Helping Yourself Through Grief

| Grief Author & Retired Priest

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Helping Yourself Through GriefDuring the months following a death those who are grieving often ask, “How can I help myself?” or, “What do I have to do next?”   The reality is that you may have a great deal of support from family or friends, or from professionals, but you must be engaged in your own recovery. There is a great deal you can do for yourself.  Here are some tips others have found helpful.

Learn all you can about grief.   Much has been published about grief over the years and it is a subject that many professionals are attempting to understand.   Many funeral homes have a library with resources that will be helpful.  If you have a hospice in your area, they will be a resource.   Also, the Internet has a great deal of information you may find helpful.

Be willing to change the way you look at grief and your own life.   Death is one of life’s great teachers.  The period of grieving that follows a death has the potential to be a life-changing experience.  The death of your loved one may be the most difficult and challenging experience of your life.  However, if you can draw on your own inner strength, it will be possible for you, over time, to begin to make important decisions that will affect the rest of your life.

Give yourself permission to grieve.  There is no easy way out of the pain people feel during this time.   There will be days that you will feel like being alone and the tears will flow.  Allow this to happen.  To try to avoid it is only prolonging the period of recovery.

Deal honestly with what your relationship was like.   Often the death of a family member is a relief.  As a spouse, perhaps your marriage was very difficult yet.  As a child, perhaps the expectations of your parent held you back from doing what you really wanted to do with your life.   As a parent, you may have experienced the death of a child who was a disappointment to you.   It is important to deal with the reality of what your relationship with the deceased was like.  Often a counsellor can help you work through some of the difficult issues.

Be patient with the process.  We live in a world of the Internet, drive-through banks and restaurants.  We are used to getting things done instantly.   Grief is not like that.   People often say to me four, six or ten months after a loved one has died, “I don’t understand why I’m not over this yet!”   My answer is always, “You shouldn’t be!”

The process of coming to terms with your loss and the affect it has on your life takes a long time.  The first year is the most difficult.  You will experience all the special days as well as the change of seasons.  In many areas of our lives, we expect immediate results.  Grief is different.  Take time, and be patient with yourself.

Get plenty of rest.  Grief is exhausting!  It affects you in many ways.  Think of how tired you are after you have cried for a while.   Make sure you have time for yourself, to rest and to renew yourself.

Treat yourself occasionally ? you’re worth it!  Things that add beauty to your life will comfort and encourage you.  Activities like massage therapy or yoga can work wonders.  Give yourself permission to go out with friends and to enjoy a meal and to laugh.  Laughter is a great healer!

Find people with whom you can share your loss.  Many newly bereaved people find a great deal of support and encouragement from bereavement support groups.  I have been leading support groups for over twenty years.  Quite frankly, I am still surprised at how well people do in a group. The change is amazing.  People actually come away feeling like they are in control again.   They have begun to recreate their lives.

Take time to reflect on and reassess your life.  What did you gain from the relationship you had?  How will that relationship sustain and guide you now?  How is this experience changing you?   The greatest tribute you can pay your loved one is that you experienced personal growth from your relationship.

Create a suitable memorial for your loved one.  Most people are buried in a cemetery and usually a marker is placed on the grave.

Doing something for the living is also an appropriate way to pay tribute to our loved ones.  Many towns and cities provide an opportunity for its citizens to place benches or trees in public places.   Memorials such as these bring beauty and enjoyment to others who are still alive. Remember that the greatest memorial you can create for your loved one is a life renewed and recreated by you to honour the memory of the one who has died.

Draw on the resources of your faith.  Let whatever helps you make sense out of life sustain you.  The journey through grief is a spiritual one.  Allow your spirituality to become a focus of your life.  Let the words and music of your spirituality speak to you and give you courage and hope for your journey.

The grieving process has the potential for transforming you.  If you can say, “yes” to that concept, then life will be renewed.  You will live and love again.  The memory and the love of your loved one will continue to motivate you and inspire you for the rest of your life.


John Kennedy Saynor is the founder of Genesis Bereavement Resources.  He may be contacted through his web site:


| Grief Author & Retired Priest

John Kennedy Saynor is a retired Priest in the Toronto Diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada and a licensed funeral director. He has had extensive experience in facilitating bereavement support groups and conducting seminars and worksh...