Grief and grieving are the natural response to a major loss, such as the death of a loved one. It is also natural to feel grief when you lose a valued way of life, such as a job, marriage, or good health.
Grieving is a personal experience. Everyone’s way of feeling and expressing grief is unique to them, and so is the path to healing from a loss. There is no “normal and expected” period of time for grieving.
If you have just had a major loss in your life, it may feel hard to do anything. You may be experiencing extreme sorrow, heartbreak, or even depression. These feelings are completely normal. While it may seem hard, it’s important to keep taking care of yourself while you navigate through your grieving process. If you’re feeling lost on how to care for yourself while grieving, the following steps can help:
- Identify your feelings. You may have conflicting feelings, such as sadness and relief. Writing is one way to identify what you’re feeling.
- Accept your feelings. Your feelings may be unpredictable and uncomfortable. Remind yourself that your feelings are normal. If you’re having trouble talking about your feelings, consider joining a bereavement (grief) support group.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Not getting enough rest and sleep can lead to physical illness and exhaustion. Try activities to help you relax, such as meditation or guided imagery.
- Eat healthy foods. If you have trouble eating alone, ask another person to join you for a snack or meal. If you don’t have an appetite, eat frequent small meals and snacks.
- Exercise. Even a walk can help you deal with your grief. Other forms of exercise, such as yoga, may also help.
- Comfort yourself. Allow yourself to be comforted by familiar surroundings and personal items that you value. Special items, such as photos or a loved one’s favorite shirt, may give you comfort.
- Try to stay active with your support network. Don’t withdraw from the activities you enjoy. Staying involved in work, church, clubs, or community activities may help.
- Avoid quick fixes. Resist the urge to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or take nonprescription medicines (such as sleeping aids). When you are under emotional stress, these may only add to your unpleasant feelings and experiences. They may mask your emotions and prevent you from normal, necessary grieving.
- Seek support. Talking about the loss, sharing cares and concerns, and getting support from others can help you grieve in a healthy way and make you feel less lonely.
- Ask for help. If worries and concerns are keeping you from taking care of personal needs and other responsibilities, ask for help from others. Allowing other people to help you also helps them because it gives them an opportunity to show their care and concern for you.
- Express your emotions. Expressing how you feel may help when you’re grieving. If you’re afraid that you might harm yourself or someone if you express your emotions, talk with someone you trust or your doctor or a counselor about your concerns. You can ask your doctor for a referral. Or you might contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). You can text 741741 for 24/7 free support from a trained counselor. You can also call the NAMI HelpLine (1-800-950-6264) or go online (www.nami.org/help) to chat with a trained volunteer.