Skip to main content


What Should I Say to Someone Who is Grieving?

By AfterCare, Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving. It’s not because they are difficult to talk to or that you’re a poor conversationalist. Most of the time, our discomfort boils down to the fact that we don’t deal with death on a daily basis (and therefore, don’t have much experience with how to talk about it), and we don’t want to say the wrong thing. That’s why it can be helpful to have a plan in place when you know you’re going to offer condolences for a recent loss. To help you prepare in advance, let’s review some helpful tips and useful phrases.

woman kindly holding another woman's hand in caring gesture

Tip #1: Acknowledge their loss

Perhaps one of the most straightforward yet necessary things you can do is acknowledge their loss. They have experienced something truly heart-wrenching, and your simple acknowledgement and sympathy can go a long way.

You can choose a phrase that feels natural to you, but a few options are:

  • “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
  • “I heard about your dad. I’m so sorry.”
  • “I can’t imagine how hard this must be. I’m so sorry.”
  • “I was so sorry to hear about your loved one.”

Mother and daughter sitting on couch, sharing memories

Tip #2: Share a memory

If you had a personal connection to the person who has died, it can be sweet and meaningful to share a memory. One of the ways that we work through feelings of grief is by reminiscing about the memorable moments. Oftentimes, the grieving person may share the same story more than once, and that’s okay. It’s needed and necessary. So, sharing a story of your own, when possible, can be a perfect addition to your condolences.

A word of caution: if the grieving person seems very fragile, ask permission before sharing a story. Also, only share positive memories in your condolences. While it is important to work through any negative feelings, wait for an appropriate time. Your condolence is not the time.

Here are a few suggested phrases:

  • “I remember your mom’s sense of humor. She always had us laughing.”
  • “My favorite memory of your sister was when…”
  • “Would it be okay if I shared a few stories with you? Things that I remember about your grandmother?”

Adult man and woman sitting across from each other, woman talking while man listens

Tip #3: Give them the opportunity to talk

If you don’t have a story to share or don’t feel comfortable doing so, you could instead provide a chance to talk. As mentioned, talking about the person who has died is a necessary part of the grieving process. Be a safe person to share with and engage in active listening.

A word to the wise: Don’t offer advice or compare their experience to your own grief experiences. You may have gone through a similar loss, but you aren’t necessarily feeling the same things. Every person grieves differently, so instead, simply listen, comfort, and be present. If they ask about your experience, then feel free to share.

A few useful phrases you could use are:

  • “This must be so hard. Would you like to talk about it?”
  • “I’m here to listen if you want to talk. I’d love to hear about your loved one.”
  • “When I lost my mom, it helped to talk about her. I’m here to listen if you want to talk.”
  • “I’m here for you.”

Two young, female friends sitting on a couch, one sad while the other offer support

Tip #4: Validate their feelings

Most people try to keep their emotions under control in public settings. However, you can show extra kindness by validating, normalizing, and recognizing their feelings. Grief is hard, and really, we need to let out the emotions welling up inside. Once again, be a safe person. Don’t try to “fix it” because you can’t. Instead, offer a nonjudgmental space. Let them express what’s going on inside. Be compassionate, caring, and gracious.

What does this look like in words? Here are a few thoughts:

  • “Whatever you’re feeling is okay. This is hard.”
  • “You don’t have to keep it together around me. It’s okay not to be okay.”
  • “I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I’m here to listen if you want to share.”
  • “I wish I could make things better.”
  • “I wish I had the right words to say, but please know I’m here for you.”

Two older men sitting on a couch, one comforting the other who is upset

Tip #5: Stay away from cliches or platitudes

One thing to remember as you offer condolences is to stay away from cliches or platitudes. They are rarely helpful, and often, they feel hollow and impersonal. In some cases, they may even be harmful. For instance, saying “Everything happens for a reason” is intended to be comforting, but really, what possible reason could there be for this person’s death? Especially if it’s a sudden or unexpected death or someone who is still young.

Here are some phrases to STAY AWAY from:

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “Look at what you have to be thankful for.”
  • “It’s part of God’s plan.”
  • “He’s in a better place now.”
  • “At least…” (…you can get married again, you had time together, you can have more children)
  • “This is behind you now. It’s time to get on with your life.”

Man delivering crate of groceries to older woman

Tip #6: Take supportive action

Following a loss, it can be hard to keep up with the everyday things. Grief takes a lot of time and emotional headspace. In fact, it’s not uncommon to forget things when you’re grieving. That’s why it can be kind to offer practical help. But don’t leave the responsibility on the grieving person. In other words, don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.” Instead, say, “I’m going to drop off a casserole for you on Tuesday. What time should I drop it off?”

Here are some ways you can provide practical help to someone who is grieving:

  • Shop for groceries or run errands
  • Mow the lawn
  • Drop off a casserole
  • Help with insurance forms or bills
  • Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry or taking out the trash
  • Watch their children or pick them up from school
  • Look after their pets
  • Go with them to a support group meeting
  • Accompany them on a walk
  • Take them to lunch or a movie
  • Share an enjoyable activity (sport, game, puzzle, art project)

Sometimes, just being a friend is exactly what they need and doing normal activities together can make things comfortable for both of you.

man in brown sport coat hugging woman, focus on man's back and woman's hands as they hug

Tip #7: Give them a hug

Physical touch is powerful, and often, it says more than words. The grieving person may not feel like talking, and that’s okay. Instead, offer eye contact and a sympathetic expression. Squeeze their hand or shoulder. If you’re family or a friend, give them a hug. If tears come, let them come. Don’t let the tears bother you. Don’t try to stop them or make a joke to lighten the moment. Sometimes, it’s best to just sit and be and let the emotions come. And if you are willing to sit and be present with them, that’s a gift.

