Fall Prevention Classes: High Risk

Elder black man stretching in park

Referral to Physical Therapy

You may want to consider a physical therapist, preferably one with special training on older adult falls. Many physical therapists are trained to find out why you/your patient is falling, and help them with recovery solutions, such as strength and balance exercises to help reduce the chance of falling again.


One physical therapy program that has been shown to reduce falls among older adults is the Otago Falls Prevention Program (developed in New Zealand).

Fall Prevention Classes: Medium Risk

Elderly Women sitting and doing physical therapy activities with rubber rings

Stepping On

Stepping On is an evidence-based workshop meeting once per week for seven weeks, two hours per week, with a reunion class three months later. The class is led by trained leaders who work with you and your classmates to help improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling by reviewing medications, exploring the role of vision and falls, teaching strength and balance exercises, and offering help to improve your safety at home. Members of the class support each other’s efforts to take action to prevent falls. Older adults who may have balance problems or fear of falling are the best fit for this class. According to studies, people who complete Stepping On classes see a 31% reduction in falls. A Stepping On workshop costs $35 for the seven week session and includes the reunion class.

An additional 15-30 minutes will be added to the first class of the workshop series to complete paperwork (surveys and data collection).

For research on Stepping on from the CDC, click here.

Available Workshops: 

Waunakee Senior Center

333 S. Madison St., Waunakee 

Thursdays, February 29 – April 18 (skipping 3/28/24) from 9:30am – 11:30am

To register, contact Diane at the Waunakee Senior Center at 608-849-8548

Cost: $10 suggested donation

Oak Park Place

719 Jupiter Dr., Madison

Tuesdays, March 5 – April 16 from 11:00am – 1:00pm

To register, contact Claire Brakke at cbrakke@oakparkplace.com 

Cost: $10 suggested donation

Mt. Horeb Senior Center

107 N. Grove St., Mt. Horeb 

Mondays, April 1 – May 13 from 12:30pm – 2:30pm

To register, contact the Mt. Horeb Senior Center at 608-437-6902

Cost: $10 suggested donation

Cornerstone Community Center

505 N. Main St., DeForest 

Wednesdays, April 3 – May 15 from 2:00pm – 4:00pm

To register, contact the Cornerstone Community Center at 608-846-9469

Cost: $10 suggested donation

Verona Senior Center

108 Paoli St., Verona 

Tuesdays, April 9 – May 21 from 9:00am – 11:00am

To register, contact the Verona Senior Center at 608-845-7471

Cost: $10 suggested donation

Oregon Senior Center

219 Park St., Oregon

Thursdays, May 9 – June 27 (skipping 5/30/24) from 1:00pm – 3:00pm

To register, contact the Oregon Senior Center at 608-835-5801

Cost: $10 suggested donation

Stoughton Senior Center

248 W. Main St., Stoughton 

Wednesdays, July 10 – August 21 from 10:00am – 12:00pm

To register, contact the Stoughton Senior Center at 608-873-8585

Cost: $10 suggested donation

Tai Chi Fundamentals™

Available Classes:

Madison Senior Center –

Participants encouraged to take Goodman Community Center’s Virtual Tai Chi Class (call 608-241-1574 for information)

Goodman Community Center: Tai Chi Fundamental Form –

Please call Goodman Community Center for information about virtual Tai Chi (608) 241-1574

Madison School and Community Recreation (MSCR): Tai Chi-Multiple Styles

Contact MSCR for program guide and information about Goodman Rotary 50+ Classes: 608-204-3023

Fall Prevention Classes: Mild Risk

Older man and women doing tai chi in the park in spring

Parkinson’s Exercise Program – 2024

UW Health

This class is specifically for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson Disease. Class content is based on current research focusing on improving mobility. It consists of multi-directional treadmill walking and floor exercises emphasizing trunk mobility. Additional strengthening exercise with resistance equipment may be given on an individual basis. All new participants must present a physician’s authorized screening prior to participation.   

