Keeping Our Center Throughout Our Grief Journey

How do we keep it all together while grieving the loss of a loved one?  The mixture of seemingly millions of feelings can leave us with our minds whirling uncontrollably.

It’s important to remember we are not the only ones who have lived through and survived such a loss. We have many loss survivors who have gone before us and they have blazed a trail of survivorship and healing for us. So, with that in mind, we take a look at some ways to get and stay grounded and centered during grief:

1.  Don’t isolate. Isolating magnifies our sense of pain. This does not mean putting yourself with anybody you can find. A sense of discernment is required, which can be challenging. We need to put ourselves in the presence of people who care and understand, and who aren’t going to try to rewrite history for us or tell us how we are supposed to be feeling.

2.  Ask for help.  While it sometimes isn’t easy, it is most certainly much harder to get through grief and loss alone. Asking for help, and getting it, is perhaps the strongest indicator that a person will be okay. Grief support groups, therapist who specializes in grief and loss, and private, small therapy groups can be a huge benefit.

3.  Do only what you can do. Maybe you don’t want to go to that office Christmas party. Don’t! You are the best judge of how much you can handle. If the holidays are overwhelming you, create your own celebration at home with a close friend. During overwhelming times, less is more. Make sure to get lots of rest and sleep, eat healthy food and give yourself lots of time-outs!

4.  Watch out for the mood altering substances. After a loss, it can be very tempting to overdo it with alcohol, cigarettes, food, work, shopping — any compulsive activity prevents you from feeling your feelings. The addictions are merely symptoms for what’s going on underneath: not wanting to feel the pain of the loss. This is where a therapist becomes crucial in guiding you through your grief.

5. Steer clear of the critical people. Believe it or not, there will be some people out there who will tell you to “just get over it” and other insensitive comments intended to help you see that your loved one’s death was merciful, or that it is good that they are no longer in pain, etc.  Please remember these people are ignorant, uneducated and foolish. It is not your job during this tender time to reform them. Avoid them.

Above all, be good to yourself. And remember, grief is a lifelong journey with many ups and downs.  Hopefully with time and support will come healing.  Give yourself room to feel whatever you’re feeling and know that there is no “normal” way to grieve – every single situation is different.  It’s time to start cutting yourself a break and learning to love yourself. Right now!

Catherine Greenleaf is a suicide loss survivor, and author of the highly acclaimed book, Healing The Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations For People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide. She is a spiritual counselor and a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. She travels nationwide to speak to suicide loss survivors about how to persevere after suicide loss. You can read more of her work on her blog, or follow her on twitter.

Photo Credit.


  1. Brenda Heath said on April 20, 2013 at 9:43 am ... #

    I needed to hear this. My daughter died 9 months ago and I have been struggling. Especially when people tell me to move on and I too have been isolating. I am giving myself permission to feel.

  2. Rio said on May 30, 2013 at 5:34 am ... #

    I’ve just read the Time article to get a sumamry of the author’s thinking. As a clergyperson for almost 30 years, I’ve seen a number of people live through loss and grief in a variety of ways, and have done so myself. I have found that people often experience the feelings that Kubler-Ross’s identified (as well as others), but it is been clear to me for many years that we do not expereince those feelings in systematic stages, but rather in unpredictable roller-coaster fashion not unlike the oscillating graph shown on this site. My own (admittedly anectodatal) take on grief is that the plethora of intense feelings we typically have for some period of time are the psyche’s way of honoring the importance to us of the person (or job or marriage or ) that have been lost. Once we have done that to the degree each needs, we are ready to move on in our lives. What I continue to observe is that while the varieties of approaches to grief process described and debunked in the Time article are widespread in the culture, it is also the case that in practical terms our culture often leaves little space and time for grieving. People are routinely expected to be able to return to normal functioing, especially in the work world, within a week or two of a major loss as if nothing significant had happened. There seems to be a disconnect between the possibly over-developed psychological approach to the inner work of grief and an under-developed acknowledgement in the public world of the functional challenges that people in the early, intense time of grieving often face.

  3. Brenda Wright said on August 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm ... #

    My son took his life 4 months ago. I appreciate your comments. Especially on the subject of roller coaster emotions. Just when I have a day of believing I’ve reached some peace, I’m overwhelmed with sad memories of his year and a half of struggles before he died. Feels better to know this is expected. Thank you

  4. Gray said on October 27, 2013 at 11:49 am ... #

    Brenda, my son took his life 10 months ago. It is interwoven in my every thought. I think it’s like chutes and ladders….you claw your way to see some light, only to fall down a hole. I wish us both some peace.

  5. Jessika said on January 24, 2014 at 8:32 am ... #

    My daughter died in September 2012 and it feels like it was yesterday. Every day is a fight for survival. The pain feels physically at all times. Keeping myself busy at my work, which is with youth, and my own children. Giving myself to others, getting the pain off of myself and focusing on other’s people pain, helps me. There is no systematic way of going through grief. It happens differently to each one of us. We may feel one way a day, and another way the next day.

  6. Darleen Meredith Hine said on March 10, 2015 at 10:01 pm ... #

    My husband died on Friday, February 20, 2015, he was my best friend. I cry almost everyday, but I try to do it alone. Working really helps me from dwelling on what we had together. We were married for 32 years…..! I agree with Jessika, working helps!

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