Young woman video calling with older friend, checking in on her

Tip #8: Check in

Even after you’ve offered your initial condolences, consider taking it a step further. People in grief need support for months and sometimes years following the loss. To let them know you care, you can send a thoughtful gift. Reach out on special dates, like birthdays and anniversaries. Offer childcare or a lunch date. Text or call to ask how they are and if there’s anything you can do to help. Write a card or invite them to a day at the spa or the golf club. There are many ways you can support them in the days and months following a loss. Just make sure to follow through and let them know you’re available.

Before we go, remember – no matter what you say – it doesn’t have to be perfect to be supportive. You don’t need to take their pain away – that’s impossible. If they don’t open up right away, don’t force it, but also, don’t steer the conversation away from the death. Let things happen naturally. The grieving person simply needs you to show that you care and that you love them, no matter what they are working through.

For most suggestions on how to support a grieving friend or loved one, read:

10 Caring and Creative Sympathy Gifts

8 Simple Tips for Writing a Meaningful Condolence Letter

6 Things You Should Never Say to a Grieving Person

6 MORE Things You Should Never Say to a Grieving Person

7 Tips for Helping a Grieving Friend

Sympathy Cards: What to Write & Examples

By AfterCare, Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

Sending someone a sympathy card is a thoughtful way to show your support and let the bereaved know that you are thinking of them. But what should you write in a sympathy card? It can be difficult to know what to write to someone who has lost a loved one, but sharing a thoughtful message is a good way to encourage the bereaved.

To help you express your condolences in a thoughtful and meaningful way, we’ve put together some ideas for what to write in a sympathy card. Your relationship with both the deceased and the person who is grieving will affect how long or short your note is, so just use these ideas as a starting point.

Here are 5 ideas for what you can write in your sympathy card:

older woman comforting her adult daughter

Express your condolences

Often the first step in writing a sympathy note is expressing your condolences. This can be as simple as writing “I’m sorry for your loss” or “Please accept my condolences on the loss of ____.” Focus on offering words of comfort and support, like “I’m here for you if you need to talk” or “You’re not alone in this. I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Keep in mind that sometimes it is better to say nothing at all than to say something that might upset or offend the bereaved person. If you had a strained relationship with the deceased, it is perfectly acceptable to simply express your condolences to the family without further comment. More neutral statements like “I am so sorry for your loss” or “My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family during this difficult time” can be a good way to express your sympathy for the family’s grief without being dishonest about your feelings.

Don’t shy away from using “death” or “died” in your condolences. While substitutions like “passed away” or “didn’t make it” may feel softer and more considerate, acknowledging someone’s death is an important part of the grieving process. As long as your tone is gentle, using the words “death,” “died,” or “dead” is acceptable.


  • I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • My deepest sympathies/thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family during this difficult time.
  • I will miss ____ very much.
  • I’m thinking of you in this difficult time.
  • You’re not alone in this. I’ll be with you every step of the way.

Share fond memories and appreciation of the deceased

If you were close to the deceased, you can also share fond memories or express your appreciation for them in your sympathy card. Reading about your gratitude for the deceased can help the grieving person feel connected to their loved one and may bring some comfort during this difficult time. As you share stories, be sincere – if you don’t have positive memories of the deceased, it would be better to simply offer your condolences.

When sharing memories, highlight the deceased’s qualities or mention how they made a positive impact on your life. You can also share a story that illustrates how much the person meant to you. As you share your memories, keep it relatively short and make sure that your focus remains on the deceased and not on yourself.


  • I’m so grateful I had the chance to know ____ and his/her kindness and compassion.
  • ____ was always so kind and helped me through [situation].
  • I always smile when I remember [memory].

man in a blue shirt offering his hand to help someone up

Offer to help

If you want to offer help to the grieving person in your sympathy card, make sure you are truly willing and able to follow through. It can be difficult for someone who is grieving to ask for help, so offering your assistance can be a nice gesture. But only offer help if you are actually willing to commit to it – otherwise, your offer may do more harm than good.

When you offer to help, do so in concrete ways. Saying “Let me know if you need anything” is vague and noncommittal, and many people won’t feel comfortable asking for help. Think of a specific way you could help, like cooking a meal, doing yard work, providing child or pet care, or listening and talking with them.


  • If you need someone to look after ____, I’m always available on the weekends.
  • I know I’m far away, but if you want to talk, I’m just a phone call away OR my number is ____.
  • I’d love to bring over a meal for you and your family. Just let me know what day would be best for you!
  • I know you have a lot going on, so let me know if you need someone to pick up groceries or help with chores. I’d be happy to help.

two girls comforting each other

Avoid making comparisons or minimizing the loss

When you are writing to a grieving person, it is important to avoid making comparisons or talking about yourself. This can be difficult, as you may want to share your own experiences to empathize with the person you are writing to. However, writing too much about yourself can take away from the focus on the deceased and make the grieving person feel like you are dismissing their grief. Remember that everyone grieves differently and what worked for you may not work for them.

You should also avoid saying anything that might place blame on the deceased or trivialize the feelings of the bereaved. For example, don’t say “I’m sorry for your loss, but at least he lived a long life.” In general, it’s a good idea to avoid adding a statement that starts with “but” after offering your condolences.

Also, try not to use clichés and platitudes such as “Everything happens for a reason” or “They’re in a better place now.” These phrases may be well-intentioned, but they often fall flat and can even come across as insensitive.

Phrases to avoid:

  • I know how you feel.
  • When I lost ____, I…
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • It’ll get better.
  • They’re in a better place now.
  • It was his/her time.

person writing a note in a sympathy card

Add a personal sign-off

When you sign your card, you may or may not choose to include a short sign-off. If you do include one, keep it personal and informal. While the classic “Sincerely” may seem like a good option, it could seem overly formal. Use a sign-off that expresses your sadness and your support for your friend.