Tues/Thurs, January 2 – April 19, 2024 (no class 3/26 or 3/28); 12:05 – 1:25 (Divided into class times of 12:05-12:55 or 12:35-1:25)

UW Health Fitness Center, Science Drive Medical Center, 621 Science Dr., Madison                       

Cost: $456 (some discounts available)                                                                         

Call 608-263-7936 to schedule a screening before enrolling                             

Visit www.uwhealth.org/PEP for more information

Living Falls Free

Living Falls Free is a practical falls risk reduction exercise class. Course content includes learning the exercises of the as well as learning falls reduction strategies specific for your life. Class includes a take-home exercise program and pre/post performance testing. This is a moderate level class with walking, rocker boards, strength work and exercise at standing, chair and floor level. Gait dynamics and movement technique are emphasized. 

Participation Requirements: All new participants must receive Physician’s Authorization screening prior to starting class.

Wednesdays, February 21 – May 1, 2024 (no class 3/27) from 10:45am – 11:45am

UW Health Fitness Center, Science Drive Medical Center, 621 Science Dr., Madison                       

Cost: $156 (some discounts available)                                                                           

Call 608-263-7936 to schedule a screening before enrolling                                                          

Visit www.uwhealth.org/LFF for more information    

Balancing Act

This program is designed to increase balance and decrease the risk of falling by using tai chi movements and principles. Standing and chair-based exercises are adapted to individual needs. Classes are held at Madison School & Community Recreation locations.  Click here to visit the MSCR website for more details.

Available Classes: Call 608-204-3023 

Madison School and Community Recreation (MSCR)

MSCR offers multiple classes which can improve balance and help prevent falls. The “B” (for balance) symbol identifies exercise classes that help prevent falls in older adults. The “B” classes incorporate both balance and strength training. Scientific literature has shown balance training to be the best exercise for fall prevention.

Fall Prevention Classes: Low Risk

Two older white haired men bowling

Balance and Strength Exercises

Research shows that to reduce chances of falling, people must include balance and strength exercises that are progressive (get more challenging over time), and that are practiced for at least 50 hours over 15 weeks. Anyone interested in preventing falls should add these activities to their daily and weekly routine. And it’s important to keep going – any improvements to balance can be lost quickly if we don’t keep it up. And keep walking, swimming, stretching – or moving any way you like – it’s worth it!

Classes listed below with a next to them have been evaluated and include the criteria to be considered “balance-enhancing” meaning these classes help improve balance.

Ballroom Basics for Balance™

Challenge your balance and make it better with basic moves of ballroom dance!  Research shows that dance is one way to improve balance and reduce falls. This class is for you if:

  • You want to get better at walking or moving around on various surfaces, both inside and outside (like carpets, grass, and snowy walkways).
  • You have had at least one fall in the past year or have a fear of falling.
  • You are able to participate in medium-difficult activity without major health symptoms (like chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness).
  • You are able to move about on your own with or without a device to help you.
  • You can hear and see well enough to participate in a group class.
  • You are interested in having fun!

You will learn basic movements of traditional smooth and Latin style ballroom dances with and without music; you can practice on your own or with a partner in this group class.  We will learn to dance while learning about improving balance.  No experience or partner needed! Taught by physical therapists and other health care professionals.

2024 Available Classes: Virtual, In-Person, & Outdoor Classes Now Available!! Check the website for additional information: CLICK HERE!

 Black Power Dance

Madison Circus Space, 2082 Winnebago St., Madison
Instructor: Francis Medrano
Cost: Varies
For more information, email francismedranot@yahoo.es; Facebook Page: Black Power Dance

 Graham Beginning Adult

Kanopy Dance Studio, 329 W. Mifflin St., Madison
Instructor: Robert Cleary
Cost: Varies based on tuition period
For more information, email info@kanopydance.org or call 608-255-2211

 Low Flying Trapeze for Older Adults

Madison Circus Space, 2082 Winnebago St., Madison
Instructor: Hildy Bee
Cost: Varies 
For more information, email hildybee@gmail.com or visit www.madisoncircusspace.com  

 Basics of Aikido

Aikido of Madison, 2219 Atwood Ave., Madison
Instructor: Barb Brown
Cost: Varies 
For more information, visit www.aikidoofmadison.com or call 608-231-3935

