Tools For Grieving

 

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Honor Your Loss While Healing Your Heart

Grief is one of the hardest parts of the human experience. It looks and feels different for everyone, and it’s hard to know how to cope when there’s no one right way. You may not always feel like you know how to grieve, but your body does. Grief is a human instinct.  

One of the most important things to remember about grieving is that there is no right or wrong way to feel. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, even debilitating, and sometimes you feel okay. Your goal today might be to just make it through the day or it might be to understand the loss of this person on a deeper level. Wherever you are in your personal journey of grief, you’re going the right way.  

*This is an evolving page. We're continually adding tools and resources to best help you.

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If you or someone you know is struggling, you are not alone. Help is available 24/7: 

Your relationship with the person you have lost hasn’t ended,
it’s changed. 

 

Common Reactions to Grief
 

Grief is a continual process. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no right or wrong way to move through this experience. Below are some common reactions people have to grief.

Physical

  • Fatigue/Exhaustion 
  • Changes in Sleeping Patterns 
  • Appetite Changes 
  • Headaches  
  • Muscle Tension 

Cognitive

  • Difficulty Concentrating 
  • Difficulty Solving Problems 
  • Low Motivation 
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Intrusive Thoughts 
  • Memories of Other Losses 
  • Angry/Violent Fantasies 
  • Indecisiveness 

Emotional

  • Sadness 
  • Anxiety 
  • Mood Swings 
  • Irritability 
  • Feeling Numb 
  • Anger 
  • Guilt  
  • Moments of Feeling “okay” 

Keeping a journal can help you notice patterns in your grieving, identify areas where you could use support, and express your thoughts and feelings. 

Use These Tips to Start a Grief Journal

 


Coping with Grief

While there are no coping strategies that will take away the pain of this loss, there are steps you can take to sooth your pain, find meaning through loss, and make the grieving process easier to move through.

Accept that your emotional response is valid.

It is easy to fall into the trap of the shoulds: “I shouldn’t be this sad” or “I should feel more sad”. When you notice this, remind yourself that there is no “right way” to feel.

Take care of yourself.

Now is not the time to stay up late to meet a deadline, skip meals, or over-extend yourself. Grief can affect your immune system and cognitive functioning, so it’s important to prioritize your physical and emotional health to give yourself the capacity to keep going.

Create a compassionate space for your grief.

Avoiding your feelings by jumping back into the daily grind is tempting, but it’s not sustainable. Avoiding your feelings can also intensify your emotions later. Find ways to allow yourself to feel your feelings. If this is difficult to do on your own, counselors can help guide you through the process.

Connect with others.

Sharing stories and memories of the one you’ve lost with others is a powerful form of healing. Don’t try to carry this on your own, allow others to help you.

Do things that bring you joy.

People often feel guilty when they experience joy, happiness, or even just being “okay” following a loss. But remember, your feelings are valid and finding enjoyable moments in life is a good thing. It’s also a safe guess that the person you have lost would want you to find joy again.

What's one thing you can do to take care of yourself today?


Coping with Different Kinds of Loss

Every loss is different, and every loss still hurts. Your relationship with the person, how they passed, when they passed, and recent interactions with that person lots of other factors can influence your grieving experience. Grieving can bring up a lot, and each element of their death can lead you to ask different questions or draw different conclusions. 

Here are some common types of loss and helpful resources to support you.

If you’ve felt surprised by how a loss impacts you because you don’t know the person who died, don’t see yourself as directly impacted by the loss, or because society doesn’t approve of or understand grieving in that situation, you may be experiencing ambiguous loss. We can experience ambiguous loss following the termination or loss of pregnancy, the death of someone we don’t know by might be indirectly affiliated with, like a student on campus, the death of a public figure, a childhood friend we haven’t spoken to in years, war casualties, systemic oppression, and generational trauma. There doesn’t have to be a death to experience ambiguous loss. This is what we experience when a way of life or future plans change for reasons beyond our control. Ambiguous loss can feel confusing because it might not seem like you “should” feel as strongly as you do. It's important to listen to yourself and trust in our intuition. An ambiguous loss can bring up many emotions similar to other forms of grief, and if left unprocessed, can weigh heavily on us. 

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Ambiguous Loss

When death is imminent or expected, it can feel like waiting for a giant wave. You can see it coming and know you’ll be in over your head when it hits. What you may not see is how your grieving has already begun. This is called anticipatory grief, or grief that occurs before a death. Not everyone experiences anticipatory grief. Whether you do or don’t, it’s okay. For those who do experience it, anticipatory grief cam feel like a place between holding on and letting go. It’s common to feel a range of emotions like fear and anger during anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is painful, but it can also offer opportunities for closure like forgiveness, saying goodbye, or making arrangements for whatever comes next.   

Learn more: 

Anticipatory Grief

Many people who have a relationship with a child say that losing a child is unimaginable or their "worst nightmare." Grieving the loss of a child can feel overwhelming, no matter the age of the child (or adult child). Along with other common responses to grief, you may experience guilt, failure, a sense of injustice, and numbness. Try to remember that all of these reactions are a natural part of the grieving process.