  • With love,
  • Praying for you,
  • With sympathy,
  • Thinking of you,
  • Sharing your sadness,
  • Here for you,

To make your sympathy note personal, consider which of these ideas you should include. It’s okay if you can’t think of a story to share or don’t know how you could help the bereaved. If you are struggling with what to say, keep things short and simple. A short, kind message means more than one that rambles or focuses on the writer. Focus on being sincere and kind, and your grieving friend will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

shows memorial benches along the middle of a inlet walkway with lighthouse are end of wharf

9 Outdoor Memorial Ideas to Honor a Loved One

By Explore Options, Grief/Loss, Memorial

When you’re grieving the death of a loved one, it helps to find just the right way to honor their life. Sometimes that may mean painting a portrait, creating a scholarship fund, or writing down the story of your life together. Other times, when the person particularly enjoyed the sun and fresh air, it might mean creating an outdoor memorial.

To help you think through all the possibilities, here are 9 ways you could honor your loved one’s life outdoors.

white rose resting on top of gray granite headstone

1. Personalized Headstone

First, let’s look at a traditional option – a personalized headstone or grave marker. Whether it’s a burial plot or a cremation niche, you can customize a headstone or plaque that is meaningful. Include a sweet sentiment. Choose a unique color or shape. Add a photo or special image. There really are a lot of custom options available to you, if you’d like to honor your loved one’s life in this way. For more information on how you can create a one-of-a-kind headstone, read 6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker or Gravestone Recipes: Adding a Sweet Touch to a Memorial Marker.

shows memorial benches along the middle of a inlet walkway with lighthouse are end of wharf

2. Bench with Memorial Message

Whether it’s at a cemetery, a favorite park, or even in the middle of downtown, you’ve likely seen memorial benches. Often built of wood or metal, the bench stands in a picturesque or meaningful location and includes a message. The message could be anything you want. Forever loved. In loving memory of <person’s name>. For <person’s name>, impractically perfect in every way. You could also choose a special quote or add a few details about the person. With metal benches, you can even include cutout shapes and various colors to make the bench even more unique.

shows person hugging a tree trunk that has a red heart painted on it

3. Remembrance Tree

If you prefer a completely natural option, you can plant a remembrance tree. While it’s certainly not required, you can also bury a loved one’s ashes with the tree. There are biodegradable urns specifically intended for this purpose. In the top section, seeds and soil mix together, and the ashes rest in a lower section. First, the seeds grow in the soil, and once they reach a certain level of growth, the roots spread down to the ashes, and everything mingles together. With this option, you have grown a tree that supports the environment, but also created a lasting memorial for someone you love.

shows a white outdoor flag against a wall of ivy

4. Memorial Flag

Whether you want a smaller garden flag or a full-sized flag, you can order a custom flag to honor your loved one’s life. Add a favorite photo. Use their favorite color. Choose a flag with a special image, like hearts, flowers, teddy bears, bees. Whatever makes it personal. Then, display it whenever you want. You may want to leave it out all year, or you could put it out on the person’s birthday or the anniversary of their death. There’s no right or wrong way. Simply do what feels right and helps you honor their life.

Shows small stone painted like a fox sitting in the grass

5. Garden Stone

You don’t need a garden to use an outdoor garden stone to honor a loved one’s life. You can either add a personalized plaque to a larger rock, or you can paint a smaller rock. Then, you can place the stone outside your home in a place that makes the most sense for you. That might be in your yard, on your patio, or lined against the walkway to your front door. This option is very versatile, and if you move or want to change things up, you can easily transport the stone to a new location.

Grandfather and grandson building a custom bird feeder

6. Bird Feeder

If birds are special to you or your loved one, then a memorial bird feeder may be just the right thing. You can choose one that appeals to you and add personalized elements, such as a loved one’s name or photo. You can choose the color or design based on their favorite feathered friend, such as red for the cardinal or rust orange for the robin. Then, select the best tree in your yard for its home. Every time you see a bird visiting the feeder, it’s like your loved one is enjoying it, too.

shows silver wind chime with hearts

7. Wind Chime

If you don’t have a large outdoor space, a wind chime doesn’t require much room and holds its own charm. Select a wind chime that feels like the perfect match for your needs and then find a space to hang it up. You can even add customized touches, like a specific color or engraving. Once its in place, the chime’s windswept tones will become a sweet reminder. Some days, it may even feel as if your loved one has stopped by to say hello.

Shows a light wood roadside cross with flowers and gifts around it

8. Memorial Cross

All of us have passed memorial crosses on the side of the road, marking the place where someone loved lost their life. For those who are lost tragically, a memorial cross can bring a sense of comfort to family and friends. It provides a place to mourn, but it also brings attention. Other people – even strangers – will pass by and think kindly of your loved one. Who were they? What were they like? And in a small way, your loved one’s memory lives on and serves as a reminder to value life and to live well.

Young woman creating a sculpture in an art studio

9. Sculpture

Finally, while this option is not for everyone, it may feel right and appropriate for your circumstances. With this form of outdoor memorial, there really are no creative boundaries. Though the most famous memorial sculptures are often associated with historical figures or key historical events, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can commission something small for your own backyard or for a local organization your loved one supported. In fact, many organizations have a memorial wall where beloved contributors are honored and remembered.

Please remember, these ideas only scratch the surface. There are so many ways that you can honor a loved one with an outdoor memorial, so let your imagination loose. And as you consider the best way to honor your loved one’s life, you will find that the process is helping you work through your feelings on the journey to healing and reconciliation.

Woman sitting alone on couch, wrapped in gray blanket

Recognizing Unhealthy Coping Habits

By Grief/Loss

Losing someone you love can throw you off-balance and make you feel like you’re losing control of your life. This is completely normal in the early stages of grief. Whether you’re feeling sad, angry, guilty, numb – all of these are natural reactions to loss. However, the intensity of your grief should decrease over time, becoming less sharp, less overwhelming. Unfortunately, for some, grief can trigger or exacerbate unhealthy coping habits, leading to something called “negative coping.” When these habits are unaddressed or go on too long, they can seriously affect your ability to live a healthy life.