Middleton Senior Center Chair Yoga, Tai Chi, and Strength/Flexibility Classes

Middleton Senior Center, 7448 Hubbard Ave., Middleton
For more information, visit the Middleton Senior Center HERE or call 608-831-2373 

 Virtual Senior Strength and Stretch – Hosted by Newbridge

Mondays and Wednesdays, ongoing
9:00am – 9:45am (except public holidays)
$20/month to access all Monday/Wednesday classes
Contact Becky Otte-Ford to sign up at 608-215-4119 or raonine@gmail.com

 Parkour Senior: Only Soft Landings! 

Travel through your world with joy and creativity! Learn balance and coordination, work on preventing falls, find more flexibility in your body and more movement options for your life! The curriculum is informed by PK Silver, the world’s first and only evidence-based parkour program for older adults. 

Beginner and Intermediate Classes Now Available! CLICK HERE to register and for more information!

Ageless Balance – Virtual

Regain your balance with simple and safe seated and standing exercises that can be modified for any fitness level. Information will be provided about how to prevent falls. This class is designed to improve balance, as well as strength, endurance, and flexibility, while increasing muscle mass and bone density. Free exercise equipment provided when you register.

Virtual classes are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1:30pm – 2:15pm.

Click here to register and for more information: https://agelessbalance.com/class-registration/

Cost: $25/month

 Tai Chi with Jody Curley

Jody Curley, M.A., has been a Tai Chi student since 1983 and a Tai Chi teacher since 1988. She worked as a dementia care specialist for forty years and found that adapting Tai Chi principles of movement combined with self-awareness was extremely helpful in caring for others, as well as for herself. She now focuses on teaching both traditional and adapted Tai Chi movements to older adults (like herself!) for balance and care of body, mind, and spirit, with a particular emphasis on trying easy instead of trying hard. Please see available 2024  classes HERE.   

Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention Class

This gentle Tai Chi class is designed to improve balance and the symptoms of arthritis. Adults
who are independently mobile with or without an assistive device will benefit from this class.
Even those who don’t have arthritis or balance challenges enjoy this class.
Amy Stoddard, Certified TCAFP Instructor
When: Thursdays, 11:00am – 12:00pm drop in and ongoing; donations accepted.
Where: Balancing Meridians, 136 Owen Rd., Monona
Email Amy Stoddard at taichiamystoddard@gmail.com for questions or to attend.

Strength Stretch Balance – Virtual

Exercise class done standing and sitting with an emphasis on resistance exercise, mobility and range of motion, and balance (no getting down on the floor)

Instructor: Marlene Storms

  • Mon: 11:00am – 11:50am
  • Tues: 10:30am – 11:30am
  • Wed: 9:00am – 9:50am
  • Thurs: 10:30am – 11:30am

Supplies Needed: armless chair, hand weights, towel or small ball (larger than a tennis ball, smaller than a soccer ball), water; optional: ankle weights

Cost: $50/month per household (includes Plank/Floor classes)

To register, contact Marlene Storms at thedailyfitwithmarlene@outlook.com

Plank/Floor – Virtual

More intense exercise class with emphasis on resistance exercise, mobility and range of motion, and balance

Instructor: Marlene Storms

  • Mon: 9:00am – 9:50am
  • Thurs: 9:30am – 10:20am

Supplies Needed: yoga mat, hand weights, water

Cost: $50/month per household (includes Strength Stretch Balance classes)

To register, contact Marlene Storms at thedailyfitwithmarlene@outlook.com

Mindful Movement

Program designed for seniors but open to any adult interested. Contact Venus Washington for information.

Get Movin: A gentle exercise program for every fitness level. Contact Venus Washington for information.

Instructor: Venus Washington

Website: Venus Washington | Welcome to my Health Coach Site

Madison Circus Space’s Beginning German Wheel

A circus art that uses the wheel, an apparatus made of metal hoops connected with spokes. Completely supervised, this is a fun and totally different way to be active and fit! Check website for class schedule.

