It was awful enough for me to be willing to work hard and get out of my comfort zone if that’s what it took to feel better.

Research has identified many other correlations between certain practices and traits and shorter, less painful grieving. In addition to finding meaning, studies suggest that maintaining a connection to the lost loved one, finding benefits in the loss, building the legacy of the deceased and seeking social support from others who have experienced losses can help us navigate our way through grief. That’s what you’ll read about here: Research that has found evidence of ways to cope more effectively with grief resulting from loss of a loved one.

Some of these strategies are challenging, uncomfortable, difficult or otherwise unpleasant. What they have in common is that they offer some promise of helping.

What I mean by “evidence-based bereavement coping strategy” is this: A practice or trait that at least one and preferably several research studies published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals has found to be correlated with fewer grief symptoms, less intense symptoms and shorter periods of severe distress.

The idea is to find strategies that actually work, rather than just things that sound like they should work. Some of these strategies are challenging, uncomfortable, difficult or otherwise unpleasant. What they have in common is that they offer some promise of helping.

What I mean by “evidence-based bereavement coping strategy” is this: A practice or trait that at least one and preferably several research studies published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals has found to be correlated with fewer grief symptoms, less intense symptoms and shorter periods of severe distress.

I’ll also tell about how I’ve tried to incorporate these practices into my life by, for instance, trying to find some sort of meaning in Brady’s death. And I’ll tell you how I’m doing.

A Son’s Last Request

Right now, I’m less than six months into this. Many, many people have told me, “You never get over the death of a child.” I don’t expect I’ll ever forget Brady, or get over his death in the way I, say, got over not making my high school basketball team. But I do intend to get over it enough to enjoy life again.

Brady left me a note that said, “I’m sorry.” His final Twitter post read, “Remember me for my good actions, not for my mistakes.” To me, this means he did not want me to suffer unduly. It means he wanted me to think fondly of him and his life and our time together, and not to only be sad for his loss.

To me, those are my son’s last words and final request. I will be damned if I am going to fail to honor them.

Grieve Well is the story of how I am trying to fulfill my son’s last request of me in the best way I know how, by hunting out science-backed bereavement grief coping strategies and then sharing them with others. I hope you can find something here to help yourself as well.