Woman laying in bed, having trouble sleeping

What is “Negative Coping”?

First, let’s look at negative coping, so you have a clear understanding of what it is and how to identify it.


While we all cope with grief and stress in our own ways, there are some habits that are destructive to a person’s health – both physical and emotional. “Negative coping” refers to any behavior that is used to avoid painful emotions or situations. These numbing actions provide momentary relief (“avoidance”), but they do not facilitate healing in any way.

Why is negative coping bad?

The biggest reason negative coping is so harmful is because it prevents you from dealing with your emotions in a healthy way. In a way, you get trapped in a cycle of avoidance. It’s too hard to deal with the emotions, so you numb yourself with other things. These other things aren’t necessarily bad on their own, but they can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. For example, it’s fine to enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage now and then, but if you are leaning on alcohol to numb your feelings, there’s a problem.

How do I know when someone is participating in negative coping?

It can be hard to pinpoint because everyone experiences grief in a different way, but numbing activities are a good indicator. For example, if you know someone who has been watching TV a lot, that may not be a sign of negative coping. However, if that person is actively avoiding all other responsibilities, isolating themselves, and skipping work to watch TV (even months after the loss), then there’s cause for concern.

Now that you understand negative coping, let’s discuss 4 unhealthy coping habits to avoid.

Middle-aged woman sitting at her desk with laptop, glasses, and cup of tea nearby

4 Unhealthy Coping Habits to Avoid

Before we look at some of the more damaging unhealthy coping habits, it’s important to understand that any behavior can be unhealthy when it’s used incorrectly. For instance, if you spend too much money, eat too much food, sleep too much, or watch TV too much, you can develop an unhealthy habit around that behavior. It’s important to evaluate why you are doing it and what you are avoiding.

Here are some normal behaviors that can take on an unhealthy edge during times of loss:

  • Working long hours/staying busy
  • Focusing on the needs of your family only/ignoring yourself
  • Using food to numb your feelings
  • Forgetting self-care/hygiene
  • Sleeping too much
  • Allowing an activity to consume your life (working out, TV, video games, etc.)

While all of these are concerning, there are some coping habits that are particularly damaging to your physical and emotional health. Participating in these activities may end up harming you or someone else.

#1 – Living in Denial

While denial is a normal part of grief, it should pass relatively quickly. When you see a loved one’s body at the visitation, attend the service, or help scatter the ashes, these actions all help you accept the reality of the death. However, refusing to acknowledge reality or choosing to live in denial can be very harmful. This doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t believe the death occurred, but it does mean you’ve shut off your emotions. If you don’t come to some form of acceptance, it can lead to fewer meaningful connections and feeling trapped in an emotional purgatory. Without meaningful connections, the zest for life is lost, and you live the shadow of a life you could have.

Woman sitting alone on couch, wrapped in gray blanket

#2 – Choosing Isolation and Withdrawal

When things are hard, running away sometimes feels like a good idea. One way to run from dealing with your feelings is to withdraw and isolate. While this behavior may feel comforting in the moment, it leads to feelings of loneliness and a higher risk of mental health problems. When the grief feels like it’s ripping you apart, it is hard to engage with others, but it’s important that you do. You don’t have to become a social butterfly but let in the people who are closest to you. Be open and honest with those you trust and start to engage with your feelings. It will help, and you can balance your emotional needs.

#3 – Using Addictive Substances

Science tells us that some people are more likely than others to develop an addiction. Sometimes, an addiction starts from a desire to fit in with others, but often, it begins during times of great stress. Whether it’s alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, the temptation to overuse addictive substances lies in their ability to help numb the emotions. We are looking for an external way to heal internal pain, but it’s only temporary. To truly heal, you have to confront the pain and deal with it. With this unhealthy habit, the effects can be far-reaching, including permanent damage to your body or even criminal charges.

Older man sitting alone at home, elbow on knee with hand to face

#4 – Engaging in High-Risk Behavior

Perhaps the most alarming unhealthy habit is engaging in high-risk behavior. This could include abusing alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, but it refers to other things, too. It could mean compulsive spending, gambling, self-harm, reckless driving, getting into an unhealthy relationship, or unsafe sexual activity. These activities can have very real and long-lasting consequences, which makes them particularly harmful. For example, gambling can lead to extreme debt or reckless driving can lead to criminal charges. High-risk behavior is a very obvious indicator that someone is not processing their grief in a healthy way.

If you find yourself or a loved one participating in any of these harmful behaviors or you are simply having trouble finding a healthy balance in your life, it’s helpful to talk with someone – a trusted friend, a pastor, a church elder, a licensed counselor. Suppressing your feelings gets you to no place good, so even though it hurts, face them head on.

Renowned grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt puts it this way, “From my own experiences with loss as well as those of the thousands of people I have counseled over the years, I have learned that we cannot go around the pain of our grief. Instead, we must learn to embrace and express it. This is hard but absolutely necessary work.”

man and woman sitting on couch, woman comforting man

How Can I Express My Pain in a Healthy Way?

Every person and every grief journey is unique, which means you have to figure out which healing actions work for you. However, there are many tried and true options that have been successful for a variety of people. Give different activities a try and see what works for you. For tips on healthy grieving habits, take a moment to read 10 Helpful Tips When Grieving a Loss, How Creativity Can Help You Deal with Loss, and 5 Benefits of a Grief Journal.

Grief is hard, and you may find yourself staggering from the loss. Even so, for your own sake, find a way to work through your emotions. Name them. Embrace them. And eventually, begin to heal from them. In the meantime, if you need help moving away from unhealthy coping habits, reach out to a grief therapist. They can help you do the work of grief and get on the road to healing.

5 Ways to Help Grieving Seniors

By Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

From grandparents to elders in the community, you likely know several people who are 75 or older. Many of the seniors you know have probably found ways to stay active and healthy in their later years, but some, especially grieving seniors, might seem to retreat and disconnect.