Instructor: Carly Schuna

Website: https://madisoncircusspace.com

Tai Chi Center of Madison

The Tai Chi Center of Madison offers various forms of Tai Chi at different levels. Please take a look at the current class schedule for more information HERE. Or call 608-663-8299.


Start Exercising: Local Exercising Resources

Elderly man and woman participating in yoga

Safe Communities

2453 Atwood Ave., Ste 210
Madison, WI 53704
Phone: (608) 441-3060
Fall Prevention Classes | Safe Communities Madison, WI (safercommunity.net)
Learn about community resources and classes (both evidence-based and evidence-informed) that could help prevent a fall. Classes include Stepping On, Living Falls Free, Tai Chi Fundamentals, Moving for Better Balance, Ballroom Basics for Balance, and many more!

UW Health Mobility & Falls Clinic Locations

5249 E. Terrace Dr.
Madison, WI 53718
(608) 265-1210
Mobility & Falls Clinic Website

5543 E. Cheryl Pkwy.
Fitchburg, WI 53711
(608) 263-7740
Mobility & Falls Clinic Website

The Mobility and Falls Clinic is for our older adults who may be at risk for losing independence, who are experiencing:

  • Recurrent falls with or without physical injury
  • Fear of falling with functional consequences
  • Declining mobility and function

Madison School & Community Recreation 50+ Programs

(608) 204-3023

MSCR 50+ programs include aqua exercise, strength training, low impact fitness, yoga, Tai Chi, golf, walking clubs and many more at affordable prices.

Check Your Medication: Medication Review Resources

person looking over their medication

Medications Linked to Falls-Resource from CDC (PDF)

Postural Hypotension-Resource from CDC (PDF)

Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative

The Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative (WPQC) is an initiative of the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin (PSW) which connects community pharmacists with patients, physicians, and health plans to improve the quality and reduce the cost of medication use across Wisconsin. This team-based approach has brought stakeholders together in a unique collaboration with the goal of ensuring safe and high-quality care to patients in Wisconsin.  WPQC coordinates a network of pharmacies with certified pharmacists who have received specific Medication Therapy Management (MTM) training. WPQC pharmacists meet privately with patients to review medication regimens, communicate potential opportunities to improve medication use with physicians and other health care providers, and educate patients on the appropriate use of their medications. The medication use and safety goals of WPQC are to resolve drug therapy problems, improve adherence and coordination of care, and engage patients in their own care. Click here to access list of WPQC pharmacy locations.

MedDrop Program

Find out where to safely dispose of unused or unwanted medications. MedDrop is a safe, secure way to dispose of unwanted medications which could unintentionally be consumed by children and others, or be scavenged from the trash and sold illegally. MedDrop disposal reduces the amount of improperly disposed medicine that can eventually contaminate area rivers, lakes, and streams. For more information, Click Here.

Preventing Access to Methods of Suicide

A man and woman at a table, the man holds the woman's hand in a way of comfort

Facts to Know About Suicide:

  • Suicide is the leading cause of violent death in Wisconsin.
  • Firearms are the most common method used in suicide, followed by hanging and poisoning.
  • A previous suicide attempt or the loss of a love done or friend to suicide can increase the risk.

Suicide is often preventable with education, treatment and support. 60–90% of people that die by suicide have a treatable mental illness or alcohol/drug abuse problem.

Things to Look Out for:

Warning Signs-

  • Talking about suicide or wanting to die
  • Recent crises, losses, stress; they can be financial, personal, relationships, illness and pain
  • Untreated mental illness and alcohol/drug abuse
  • Access to methods of suicide: fi rearms, poisons, suffocation/hanging


  • No reason for living
  • Hopelessness/helplessness
  • Trapped/no way out
  • Anger, rage
  • Anxiety, agitation
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Heavy guilt


  • Big changes in eating and/or sleeping
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Impulsiveness
  • Alcohol/Drug use/abuse
  • Withdrawing from family/friends/usual activities
  • Making final arrangements; giving away prized possessions
  • Planning and preparing for suicide

