21 Ways to Work Through Grief

We all face grief and loss at some time in our lives. It doesn’t matter what the loss is. Grief requires work to overcome. We are now coming to understand that the traditional five stages of grief aren’t always accurate. Each of us grieve in a unique way. We may have more stages or less, and the grief cycle is most often not a linear path. Here are several helpful ways to work through grief. They are not presented in any particular order. 

  1. Face grief head on. Don’t try to hide from the grieving process. You may succeed temporarily, but the emotions will come up, and you’ll most likely just make the entire process longer. 
  2. Allow negative emotions to come up.  Negative emotions aren’t bad. Being sad or angry is a perfectly normal reaction to grief and there is nothing wrong with feeling these emotions. Allow your emotions to come up freely and work with them as they do. 
  3. Understand you don’t have to cry.  Each person processes sadness in different ways. Crying is not the only way to show that you are upset or sad. It’s normal to cry when you are grieving, but it’s also normal not to. 
  4. Allow the process to take as long as necessary. Don’t put a timeline on how long the grieving process will take. Some people work through it faster than others. Whatever amount of time it takes is just fine. 
  5. Talk to someone. Find a trusted person to talk to. It can be a friend or spiritual mentor. You just need someone with whom you feel safe in sharing all your deepest feelings and emotions. 
  6. Know the difference between grief and depression. While we all grieve in different ways and for different lengths of time, it’s important to know when your symptoms are moving from grief and into depression. It is not a sign that you are grieving incorrectly. It does signal that it is time to seek outside help.  
  7. Understand that your grief journey is unique and you may not follow the “five stages”. You are a unique individual and your grief journey will be unique. It’s helpful to recognize the five stages of grief, but don’t expect that your journey will perfectly line up with five linear stages. It might, and it’s ok if it does. But it’s equally ok for your journey not to. 
  8. Practice self care. Make time to take care of yourself. No matter what your loss is it’s important to remember that you are still here. Find small ways to care for yourself each day. 
  9. Have a plan for trigger moments. We often face renewed grief when faced with certain triggers. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are big triggers when grieving after a death. If you’ve lost a job, you may be triggered when a friend is promoted. These triggers are normal parts of everyday life. Make a plan for getting through it. It’s easier to face the trigger when you expect it. You know these things will happen so plan ahead. 
  10. Exercise. Physical activity is a great way to get out of your head and get your blood pumping. A gentle walk or yoga is great. A day long hike is as well. Whatever you enjoy doing, just get out and do it. If you have trouble making yourself get active, find a friend to exercise with you. 
  11. Eat well. Step up your nutrition game. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Drink lots of water. Taking care of yourself through what you eat helps you to feel better. It will help you feel more motivated to get out and not sleep too much. 
  12. Get enough sleep. You don’t want to sleep too much (it’s a sign of depression), but you want to get an adequate amount of sleep. Insomnia is common during grief as is too much sleep. Adults need on average 6-9 hours of sleep each night and it differs for each person. Aim to get somewhere  in that frame each night for optimal grief processing. 
  13. Establish new routines. Routine is key for processing grief, but your normal routines may not be possible. If your normal routines included who or what you are grieving, make sure to establish new routines. If you went for a walk every day with your spouse, find a friend to go with you. It doesn’t matter what your routine is. Establish and/or replace routines as necessary. 
  14. Meditate. Meditate. Pray. Focus. Whatever you call it. Find ways to focus your mind on something other than grief. You don’t have to empty your mind of all thoughts. Just find a way to focus on something. 
  15. Seek support from your faith community. If you have an active faith community, seek support from them. If you are a solitary practitioner you can find like minded faith practitioners online. Seek out groups of people who believe and practice what you do. You can do the same if you don’t practice a faith. Find other people who don’t have a faith. The point isn’t the faith. The point is to find people who are like minded to give you support. 
  16. Find ways to laugh. Laughter is great for the soul. It can be hard to find reasons to laugh when you are grieving. Go to a comedy club. Watch a comedy show on tv. Read a funny book. Hang out with funny friends. It doesn’t matter. Just find something that makes you laugh. 
  17. Seek support for letting go of attachments. The reason we grieve is because we have attachments to the thing or person we lost. If there are no attachments we don’t grieve. This is why we don’t grieve every time some tragedy happens. Yes, tragic events are just that- tragic. But, we don’t grieve each event because we aren’t attached. Letting go of attachment doesn’t mean that you are letting go of love. It means that you are letting go of the view that you can’t go on without whatever it is you lost. This is very difficult to do alone. You’ll need friends to support you through the process. Good friends will be there for you.
  18. Leave unsupportive relationships behind. It is critical to understand that relationships don’t always last forever. Think about your best friend in first grade. Are you still best friends? Maybe, but maybe not. We get older and life happens and we change. Friends today may not be friends tomorrow. This is perfectly normal. When we experience grief we change. Alot. And fast. This means that you may grow in ways that friends don’t. Sometimes those friends you thought were great turn out to be not so supportive. It doesn’t mean they are bad people. You are just in different places. It’s ok to leave friendships behind. 
  19. Honor your loss. Create a ritual to honor your loss. It can be a one time ritual or something you will do annually. It can be something you do as needed. It can be a solitary ritual or one that involves other people. It doesn’t matter. Some faith communities have built in rituals for honoring loss. If yours does, make time and effort to participate. If not, create your own ritual. It’s important to mark and honor your loss. Doing so helps to establish the fact that what you lost was an important part of who you are. 
  20. Breathe. Sometimes we feel like everything is spinning out of control. It’s important to remember to stop and breathe when you feel overwhelmed. A simple breathing practice works wonders in helping you cope with anxiety. 
  21. Seek professional help. If you’re trying and just can’t seem to cope with your grief in healthy ways, it’s ok to seek professional help. Sometimes we need the extra support of a person who doesn’t have a vested interest in your loss. Seeking professional help doesn’t mean you’re a failure and can’t cope on your own. It means you recognize your needs are are respecting your own personal boundaries. A therapist, counselor, or grief coach three ways to seek outside help. Your needs may be for one as opposed to another. Either way, don’t hesitate to seek help if you need it. 

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