Six Tactics for Working through Grief

  • A frenzy of activity tends to follow immediately after someone dies: planning or attending a memorial, preparing an obituary or eulogy, and dealing with various logistical issues. But after the funeral, what comes next? Grief can feel overwhelming—like too much to deal with, or like you don't have a roadmap and will never find your way through. The grieving process is intensely personal and as unique as your relationship with the person you lost. However, certain strategies do help. While there’s no magic cure, the following tips can serve to lighten the load and speed you along.

     

     1. Acknowledge your grief

    You may wish to barrel forward, ignoring grief until it disappears on its own, but that can allow it to manifest unhealthily or gain even greater power over your life. Parts of your brain may feel slowed down or broken. Acknowledge that feeling and recognize that, with work and time, it will improve. Painful as it is, there’s no way around grief—only through. 

     

     2. Make time for grieving

    Unfortunately, working through grief really is work. It takes time, effort, and attention. In the weeks and months following a loss, try to avoid overscheduling, so you can take time for yourself when it catches up with you unexpectedly. Grief comes in waves, on a schedule all its own. Recognize this and give yourself a break—you’re going to have less bandwidth for a while. Do things that help you feel good, such as walking, dancing, or other forms of exercise (but don’t overdo it).

     

     3. Draw on your support system

    While recognizing the importance of alone time, also gently nudge yourself to get together with friends and family when you can. Some people in your life have probably suffered losses of their own and know from personal experience what type of support helps. Others may seem uncomfortable with grief and grow distant when you really need them. Try to appreciate what each person has to offer—a friend who freezes up around sorrow may provide ideal companionship on days when you feel excited to reengage with life.

     

     4. Bring together the community

    You may find solace in sharing positive memories of the person you’ve lost with those who knew them. Recognizing that others are grieving, too, can help alleviate loneliness. Sharing memories reinforces those cherished moments and keeps the deceased present in your mind. Stories you hadn’t heard before allow you to get to know someone a little bit better, even after they’ve died.

     

     5. Write a letter to help resolve feelings like guilt

    After a loss, you might find yourself fretting over things that you wish had been different. Maybe you wish you had said or done something before it was too late, or did or said something you wish you could take back. Maybe you still feel hurt by or angry at the deceased. If neglected, these feelings can linger over the long term and cast too powerful a shadow over your memories. In the absence of the person you want to confront or apologize to, a letter or even a series of letters can help you resolve these feelings and provide a sense of closure.

     

     6. Express yourself creatively

    Even if you don’t consider yourself skilled at drawing, songwriting, or other artistic pursuits, you may find creative projects wonderfully healing. They can uncover feelings you didn’t know you had, give your sorrow a productive outlet, and communicate your feelings in ways that words might not. Also test out what music, movies, books, and other media speak to you right now. Some of your favorites may feel discordant with your current emotional state. It may take some searching, but the right media can help lighten your mood and give you a little vacation from your loss. Other works will resonate with you very deeply and remind you that you are not alone.

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