“Spur-of-the-moment behavior appears to play an important role in suicide. Suicide prevention experts believe that if deadly methods are not readily available when a person decides to attempt suicide, he or she can delay the attempt. If delayed, it may allow for the possibility of later deciding not to attempt suicide, or using less deadly methods, allowing for greater possibility of medical
rescue.” -From the South Central Idaho SPAN Chapter, Steps to Prevent Suicide brochure

If you see these changes in yourself or someone else call:
1-608-280-2600 Crisis Line available 24/7
1-800-273-8255 (TALK)


What to do:


  • Remove all firearms (shotguns, handguns, hunting rifles) from the home. Ask extended family and/or friends to store them
  • Contact your local police about safe gun storage
  • Get and use cable gun locks
  • Lock gun cabinet or safe, store all keys in a separate location from the gun
  • Keep all bullets separate from gun(s)
  • Store gun(s) unloaded

Medications & Poisons-

  • Destroy unused and outdated medications
  • Fill drug prescriptions in small quantities
  • Buy over the counter medications in small quantities
  • Store all medications and poisons in a secure place

Hanging & Suffocation-

  • Many items in the home can be used for suicide by hanging or suffocation
  • Be alert to the risk factors and warning signs of suicide

Alcohol & Drugs-

  • Monitor alcohol and drug use; as they can increase impulsivity and make symptoms worse



For emergency help if someone is in immediate risk of suicide
CALL 9-1-1
Call 1-800-273-8875 (TALK)
Press 1 for those who are a Veteran

For additional information:

Dane County residents:
Call 608-280-2600 Crisis Line (available 24/7)
Mental Health Center of Dane County
Dane County Access to Services Map:

HOPES – Helping Others Prevent and Educate About Suicide at

Mental Health America of WI at

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at



AFSP – American Foundation of Suicide Prevention at

AAS – American Association of Suicidology at

Suicide Prevention Task Force of Safe Communities at

WI-DHFS, Division of Public Health, Injury Prevention Program – WI Violent Injuries and Death Report at

Youth Suicide Steps to Prevent Suicide, South Central Idaho SPAN Chapter at

Suicide & Depression Q & A

Lady sitting on floor by bed, holding her shoulders and looking hopeless or depressed

What are Depression and Depressive illnesses?

Depression and depressive illnesses occur when chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, become unbalanced or disrupted. A person who has depression does not think like a healthy person. The illness can prevent them from understanding the options available to help relieve their suffering. Many people who experience depression report feeling as though they’ve lost the ability to imagine a happy future, or remember a happy past. Often they don’t realize they’re suffering from a treatable Illness and seeking help may not even enter their mind. Emotions and even physical pain can become unbearable. It’s not that they want to die, but they may think it’s the only to end the pain. Experiencing depression is involuntary, just like cancer or diabetes, but it is a treatable illness that can be managed.

How Do Alcohol/Drugs Affect Depression?

Alcohol or drug use can be lethal for a person experiencing depression. Attempting to alleviate the symptoms of depression by drinking or using drugs can increase the risk of suicide by impairing judgment and increasing impulsivity.

Can a Person Mask Their Depression?

Many people experiencing depression and even contemplating suicide can hide their feelings and appear to be happy. Sometimes a suicidal person will give clues as to how desperate he/she feels.

Why do People Attempt Suicide When They Appear to Feel Better?

Sometimes a severely depressed person contemplating suicide doesn’t have enough energy to attempt suicide. As the disease lifts she/he may regain some energy but feelings of hopelessness remain, and the increased energy levels contribute to acting on suicidal feelings. Another theory proposes that a person may “give in” to the disease because she/he can’t fight it anymore. This may relieve some anxiety, which makes her/him appear calmer in the period preceding a suicide attempt.

Is Depression the Same as the Blues?

We need to understand that grief and clinical depression are different. It is normal and even expected to feel badly (feel grief) after losing someone, or experiencing a disappointing or traumatic event. This grief can stay with us for a very long time. However, consistently experiencing the symptoms of clinical depression for longer than two weeks may indicate the presence of an illness and warrants consultation with a physician or mental health professional.

Why do Depressive illnesses sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts?