As more of their friends and family members die, seniors may feel lonely and overwhelmed by grief. Many seniors can even experience “compounded grief,” which is a result of experiencing multiple losses in a short time. This grief can weigh down the elderly, making each day more of a struggle.

Seniors might feel like the world around them is changing rapidly, which can leave them feeling depressed, isolated, and less motivated to engage in day-to-day activities. If you have a senior in your life who is showing signs of grief, here are 5 ways you can support them:

1. Assist with everyday tasks

woman and daughter helping senior woman bake

Offering to help your senior friend in practical ways can be a huge help. For seniors, navigating everyday tasks can be challenging, especially when they’re dealing with grief or depression. By offering to help with small tasks, you’ll show them that you care about them and want to help. For example, you could drive them to doctor’s appointments, do some yard work, clean the house, cook a meal with them, or bring them groceries or their favorite treats.

As much as you want to help them, make sure you ask permission and respect their wishes. Many seniors want to live independent lives, so they may resist your attempts to help. Make sure they know that you’re trying to make their life easier, not trying to take away their independence when you offer to help.

2. Help them get involved in the community

senior man volunteering and picking up trash

Sometimes seniors feel lonely and forgotten, especially as more of their friends pass away. However, exploring their interests can help them connect with others. Many community centers, libraries, churches, or local clubs host monthly or weekly groups. With book clubs, gardening groups, crafting sessions, and even virtual groups, there are plenty of ways for seniors to dive into a hobby or project. Best of all, they can make new friends along the way.

Additionally, seniors might find it fulfilling to volunteer in the community. Donating their time, money, or items can remind them that they can still make an impact. For example, seniors could volunteer at animal shelters, community gardens, food banks, or school fundraisers. And, if you volunteer alongside them, you’ll build up your relationship while supporting the community together.

3. Spend time with them

woman helping senior man

As seniors begin losing their friends, they can feel like they’re all alone. By spending time with them, you can help them feel less lonely. You could cook together, play board games or cards, or sit and talk. You could even take them out for a day on the town to go shopping or get lunch. As you strengthen your relationship with them, your presence will help reassure them that they still matter to you.

Even more importantly, take time to listen to them. Listening shows that you’re interested in someone and care about their life and experiences. Whether your senior friend wants to talk about the grief they experience or reminisce about times gone by, you can make them feel secure and validate their feelings. Listening to a senior can also benefit you; you might hear a new story or learn from their wisdom and experience.

4. Include them in family events

young girl and senior man playing game with blocks

Whether the senior you want to help is a family member or a friend, including them in family events can help them feel like a part of something. Plus, if you have young children or teenagers, spending time with the elderly can have a positive impact on their lives. There are plenty of ways to involve a senior. You could bring the kids around for a visit, host a game or movie night, or invite them to a family dinner, your child’s sports game, or a school play.

Inviting your elderly friend or family member to join your family during the holidays can have an even greater impact. The holidays can be a heavy reminder of the people a grieving senior has lost, but surrounding them with love and care can help them find joy in the season.

5. Encourage them to find outside support

seniors supporting each other

While some seniors might dislike the idea of counseling, support groups and therapy are beneficial for people who have experienced loss. Outside support can help grieving seniors process their emotions, especially if they’re dealing with compounded grief from multiple losses. Plus, hearing from others about their struggles can remind seniors that they’re not alone.

Some seniors might resist your attempts to help them at first. Be respectful of their boundaries, but also remind them that you care about them and you’re there to support them. Whether you’re seeking to help a parent, a grandparent, or an elderly friend, you can take small steps to include them in your life. While a senior might feel overwhelmed by their grief, knowing that you’re there to help and truly want what’s best for them will bring them comfort.

Young woman sitting on couch, holding her stomach in pain

8 Physical Responses to Grief

By Grief/Loss

While we’re all familiar with the emotional aspects of grief – feeling sad, angry, shocked, relieved – the body can also respond physically to loss. For many people, the physical response often shows up as feeling extremely tired, but there are many other possible responses. Often, the more intense your emotional grief, the more likely you are to respond physically. We’re going to review 8 of those responses today, but first, let’s talk about what’s going on with your body.

young man sitting on couch with one hand on head and the other holding a glass of water

What’s Happening to My Body?

Every system of the body is connected in some way or another. That’s why the grief and stress you feel can begin to take a physical toll on your body. Just like work-related stress can begin to manifest in sleepless nights, headaches, racing thoughts, and heart palpitations, grief-related stress can do the same.

It will take time for your mind and emotions to come to grips with the loss you’ve suffered, and while you process your feelings, your body may also take a hit. The type of physical symptom you experience and its severity will vary from person to person. For some, the physical symptoms will include exhaustion and that’s it. For others, it might include exhaustion along with several other things.

Additionally, if you already have an existing physical condition, grief stress may exacerbate it. For example, if you have high blood pressure on a regular day, it may be harder to regulate while you’re experiencing deep grief. If you notice changes in a pre-existing condition, make sure to speak with your doctor and get the medical care you need.

For now, let’s take a look at 8 physical responses to grief that you may experience.

Woman laying face down on couch, feeling exhausted

1. Tiredness/Exhaustion

Tiredness and exhaustion are perhaps the most common physical responses to grief. Your thoughts and feelings, not to mention any crying, are sapping your energy. You may not feel like going about your normal daily activities and need naps throughout the day. This is completely normal. Make sure you take time to rest because pushing your body too hard can lead to lowered immunity and make you susceptible to getting sick.

2. Lowered Immunity

Speaking of the immune system, grief boosts your production of stress hormones, leading to more inflammation and increased risk of illness. Paired with fatigue, it’s not uncommon for people to catch a cold or get an infection during times of grief. In a 2014 research study, it was found that older adults experiencing grief, specifically the loss of a spouse, were particularly prone to infection. So, make sure you take care of yourself, even if you don’t feel like it.

