Tips to Help Yourself in Times of Grief

Grief is a journey you must endure after the loss of a loved one. It's easy to become overwhelmed as you work through the phases and tasks of grief so it's important to remember to care for yourself.

adult woman resting head on senior father's shoulder
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Tips for Caring for Yourself in Times of Grief

Here are 10 tips, collected from people who have traveled this road before you, to help you along this journey.

  1. Seek and Accept Support: You cannot travel this path alone. You need the support and care of others. Call on a trusted family member or friend, church clergy, or professional counselors. Call your local hospice agency or community grief center for advice to get you started.
  2. Accept Your Grief: Don't try to run and hide from your grief. You need to experience the pain and sorrow to be able to move past it and on toward healing.
  3. Find Role Models: You are not the first to travel the road of grief. Discover how others have coped with loss before you. This will provide you with a model to base your own healing on and remind you that you are not alone. Read books on grief and meet others who have worked through grief at support groups.
  4. Learn About Grief. The more you know about grief and dispel the myths surrounding it, the more you will realize that your grief is normal. You also might discover warning signs that your grief is complicated and that you need more help to cope. Either way, knowledge is power.
  5. Express Your Grief: Grief cannot stay hidden deep within you. The best way to work through grief is to let it out. Cry, scream, and yell if you need to. Express your feelings through music, art, poetry, or journaling. Whether you express your grief with a safe person you trust or let it out in complete privacy, expressing your feelings is the only true way to honor your grief and begin to work through it.
  6. Accept Your Feelings: Grief can bring many different feelings to the surface—some very intense. Acknowledge these feelings and accept them as part of the natural grieving process. Don't hold in anger, sadness, or longing. These are important feelings that, once expressed, help you heal.
  7. Pace Yourself: Grief can be exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to feel so intensely. Allow yourself plenty of time to do everyday activities and don't over-schedule yourself. Rest when you need to and offer yourself some grace.
  8. Get Involved in Something: Getting involved in work or some other activity you enjoy can keep you focused and offer a welcome distraction from your grief. If that activity is especially meaningful or helpful to others, you might find it also raises your spirits.
  9. Have a Little Fun: Sometimes grieving people won't allow themselves to have any fun—as if sharing a laugh with someone is somehow dishonoring the memory of their loved one. The truth is, laughter is excellent medicine. A great way to have some genuine fun is to surround yourself with children or animals.
  10. Keep the Faith: Remember that intense grief doesn't last forever. One of my favorite sayings goes, "Faith is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to go on when fear is present." Keep the faith that you will one day heal and be whole again.

By Angela Morrow, RN
Angela Morrow, RN, BSN, CHPN, is a certified hospice and palliative care nurse.