There is a direct link between depressive illnesses and suicide. Depressive illnesses can distort thinking so a person can’t think clearly or rationally. The illness can cause thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness, which may lead to suicidal thoughts.

What Causes a Depressive Illness?

A combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors play a role in how and when a depressive illness manifests. Because these are illnesses, stress doesn’t necessarily have to be present, but can trigger or exacerbate a depression. Depression can appear when there seems to be no reason for a person to feel depressed. People of all ages, including infants and children (who may be born with a chemical imbalance), can experience depressive illnesses. Since they may be genetically predisposed to depression, a person may be at higher risk than someone whose family doesn’t have a history of depression. This doesn’t mean everyone will inherit a depressive illness.

Can Depressive Illnesses be Treated?

Yes. There are various ways to treat depressive illnesses depending on the type of illness, the severity, and the age of the person being treated. A person experiencing depression should not try to manage his/her own illness. Depression is a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure that can be effectively managed with the help of a physician, mental health counselor, etc.

If a Person has Experienced a Suicide Loss, are They at Higher Risk for Suicide?

Statistics do show that those who have lost a close friend or family member to suicide are at higher risk themselves, probably for a combination of reasons. There may be a biological predisposition toward depression in some families; in addition, the “modeling” of suicidal behavior by a person important to one’s life or the thoughts of a grieving person about joining the loved one in death may all play part in the increased risk. Most importantly, treatments for depression are steadily improving and are often highly effective. Furthermore, counseling and support for those who have lost someone to suicide is very helpful to survivors as they move forward in their lives.

From SAVE website with adaptations by MHCDC/SOS

Dealing with Grief in Your Own Personal Way

A lady with her back to the camera, she sits and looks over a sunset on a lake

Grief is as old as mankind but is one of the most neglected of human problems. As we become aware of this neglect, we come to realize the enormous cost that it has been to the individual, to the families and to society, in terms of pain and suffering because we have neglected the healing of grief. Essential to a grieving person is to have at least one person who will allow them, give them permission to grieve. Some people can turn to a friend or to a family member. Some find a support group that will allow one to be the way one needs to be at the present as they work through their grief.
Dealing appropriately with grief is important in helping to preserve healthy individuals and nurturing families, to avoid destroying bodies and their psyche, their marriages and their relationships. You can postpone grief but you cannot avoid it. As other stresses come along, one becomes less able to cope if one has other unresolved grief. It requires a great deal of energy to avoid grief and robs one of energy for creative expression in relating to other people and in living a fulfilling life. It limits one’s life potential.

Suppressing grief keeps one in a continual state of stress and shock, unable to move from it. Our body feels the effects of it in ailments. Our emotional life suffers. Our spiritual life suffers. We say that the person is “stuck in grief”. When a person faces his grief, allows his feeling to come, speaks of his grief, allows its expression, it is then that the focus is to move from death and dying and to promote life and living.

Learning the ‘okays’ of Grief:

IT’S OKAY TO GRIEVE: The death of a loved one is a reluctant and drastic amputation, without any anesthesia. The pain cannot be described, and no scale can measure the loss. We despise the truth that the death cannot be reversed, and that somehow our dear one returned. Such hurt!! It’s okay to grieve.
IT’S OKAY TO CRY: Tears release the flood of sorrow, of missing and of love. Tears relieve the brute force of hurting, enabling us to “level off” and continue our cruise along the stream of life. It’s okay to cry.
IT’S OKAY TO HEAL: We do not need to “prove” we loved him or her. As the months pass, we are slowly able to move around with less outward grieving each day. We need not feel “guilty”, for this is not an indication that we love less. It means that, although we don’t like it, we are learning to accept death. It’s a healthy sign of healing. It’s okay to heal.
IT’S OKAY TO LAUGH: Laughter is not a sign of “less” grief. Laughter is not a sign of “less” love. It’s a sign that many of our thoughts and memories are happy ones. It’s a sign that we know our memories are happy ones. It’s a sign that we know our dear one would have us laugh again. It’s okay to laugh.

No two people will ever grieve the same way, with the same intensity or for the same duration.