Middle-aged man pinching the bridge of his nose as he deals with a headache

3. Brain Fog

Another common physical symptom, brain fog is your mind’s way of protecting you. As your body responds to grief – releasing stress hormones, feeling exhausted – your brain knows that you are becoming overwhelmed. Whether it’s helpful or not, your brain dulls a bit and tries to decrease the sharpness of your feelings. Brain fog typically goes away, usually after you’ve had a little time to process everything. For more information about brain fog, go to “Can Grief Make You Forget Things?

4. Heart Health Concerns

Unfortunately, the release of stress hormones not only weakens the immune system, it also affects the cardiovascular system. One study found that the risk of heart attack increases 21-fold within 24 hours of a loved one’s death (and declines steadily each day after that). This is why there are instances when two family members may die in succession, like when Debbie Reynolds died of a heart-related complication just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms, seek medical assistance right away.

Young woman sitting on couch, holding her stomach in pain

5. Digestive Issues & Weight Changes

When grief hits, it usually disrupts your normal eating habits, which can lead to digestive issues. Whether you’re dealing with constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, or nausea, it could be related to changes in your routine, stress, or even anxiety. You may be eating out more, consuming junk food, binge eating, or skipping your regular exercise. In addition to affecting your digestion, these changes can affect your weight as well.

On the other hand, your response to stress may be to undereat rather than to overeat. If this is the case, then you may see weight loss occur. Plus, if you already have a sensitive stomach and carry stress there, you may see an increase in digestive issues when you’re grieving. Just remember, feed your body well and stay away from spicy, acidic, or exotic foods that may stress your system.

6. General Pain or Discomfort

Whether it’s feeling sick to your stomach or dealing with a migraine, your body may respond to grief stress with general pain and discomfort. Ranging from headaches, body aches, and muscle pain, to heaviness in the limbs or a racing heart, the symptoms vary from person to person. You can use over-the-counter pain meds, cold compresses, and other aids to help manage any discomfort, but if you are concerned, seek out a doctor to get a full diagnosis.

Drowsy woman sitting at desk with a cup of coffee, trying to stay awake

7. Sleeping Issues

Sleep is essential when your body is in distress, but it needs to be a healthy balance. For some, insomnia becomes an issue, while for others, oversleeping becomes a concern. Getting too much or too little sleep can sap your energy, decrease your cognitive functioning, and slow down recovery. The first few days, you may sleep more, but after that, try to get yourself back on a normal routine. Your body will eventually bounce back, and your energy will return. For more tips, read “Sleeping Tips for the Grieving.”

8. Dehydration

Crying is a natural response to grief and loss, but it can also lead to dehydration or dry mouth. Don’t try to stifle your crying – let it all out – but do make sure that you are staying hydrated. With everything going on, your body needs extra liquids to maintain a healthy balance. If you can, limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks and focus on getting your electrolytes.

While this list is fairly comprehensive, you may experience something not listed here. Don’t panic. Instead, if you become concerned, make an appointment with your doctor. They can help settle your fears, or if needed, properly diagnose you. We’ve all Googled symptoms before, and it’s rarely helpful. Get with a professional so they can help you feel better faster.

Husband checking on wife as she holds a hand to her chest

How Long Do Physical Symptoms Last?

In short, it depends. For the majority of people, the strength of grief lessens over time, and the sharpness subsides. And certainly, it’s not long before your body stops releasing so many stress hormones. Much of the time, physical symptoms subside within a few days to a few months. However, if the symptoms intensify or don’t resolve within 6-8 months, it’s time to speak with a therapist or a doctor.

If physical symptoms are present for so long, complicated grief becomes a concern. With complicated grief, your feelings intensify over time, the loss takes center stage in your life, and there are feelings of intense sorrow and a tendency to withdraw and isolate. Should it get to this point, it’s best to seek out professional help because it’s gone beyond something you can tackle on your own. To learn more about complicated grief, go to “What is Complicated Grief?

Tips for Coping with the Physical Symptoms of Grief

Before we look at a few suggestions for coping with grief, it’s important to remember that grief feelings aren’t always associated with the death of a person. It could be receiving a serious diagnosis, losing a job, ending a relationship or friendship, experiencing financial difficulty, or living through a natural disaster.

Man walking his dog around the neighborhood, getting outside

Regardless of the source of your grief, here are a few tips to help you take care of your body through the grieving process:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat healthy foods daily
  • Get enough sleep
  • Go outside
  • Take over-the-counter meds, as needed

In the early days, it may be difficult to think about self-care. To make things simple, just take each day as it comes, incorporating these practices as best you can. Over time, as you process your feelings and do the work of grief, you will find a way to move forward and enjoy life again.

Honor Your Loved One this Valentine’s Day

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Chocolate-filled heart boxes, baby cupids, and red roses often signal the start of the season of love, which ultimately culminates with Valentine’s Day and brings the chance to celebrate romantic and friendship relationships. However, there are those who may be feeling anything but lovey-dovey as they battle grief that can become more painful during holidays.

It’s important to remember that it’s perfectly normal and understandable to feel grief while others seem cheerful. Still, there are several ways to work through grief and honor your loved one on special days, especially Valentine’s Day. You may even find peace, healing, and positivity through these acts of remembrance.

If you or your family is facing grief this Valentine’s Day, try these 6 activities to honor your loved one and bring healing to your heart.

1. Write a Personal Valentine’s Day Card

Woman hand writing on paper in office.

Most can trace their earliest Valentine’s Day memories to exchanging valentines with friends at school. It felt great to go home with little cards (and candy!) saying how much those friends cared. Capture that feeling again and use it to remember your loved one.

Have each member of your family write a personalized and meaningful valentine to your loved one. Sharing, remembering, and getting your thoughts onto paper can help with your grief journey and may even help remove any emotional buildup you may be feeling. It can also help you better understand what your loved one meant to you.

