We asked our team and our members for their top tips on dealing with grief. Although we’ve all been through it, everyone has had a different experience and has learned to process their thoughts and feelings in different ways.
Some of us had a lot of support and others had very little of the type of support they needed.
The most important thing to remember is that you can’t compare grief. Your experience will be different to everyone else’s. Unfortunately people might try to compare their grief with yours, or offer unhelpful advice or observations, like “You should have moved on by now”.
We want to share these tips to give you some ideas – pick and choose the ones that work best for you and that bring you comfort.
Here are our top 20 tips about how to deal with grief:
1. Allow yourself to grieve
It is important to allow yourself to feel your emotions, even the difficult ones. Don’t try to suppress your grief or pretend that you’re not feeling anything.
2. Talk about your loss with someone you trust
Talking about your grief can help you to process your feelings and to feel less alone. This could be a friend, family member, therapist, or grief counselor. If you don’t have someone to talk to, try writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal or a letter.
3. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally
Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise. You may also want to consider talking to a therapist or grief counselor.
4. Look for ways to manage life admin
Bereavement and loss are not only exhausting but they come with a massive new to-do list. Look for any opportunities to cross things off your list or delegate them to others.
Some things simply don’t need to be done till later – make a list of them so you don’t forget, but give yourself space to leave them be for now. Use social media to share brief updates, rather than replying to everyone individually. Ask people to do specific tasks to take them off your list.
5. Find healthy ways to cope with your grief
This could include journaling, creative expression, spending time in nature, or talking to a therapist.
6. Honor your loved one’s memory
This could mean keeping a photo of them in your home, telling stories about them, or doing something that they loved to do.
7. Allow yourself to grieve at your own pace
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no set timeline for how long it will last. You don’t need to explain yourself or justify your process to others. They may have expectations that you should be feeling better by a certain point, but this is their mistake – not a reflection of how you’re doing. Take your time.
8. Be patient with yourself
Grieving is a process and it takes time. Be patient with yourself as you heal. You may need to remind others to be patient as well, or keep a little distance from people who don’t understand this.
9. Don’t compare your grief to the grief of others
Everyone’s grief is unique. Don’t compare your grief to the grief of others. Try to ignore it when other people do this and don’t take it to heart.
10. Avoid using alcohol or drugs to cope with your grief
These substances can numb your emotions in the short term, but they can make your grief worse in the long term, and cause other health problems that you don’t need.
11. Carefully consider major decisions or changes
Ideally we would all have plenty of time to grieve before making any major decisions, such as changing jobs or moving. However, if you really do need to make a change, consider it fully and make sure you’re protecting yourself as you do so.
"When my husband died, uninsured, I could no longer afford the mortgage on our house. Lots of people said "Don't make any major decisions too soon" but this one had to be made, and quickly before all my money ran out. I didn't want to talk to people about the financial aspect so I arranged moving to rent a cheap apartment. I know there was judgement about moving "too soon" but they didn't know how necessary it was."
12. Consider attending a grief support group
Grief support groups can be a great way to connect with others who are going through the same thing. Sometimes they will be a fantastic comfort, and other times they may not click with you and you will find the group unhelpful. Don’t feel you need to stick it out in the wrong group, or if it is making you feel worse.
13. Read books or articles about grief
There are many helpful books and articles available that can offer support and guidance. Some people find that during bereavement, they want to read everything – and gather all the stories and advice they can that resonates with them at the time. Other people find reading about grief and bereavement to be awful and would prefer to avoid it. Read as much as works for you.
14. Seek professional help if you need it
If you are struggling to cope with your grief, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or grief counselor can help you to understand your grief and to develop healthy coping mechanisms. If you try talking to a professional and it is not helpful, it is important to try and find another therapist/counsellor/doctor that works for you. They all have different approaches and one therapist’s approach is not a reflection of all of them. Keep looking until you find the right match that can provide you the support you need.
15. Do things that make you happy
Find activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good. Doing things that you enjoy can help you to take your mind off of your grief and to feel better emotionally.
16. Gather stories and memories about the person you’ve lost
Start a collection of thoughts, events, photos, and memories about the person. There may be an online memorial site you can contribute to – or you may want to set one up (just keep an eye on any fees required for these). Ask people to send you stories, photos, or anecdotes that you can save for later.
17. Remind others that things may be difficult for you
Ideally everyone would remember that you’re going through a terrible time and give you some grace. However, most of us have experienced that this doesn’t always happen. Find some words that sit well with you, that you can use to explain to others that you may find a situation difficult, so you can remind them in a way that is less stressful for you.
For example: “I’m dealing with a lot right now, so I won’t be able to…”, or “Life has been pretty tough lately so I’m not as excited about the holidays as I usually am”.
18. Don’t feel that you need to socialise in the same ways as before
Give yourself permission to skip or minimise social events, or just attend for a short time. Protect your time and energy, especially if you find social events draining or stressful.
19. Keep working on the next step and try to be persistent
This might be the last thing you feel like doing. When we’re grieving, and things are difficult, or people aren’t helpful, we don’t feel like trying again. Maybe you talk to a counsellor who is unhelpful, or a friend who doesn’t understand and says something unkind. Maybe you try a support group and you don’t fit in. Maybe you feel stuck in a decision. While it is incredibly difficult, please try again. Try a different counsellor, or a different friend. Try a new support group or find a different way to approach your decision. Ideally the first thing we try will work out! But in reality it often doesn’t work this way. Keep trying, and try again even if you don’t feel like it.
Grief is exhausting. Allow yourself to take naps and rest when you need it.
I hope these tips help you on your journey through grief.