It is important to understand this basic truth. Only then can we accept our own manner of grieving and be sensitive to another’s response to loss. Only then are we able to seek out the nature of support we need for our own personalized journey back to wholeness and be able to help others on their own journey. Not understanding the individuality of grief could complicate and delay whatever grief we might experience from our own loss. It could also influence us, should we attempt to judge the grieving of others -even those we might most want to help.

Each of us is a unique combination of diverse past experiences. We each have a different personality, style, various way of coping with stress situations, and our own attitudes influence how we accept the circumstances around us. We are also affected by the role and relationship that each person in a family system had with the departed, by circumstances surrounding the death and by influences in the present.

Grief and the Mourning Process

A woman in funeral clothes being comforted by a man

Many people refer to the “stages” or “phases” of grief. It may be helpful to be aware of these identified phases or common aspects of grief. It is also important to know there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may go back and forth between phases, experience more than one at a time, or even skip one all together. All feelings are normal, even if they seem “crazy”.

The Phases of Grief:

  • Shock is the first stage of numbness, disbelief and unreality.
  • Denial is thoughts or words such as, “I don’t believe it — It can’t be!”
  • Bargaining involves making promises such as, “I’ll be so good if only I can awaken to find this hasn’t happened” or “I’ll do all the right things if only…”
  • Guilt is a hard stage and difficult to deal with alone. This is a normal feeling characterized by statements such as, “If only I had/If only I had not…” done or said or thought something. Guilt may ultimately be resolved by understanding that all of us are human beings who give the best and worst of ourselves to others. What they do with what we give is their responsibility.
  • Anger is another very difficult phase, but it may seem necessary in order to face reality and get beyond the loss. We all must heal in our own way and anger is a normal stage along the way. However, you may feel guilty because you are angry at the person who died or because your life is continuing while his or hers is not. If you don’t feel anger, don’t manufacture it!
  • Depression may come and go and be different each time in length and/or intensity. Give yourself time to heal.
  • Resignation means you finally believe the reality of the death.
  • Acceptance and Hope come when you finally understand that you will never be the same, but you can go on to have meaning and purpose in your life.

Here are four steps toward surviving tragedy and loss.

Four ‘Tasks’ of Grief:

  • Tell the story: Talk about what has happened until it becomes real. Talk to caring family and friends, attend a support group, begin individual work with a mental health professional, but find a way to speak about the person who died and how the death has impacted your life and family. Tell the story until you don’t need to tell it anymore. Chances are, you will be close to acceptance at that point.
  • Express the Emotions: Grief is filled with conflicting tidal waves of emotion. Just when you think you’ve accepted the death, disbelief may sweep over you again. You may feel intense anger along with equally intense feelings of love and loss. Or, in the midst of crying about the person’s death, a sense of unreality may surface again. No matter what the range of emotions, all are to be expected during grief. It is crucial to get the emotions outside of yourself. “Stuffed” feelings can build and build and become overwhelming. Scream, cry, write, draw, punch a punching bag, tell an empathetic someone, take a walk, do SOMETHING to express what you feel.
  • Make Meaning from the Loss: Nothing can make what has happened “okay”. Life is turned upside down and changed forever. However, you can determine that something good and reasonable will come out of the unreasonable tragedy that you are experiencing. At some point, you may be able to accept the reality that your loved one’s entire life was not defined by his or her last decision – to die. Nothing can take away the good things the person accomplished. When you are ready, you may reach out to others with similar experiences… or set up a scholarship or other appropriate memorial in the person’s name … or work in some capacity to better the lives of others. There are many, many ways to make meaning from tragedy.
  • Transition from the Physical Presence of the Person to the New Relationship: while missing the physical presence of a loved one in our lives may continue well into the future, it is possible to transition into acceptance of the person’s nonphysical presence. What can that relationship be? For some, it is memories and love carried in our hearts. No one can take away our memories and, as long as we treasure love for the person who has died, they are not forgotten. The new relationship may be spiritual or in some other way in keeping with religious beliefs.
Originally distributed by:
The Link Counseling Center’s National Resource Center for Suicide Prevention and Aftercare
348 Mt. Vernon Highway, N.E.,
Atlanta, GA 30328