Navigating Grief

Navigating Grief

In the midst of an emotional storm with dark clouds and crashing waves, grief becomes its own entity. The aftermath of loss fluctuates in intensity, varying day by day or season to season. 

In grief, you can feel fine one minute but cry the next. You may be able to avoid it for months or years, but it will return. 

Whatever you are grieving in your life--the death of a loved one, a life-threatening decline in your health, or a relationship, for example--there are ways to cope with these changes.

When dealing with grief, remember to:

1) Take care of your heart

2) Take care of your health

3) Take care of your home


Take Care of Your Heart

Heart shaped amethyst

Taking care of your heart involves your emotional wellbeing.  From recognizing our triggers, seeking proper support, and facing our emotions, here are some tips:

Identify and confront your emotions 

You're breaking down, perhaps crying and screaming. You're confused, lost, or you feel out of control.

Taking a moment to identify what you're feeling and how it's affecting you is a helpful, self-soothing approach.  Label the emotion(s), get specific about why you're feeling them in the moment (what happened right before?), and identify how the emotion is affecting your body (any tension, pain, numbness?).  


I’m a reluctant fan of journaling.  I don’t like writing out my emotions, but it is a therapeutic technique. 

Journaling allows you to express, explore and process what you’re feeling.  As the saying goes, “what we resist persists”, and journaling is a good avenue for exploring and coming to terms with difficult emotions instead of trying to ignore them.  Additionally, your journal entries can show any patterns you may be experiencing in your grief, and where you may be stuck in your mourning.

Ask for Support from the Right People

During grief, you may experience some friends, family, and co-workers backing away.  Some people are uncomfortable dealing with tribulation.  They may not have enough experience or grace to acknowledge what you're going through. 

Others will offer to help but flake out, or they'll say something out of line to make things worse. 

This is why grieving can be such a lonely experience.  Not everyone has the support system that they need to get through life with fewer scars. 

But there are others who step up.  Some of them will know you well enough to provide the support you need from them.  Some of them may not know what to do, but they'll make an effort to show they care.  These people are your real tribe. 

Let the other ones fall away.  They may be overwhelmed with their own problems, or they may not have the depth of character you need right now.  Try not to internalize and take it personally.  

If you don't feel comfortable asking people for help, a good place to start is by explaining what you're struggling with. 

Love Yourself More Than Ever

Grief comes and goes in waves, but you're not going to drown if you resolve to keep moving forward.  Giving up is only easy in the moment, not long-term.  

Life can feel cruel at times, but don't take it out on yourself.  While it's important to have support from others, you are your own champion.  The only person who can completely save yourself is you. 

Grief requires the ultimate kindness and self-care to navigate it.  I've known people who gave up on their lives after losing someone important, and it is an absolute tragedy.  

Life won't always be easy just because you're committed to doing your best, but remember: time is a gift, and you're still here for a reason.  

Feel all of the difficult emotions that you need to process, and realize you won't feel this terrible forever. 

Take Care of Your Health

Crow pose in yoga

Taking care of your health involves mental and physical wellbeing. 

Try Therapy

The world would be a much better place if more people went to therapy.  It takes courage to seek out help; it's not a sign of weakness. 

Finding the right therapist is just as beneficial as finding the right doctor.  Taking notes during sessions is also helpful. There are so many variations with therapists in terms of practices, backgrounds, and personalities.   

Remember: Like the rest of us, mental health professionals are imperfect humans with bias and judgment.   They can't always relate to every experience their clients have, and sometimes they may make critical statements. Don't give up if your therapy session isn't helpful enough. Find the right therapist who will understand your situation and help you work through it. 

Join a support group

Interacting with others who've experienced similar circumstances is beneficial.  It's a reminder that you're not alone, and what you're feeling is not crazy--it's normal. Aside from in-person support groups through local organizations, online groups are readily available on various social media platforms.  


Take breaks in your life whenever possible.  Try meditation, breathing exercises, and other practices to soothe your central nervous system. Light some candles, take a bath. 

As someone who has struggled with insomnia for a few years, I’ve learned how much one or two nights of bad rest can affect my mental health.

What helps me sleep? One hour or more of exercise per day, no sugar or alcohol at night, reading before bed, going on vacation, enjoying the outdoors and natural light, cooler bedroom temperatures, and other stress-reduction techniques.

...And Heal Through Movement

Balance rest and activity to keep your energy inflow.

Grief can easily morph into depression. Movement is healing, and sometimes it's as simple as getting out of bed or off the couch.  On the bad days, that can be easier said than done.

Go outdoors for some fresh air or take a vacation.

Ask someone to join you for a workout, try a yoga class, or find stretching videos on YouTube. 

Take Care of Your Home


Taking care of your home is about your surroundings, including anyone who lives with you. 

This is the hardest area to keep up with when dealing with the early stages of a loss. Realize you probably can't tackle so many responsibilities alone, and that's why it's okay to enlist help. It can be even more difficult when you're cleaning up the affairs of someone else who died. 

It's important not to overextend yourself.  Remember to ask for help when it's needed--especially in the beginning. 

Sensory Environment

For most people, our environment can affect our stress.  What scents provide tranquility?  What foods satisfy your taste buds? What colors are the most pleasant for your home? What music helps you relax? 

For me, it's dim lighting at night, the occasional bath, and food I'm excited to eat. 

Explore the five senses of touch, taste, see, smell and hear, and see where your surroundings can use some peaceful improvement. 

Clean and Organize

Your home is your sanctuary, and it can be helpful towards supporting you in difficult times.  

In the months after my mom died, I struggled with keeping my house in the same shape.  I was exhausted from grief, and work zapped most of my energy.  

After too many days and nights zoning out on my couch, watching crappy tv, and occasionally crying, I realized I was getting stuck in my grief. 

Cleaning and organizing my home eventually became therapeutic for me. It broke the stagnation and made me move around.

During grief, many of us feel helpless because we're dealing with things beyond our control.  

Cleaning my home, decluttering each room, and organizing drawers and closets helped me focus on what I could control: recreating a soothing place to live. 

Don't Forget Your Loved Ones

Your family, your pets, and your plants still need love.  It can sound like such a silly reminder, but relationships and responsibilities can fall to the wayside when we're in despair.

Pets and plants often get neglected first when someone becomes overwhelmed with grief.  Set reminders to water your plants and feed your pets, if needed.  

Grief can affect the people closest to us.  Let your loved ones know how much you appreciate them being there for you. 

Create Something

Self-expression is important, and finding more than one avenue is beneficial. Be mindful of your energy level and pick something appropriate.  

Draw. Paint. Play Music. Take a pottery class.  Try woodwork, calligraphy, or cooking. Perhaps your go-to hobbies and interests are not bringing you the same joy during your mourning period.  Try something new or revisit an older hobby you used to enjoy. Channel pain into creativity, or just find something where your mind can focus and be in the zone.  


Finally, I have a couple more tips for anyone dealing with the death of a loved one:

There may be some things you aren't ready to face yet, but when you're ready, you can connect with your loved one and find healing. 

Find a Way to Honor the Memory of Your Loved One

Go to their favorite restaurant on their birthday, create a photo album or altar of your loved one's portraits and favorite things, visit a place they loved, donate or provide charity work in their honor, visit their gravesite, plant a tree in their memory, create something that you would have given to them on a special day. 

Start in small steps, knowing that these experiences can be emotional. 

If you ever get stuck in your grief over someone dying (assuming this was a healthy, non-toxic relationship), ask yourself: What would this person want me to do?

My mom would have wanted me to clean my house, and that's where I started.