Feel free to share these thoughts with the rest of your family or keep them to yourself – whatever brings you the most healing.

2. Enjoy a Chocolate Treat

Girl with mother preparing cake in kitchen.

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go together like turkey and Thanksgiving, Santa Clause and Christmas, and fireworks on the Fourth of July. So, use chocolate to remember your loved one on Valentine’s Day. Plus, you can get your whole family involved!

As a family, grab an apron and a cooking utensil to get started on your loved one’s favorite chocolate dessert. Spending time and working together can help bring you all closer, especially if you begin sharing stories of your loved one. If your loved one wasn’t a fan of chocolate, try whipping up their favorite cherry or strawberry dish. Both are common Valentine’s Day foods, so you can still keep the connection between your loved one and the holiday.

Whether you choose chocolate, cherry, strawberry, or something else, be sure to share your dish with others! Watching your neighbors, coworkers, or other family members enjoy this tasty treat can bring joy to you and your family, knowing others are being positively impacted by your loved one’s memory.

3. Deliver Flowers to Their Grave

White grave markers and flowers at a national cemetery.

You may have already participated in this act of remembrance, but what better opportunity to place a beautiful bouquet at your loved one’s final resting place? This is an excellent chance to find great flowers that will honor your loved one. Red roses would best show that you’re thinking of them on Valentine’s Day, but there are other colors and flowers you can choose.

Each rose color has a symbolic meaning: red for passionate love, pink for friendship, and others. If you want to choose a different flower, there are several other options, each with their own meaning. No matter what you decide, taking flowers to your loved one’s grave on Valentine’s Day is a simple way to feel close to them on what can be a hard day.

Each rose color has a symbolic meaning: red for passionate love, pink for friendship, and others. Even the choice of flower has a meaning, with calla lilies signifying marriage, peonies with healing, among other options. No matter what you decide, visiting your loved one with your family and flowers is a simple way to feel close to them on what can be a hard day.

4. Watch a Movie Together

A glass bowl of popcorn and remote control in the background the TV works. Evening cozy watching a movie or TV series at home.

Bringing the family together for a movie is a great way to take a break from the rest of the world. In celebration of your loved one on Valentine’s Day, try watching their favorite romantic movie. Or if your loved one enjoyed laughing, you can find, stream, or rent their favorite romantic comedy. Sometimes laughing is the best way to overcome difficult moments of grief and pain.

Whichever movie was your loved one’s favorite – and it’s perfectly fine to watch a non-romantic movie on Valentine’s Day – you can recall their love for the film. Perhaps they really enjoyed a part of the dialogue or found joy in the soundtrack. Whatever their reason, you’ll feel connected through memory.

5. Take Some Time For Yourself

Girl on mountain peak with green grass looking at beautiful mountain valley in fog at sunset in summer.

Sometimes, the best way to honor your loved one’s life is by taking care of your own. When you’re struggling with grief, self-care is an important part of the healing process, so take time to do something that brings you joy this Valentine’s Day.

If you enjoy being outside, go on a bike ride, hike, or run. If you prefer to be pampered, book an appointment at your favorite spa for a message, manicure, or pedicure. Maybe it’s time to treat yourself with a special gift you’ve been eyeing. Or perhaps you’ve got anger, anxiety, or negative feelings around your grief. Visiting a Rage Room may be just what you need, because sometimes, it does help to just break something. Whatever will bring you happiness and peace, do it.

While this idea is focused on things you can do on your own, feel free to bring your family along. They may benefit from these activities. However, you are well within your right to have some alone time as you grieve. It’s all about listening to yourself and taking care of your needs.

6. Spend Time with Each Other

Happy family with two daughters playing at home. Family sitting on floor and playing together.

No matter what you decide to do with your family on Valentine’s Day, remember that being together is the most important thing. Being involved and supportive of each other can lighten the burden of grief and make holidays a little more enjoyable. Grief is a daily struggle and finding healing past the pain becomes easier when you’re around those you love. Try to avoid isolating yourself while grieving, because your family needs you as much as you need them on the path to healing.

family watching a Christmas movie together with lights

What Christmas Movies Teach Us About Grief

By Christmas, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

The holidays are always a hectic time, but when you’re grieving, they can be even more difficult because you feel your loved one’s absence more strongly. While you may not feel up to participating in your normal holiday traditions, it’s important to find ways to balance your feelings of grief with the joy of the season.

One way to balance joy and grief is by taking time to understand what you’re feeling and why. Learning how grief affects you personally and discovering positive coping mechanisms will help you begin to incorporate your loss into your life story. You may not realize it, but classic Christmas movies can teach us valuable lessons about grief and how it can affect you and those you love. Let’s talk about three of those movies!

bridge covered in snow with soft daylight

It’s a Wonderful Life

In the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, we get a glimpse into the life of George Bailey and see what the world would have looked like if he hadn’t been born. Through the story, we see how many people he influenced and how many lives he changed. As Clarence points out to him, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. And when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

The importance of remembrance

If someone you love has died, you are probably very aware of the hole they left behind. Sometimes their absence might seem almost tangible. That’s one of the reasons why grief is so powerful – the person you lost was an integral part of your life, and your brain doesn’t know how to process the loss. That person impacted your life, and for that reason alone, their life is worth remembering.

While George Bailey’s life may have seemed insignificant to him, he had a positive impact on the world, and he eventually realizes his story is important. In the same way, each person’s story is important and worth remembering. One way to honor a loved one’s memory is by participating in different remembrance activities, like attending a remembrance service or creating a memory capsule.

Community and support

The movie also shows how important community and support are during difficult times. You might feel grief more strongly during the holidays, and you may feel lonely when you think of your loved one’s absence. That’s why it’s important to rely on the community around you. George Bailey tries to persevere on his own, carrying all the burdens of life on his own shoulders, and it breaks him down. At the end of the movie, though, George’s family and friends gather around him, supporting him and standing by him through thick and thin.