Grieving the death of a child can leave you feeling lost. Parenting, caregiving, and the other ways we work and live with a child can become a significant aspect of our identity and give us sense of purpose. Even after their death, the child you are grieving will always be a part of you. Because of this, you may feel a strong desire to find meaning in the loss. Be patient with yourself and your pain. It has a purpose: to help you regain balance, make sense of this loss, and integrate it into your understanding of yourself and the world.

Other challenges may accompany the death of a child, such as depression, anxiety, and challenges in work and home relationships. Whatever course your grief takes, give yourself permission to take it at your own pace.

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From acquaintances to a childhood best friend and all friendships in between, connection with others is vital to a happy and fulfilling life. When you lose a friend, you’re losing your future with them. It’s common to wonder what could have been as you think about the experiences you won’t have. You may find yourself picking up your phone to tell them about a funny thing that happened or ask for advice before you remember they’re not there to answer. If you’re used to seeing your friend every day, their absence can feel amplified. It’s okay to miss a friend and also continue on in your life. 

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Every relationship with a grandparent is unique. Whether you’ve never met your grandparents, only met them a few times, or saw them frequently, they’re a part of your family tree. When a grandparent dies, it’s common to think that because they’re older, it won’t feel as hard. In reality, age doesn’t make things easier. It’s the relationship that you have or don’t have that can influence your grief.

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Grieving the Death of a Grandparent

Because families are complicated, the loss of a parent can feel equally complicated. A parent is the person you’ve known or could have known your whole life. Depending on your relationship with them, they could be the person you went to for help, comfort, support, and celebration. It can be hard to imagine a world where you still exist but they’re not here. You may also have unresolved emotions, conversations, or conflicts that you can’t resolved how you may have wished they would. Whatever your relationship with your parent and however you’re feeling now, your feelings are valid.

Learn more and connect: 

The Dinner Party Resources & Support

Pets are a member of your family. You’ve often raised them from when they were little or rescued them from a local animal shelter. You were their guardian and friend. You may have seen their full lifespan or you may have lost them too soon. When you’re responsible for another life, that can come with beautiful memories and sometimes difficult decisions. Moving forward without your pet in your life, you’ll notice their absence and miss them. And that’s okay. Give yourself the time you need to grieve the loss of your pet. 

Learn more:

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

If you've experienced a pregnancy loss, you are not alone (although you may feel like you are the only one).  Each journey to pregnancy looks different and that means your pregnancy loss is unique and not comparable. Whether getting pregnant was easy, or difficult and whatever trimester the loss happened, your loss is real and valid.  You not only have lost your baby(ies), but also the innocence and hope of pregnancy and the loss of your future plans.  You might be feeling a mix of different emotions - anger, confusion, frustration, sadness, shock, guilt - all of which are a natural part of the grieving process. 

As common as pregnancy loss is, most people don't understand how traumatic and devastating it can be unless they've been through it themselves, and even that is different. Losing a baby is an ongoing process, with physical and emotional components. Taking care of yourself and getting support (through support groups and/or therapy) is important to your healing process. 

Resources:

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline (English and Spanish): 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS or 1-833-943-5746

Learn more: 

Every sibling relationship is different. You could have grown up together or apart, you could be different ages, or from different sets of parents. Siblings can be best friends or merely co-habitating. You may talk every day, just talk on holidays, or you may not talk at all. Whatever relationship you have with a sibling, they’re part of your life and memories. When a sibling dies, the family dynamic changes, sometimes in unexpected ways. Your future with them won't turn out the way you’d imagined, and that could leave you with feelings of regret, sadness, confusion, anger, and more. Whatever your relationship with your sibling was, that relationship changes after a death. Give yourself time to process whatever that change brings.  

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When someone dies by suicide, it’s common to experience feelings of responsibility, anger, and confusion among others. These feelings are a natural part of the grieving process. When something unexpected or traumatic happens, we try to make sense of it, which can lead to a lot of questions and sometimes painful feelings. Please know that feeling responsible does not make you responsible. 

Learn more:

Loss can come in many forms, each one bringing a unique grief experience. Explore more ways to support yourself.
 

Explore These Ideas & Tools for Grieving

 

Myths & Facts About Grief 

Myth: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it

Fact: For real healing, it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it. 

Myth: If you don't cry, it means you aren't sorry about the loss. 

Fact: Those who don't cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it. 

Myth: Grieving should last about a year. 

Fact: There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person. 

Myth: Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss. 

Fact: You can move on with your life and keep the memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you.

How to Help Someone Who's Grieving

It can be difficult to watch someone you care about experience grief. Grieving comes with strong and complex emotions, and no one thing you or anyone else says or does can make that pain go away.  

For a person in grief, the best thing to do is allow grief to take its course on its own timeline. There is no fixing grief.

Here’s how you can support someone you care about through their grief journey: