Each person grieves in a different way after a family member or friend has passed away. There is no “right” or “wrong” response to loss and no set amount of time for grieving.
Some people experience physical changes such as loss of appetite and need for more or less sleep. Others feel emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, and emptiness. As a result, the need for support varies by person and situation — and may change over time.
At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we offer various programs to address each person’s needs after a loved one has died, including professional counseling, support groups, and educational forums for better understanding the grieving process.
Individual, Family, and Group Counseling
We offer counseling and support for all family members and friends who have lost a loved one treated at MSK. The following departments have professionals who can help you:
- Social Work: The department’s bereavement program offers free telephone consultations, support groups, educational lectures, and referrals to community resources. Our oncology social workers have expertise in dealing with the psychological, social, spiritual/existential, and practical concerns that often arise for individuals, families, and friends who are grieving. Please call 646-888-4889 or email [email protected] for more information.
- Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences: Our psychiatrists and psychologists lead a bereavement clinic that provides psychotherapy and support for individuals, couples, and families who are grieving. We can also provide consultation about and help in managing psychiatric medications. Please call 646-888-0200 for more information.
- Chaplaincy Services: Our chaplains are available to listen, pray, help support family members, contact community clergy or faith groups, or simply serve as a comforting companion and spiritual presence. You do not need to have a formal religious affiliation to ask for spiritual support. Also note the All Faith Mary French Rockefeller Chapel near the main lobby on the first floor of Memorial Hospital is always open for meditation and prayer. Please call 212-639-5982 for more information.
If you have lost a loved one to cancer, you may find support and solace in speaking with others who are grieving.
We offer several types of support groups:
- Our monthly bereavement support group is led by an oncology social worker. We invite all family members and friends who have lost someone to cancer at MSK to participate in these meetings, which occur on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 3 pm – 4:30 pm.
- Periodically throughout the year, we hold bereavement support groups for people who have experienced a specific type of loss to cancer, such as the death of a partner, parent, or adult child. Please call us at 646-888-4889 or email [email protected] for details about these meetings, which are designed to help participants support one another, lessen feelings of isolation, and strengthen coping skills.
- The Department of Pediatrics coordinates a monthly in-person Towards Tomorrow Bereavement Program to support families who have experienced the loss of a child to cancer or other illness at MSK. Topics discussed include strategies for adjusting to the loss, and how to deal with birthdays and other significant events. We invite family members to call 212-639-6850 or email [email protected] for more information about taking part in these support groups.
- Quarterly we run a Widowed Parents group for individuals who have lost their partner and are raising a child under the age of 18.
Learn More about Grief, Loss, and Bereavement
For many people, understanding what happens during the grieving process can be helpful. We offer lectures and panel discussions on topics such as the caregiver’s perspective on loss and grief and help in coping with the holidays.