The Work of Grief

Do you ever wonder why you feel so exhausted and depleted so much of the time?  There is an excellent reason for that.  The work of grief is a constant drain to the system.  It is taxing on many levels and many layers – conscious and unconscious, physical as well as emotional.

It is as if you are running a marathon.  However, when you begin a marathon you have  had some training, preparation, and conditioning.  You also believe that at least after 26.2 grueling miles you will cross a finish line and be done. Unfortunately with grief, there is typically no preliminary body conditioning to help sustain you, or to help with endurance.  There is also no magical final destination point when you realize it will be completed.

Grief is a process you are preforming all hours of the day – regardless of the activity – when you wash the dishes, drive your car, while you sleep, while you eat breakfast, or even when you take a walk.

The body has to accommodate to this incredible assault to the system.

It has to find “files” to incorporate such huge, life-changing information and ultimately, adapt to new roles, a new identity, a new view of the world.

According to Therese Rando, PhD, author of How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Has Died, “Grief is no less strenuous a task than digging a ditch or any other physical labor.”

It is no wonder that the bereaved find themselves sighing a good bit, often feeling sleep-deprived, feeling as if the most menial tasks take grand efforts, have difficulties performing at work, and are overwhelmed with seemingly trivial daily rituals.

Pay attention to the body.  It will guide you during this entire journey if you let it.  Be patient with yourself.  Treat yourself as if you are in an ICU.  Don’t be surprised when you cannot do normal tasks that were once easy to complete.  Remember that this is temporary….

Remember too that the body is taking on an impressive job of protecting you.  Honor and respect that whatever information your body gives you is vital.  Take it slow.  Rest, change up your routine, take time for “mindful living” to recharge.

Ask for help.

Be good to yourself.

Photo Credit.


  1. Melissa Thompson Sheehan said on February 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm ... #

    Hello Jill, What a wonderful page, full of wisdom! Hope all is going very well for ya!

  2. tom said on February 5, 2010 at 6:34 am ... #

    thanks Jill.

  3. Wanda said on February 10, 2010 at 8:08 pm ... #

    Great article! 14 years later and still helpful and needed information.

  4. Alison said on May 24, 2010 at 9:52 am ... #

    Thank you Jill for a great article, and i have to tell you i am quoting things you have told me over the last two years all the time. great article. while i didnt think i would surf those waves its happening… so glad that hand moved a little bit farther away….THANK YOU

  5. Rachel said on August 9, 2010 at 11:26 am ... #

    2 years later and I still feel like this- everyday. It wears me out to do anything at all and with 5 kids that’s not a good thing! Glad I found this article so I know it’s not just me/I’m not imaging things like I am sure people are now thinking being 2 years since my husband died, seems they think I should be “back to normal” by now. HA!

  6. Allyn Curry said on August 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm ... #

    My husband will be gone 1 year this Saturday 8-14. Thank you for your article. I used to be a whirlwind at home, chores, cooking, kids. Now Im a deflated balloon, I have no energy one day and the next I do. CRAZY!! The newest thing I am experiencing now are panic attacks in the morning before I wake up. I get sweatie, my heartbeats real fast and my stomach does flip flops. It passes but it does wake me up out of a sleep. This is a tough time for me, filled uncertainy and lonliness. Your words let me know Im not NUTS!! Thank you.

  7. Anonymous said on July 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm ... #

    Thanks for sharing. My physical and emotional state went crazy 9 months after my husbands death. He and I were separated but it was still so difficult. I had to go through what seems like 2 layers of grief. The death itself and the separation/breakdown of the marriage. I am so tired today.

  8. Patti Jacobs said on November 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm ... #

    It is just so hard to get through the day, trying to keep up with the daily task that present themselves. It has been a little over 5 months since my 44 yr old son died and I am so tired, tired of what life expects me to be able to do. I feel like curling up in a ball under the covers most of the time.

  9. Sandi Elzinga said on November 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm ... #

    After my husband died 10 years ago, I wish I had understood how drained the body gets. It would have saved me grief upon grief.
    Thanks for posting this.

  10. Faisal Rehman said on November 9, 2012 at 7:34 am ... #

    So True …

  11. atool said on November 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm ... #

    but what if shock of life is draning a person

  12. Lesley said on January 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm ... #

    My husband died 2 1/2 years ago leaving me with two boys aged 7 and 9. I feel like this all the time. It is SO good to hear that it’s not just being pathetic and useless. Thank you

  13. DAVE perl said on February 12, 2013 at 2:58 am ... #

    So true–my brother died at 46, 8 weeks ago..32 days later I turned 50

    16 days later I buried him

    3 days later I had 2 wisdom teeth removed

    And I am single–trying to find a mate BEFORE I DIE–and get a new job and settle down !

  14. Faisal Rehman said on May 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm ... #

    So true…The more you miss someone, and the more you remember him/ her, the more you grief, the more you cry and the more you get exhausted…

    Actually, its the feeling that you wish death had never occurred. Those are really lucky who die before witnessing some loved ones death…

    Really hope that we may meet our loved ones one day, and hope that the wait isn’t too long..

  15. Sandi said on June 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm ... #

    My daughter was murdered by her ex boyfriend, all because she has a heart, wanted to stay friends. She thought she could protect herself from him even knowing he was abusive and emotional and mentally controlling. It’s been 6 months. I miss her so terribly, she was my youngest and my closest of all three children. I have two grown boys that I hardly see because they are more involved in there girl friends lives. She was my only girl and we were very very close. When I start to grieve it’s like a horrific wave that hits and all I do is tumble around for the longest time. sometimes for two strait weeks. This last time I was physically ill due to graduations. I contemplate suicide even though I know deep in my heart I want to survive this and be happy again. It’s like I just cant figure out how to live again. Well I could go on and on. But I loved your artical, strait to the point. Thank you.

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