Just as George’s community supported him through his struggles, your community can help you through your struggles. Grief can be difficult, and you need people around you to help you along the journey. If you don’t feel like you have anyone you can rely on, you can look for a grief support group in your area. No matter what, having support in your grief journey will make the path easier to travel.

carving a christmas turkey with family

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It’s hard to believe that the animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas first released in 1966! Generations of children have watched the Grinch’s plot to steal Christmas and his later redemption as he learns about the true reason for Christmas. Surprisingly, this movie has a lot to teach about grieving during the holidays.

Reach out to the grieving

While a grieving person’s heart isn’t “two sizes too small,” their heart is likely hurting at the holidays. Sometimes that pain makes someone who is grieving withdraw from those around them or act differently, just like the Grinch. When someone is hurting, they often erect walls between themselves and others.

If you know someone who is grieving, take the time to reach out to them during the holidays. By showing them kindness, you can help their heart heal. If the grieving person resists your efforts, that’s okay. Continue to be kind; they will still appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Open up to your loved ones

If you personally are grieving this holiday season, it’s important to know that spending time with family or friends can help you begin to heal. As we see when the Grinch realizes the true meaning of the holiday and joins the Whos for their Christmas dinner, ritual, tradition, and fellowship can help soothe your aching heart. Participating in traditions and rituals help people grieve together and can help you find meaning in the loss you’ve experienced.

If your relationship with your loved ones has been strained, it may be hard at first to reach out to them. However, asking for help and realizing your limits are important steps in your grief journey. While it may be tempting to stay in your comfort zone, opening yourself up to relationships and sharing with others how you feel is an important part of the grieving journey.

Christmas photos and memories

A Christmas Carol

When you’ve lost a loved one, it can be difficult to feel joyful during the holidays. Maybe, like Ebenezer Scrooge, you’ve found yourself avoiding personal connections with others, withdrawing into yourself and refusing to open up. In a way, the classic Christmas movie A Christmas Carol is a tale of a man who has been hurt in the past and has erected walls to protect himself.

Reflect on Christmas past, present, and future

As both the book and its many movie adaptations show, isolation only leads to loneliness. Scrooge resists the kindness and Christmas spirit of his nephew Fred and his employee Bob Cratchitt. That attitude leads to him eating alone in his house, all his scrimping and saving leaving him alone and miserable in a dark, gloomy room. It’s only when he’s visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley and the different spirits of Christmas that he finally learns what life is all about and opens up to his friends and family.

While Scrooge is terrified by the spirits who remind him of the true nature of life and Christmas, you don’t have to go through that. Instead, take stock of how you feel and reflect on the best ways to help yourself grieve this holiday season. If you’ve lost sight of the joy of the season, these moments of reflection can help you rediscover the meaning and purpose of the holidays.

Christmas Past

Try thinking about your own “Christmas Past.” If you have pleasant memories of Christmases past, examine why they are so memorable to you. What made those times special? Was it the presents, or was it the time spent with family or friends? By contemplating those Christmas memories, you can learn what you value most and remember why you celebrate the holidays. As you rediscover what makes the holidays meaningful, you can find a way to embrace both joy and grief.

Christmas Future

However, not everyone has positive Christmas memories. If your holiday memories are more painful, you might find it helpful to ponder “Christmas Future.” What do you want for your holidays in the future? Isolation will lead to more lonely Christmases, so consider ways you can reach out to family, friends, or support groups in your area.

Christmas Present

Even more importantly, think about now – “Christmas Present.” There are things you can do this Christmas – or any day – to make progress on your grief journey. That could mean creating fellowship with people around you, taking time to pursue something you’re passionate about, or serving others in your community. By opening yourself up and finding ways to engage with your grief, you can continue to heal in a healthy way. While you may not be dancing around town like Scrooge, you can still find joy while you’re grieving.

Perhaps the lessons in these three classic tales resonated with you and gave you a new perspective on your grief this Christmas season. Throughout the holidays, keep in mind that grief takes time. It’s okay if you aren’t feeling 100 percent or if you need to bow out of a few engagements. You’ll need to give yourself grace while you’re grieving. But remember – you need joy to balance out your grief as you learn how to live life again and find your new normal.

mother holding son looking at Christmas lights

Holiday Remembrance Activities for Grieving Parents

By Christmas, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

If you have lost a child, you are probably very aware of the pain the holidays can bring. It might seem impossible to connect with the joy of the season when all you feel is grief. Whether your child died recently or many years ago, the holidays can make your grief feel fresh, and you may feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. But amid the hustle and bustle, taking time to honor and remember your child’s life by participating in remembrance activities can help you through the ups and downs of the season.

While cutting back on holiday stress will be beneficial, finding ways to honor your child’s memory can help you heal. Participating in healing actions can encourage you to express your feelings and acknowledge your emotions as a natural part of grieving. Even more importantly, remembrance activities can help you reconcile with the loss and continue your grief journey.

While you can do whatever makes the most sense for you, here are 6 remembrance ideas to get you started:

Christmas stockings hanging from a mantle

Put up a stocking

Putting up a stocking with your child’s name on it can be a great way to honor their memory during the holidays. In addition to using the stocking as a visual reminder, you can also put different items in the stocking. For example, you and your family members could write letters to your child and place them in the stocking. You could also put toys in the stocking that you can later donate to charity, honoring your child by caring for other children.

mother holding son looking at Christmas lights

Share happy memories

When a child dies, it’s easy to focus on the time you’ve lost with them. While sadness is a vital part of the grieving process, sharing happy memories with your family members can help you treasure the time you had with your child. In return, your family members may also share their memories, giving you the chance to learn new stories about your child. When you share stories and memories, your appreciation for the times you had with your child will grow.

woman making a Christmas wreath

Make holiday decorations

If you like DIY crafts, making holiday decorations can be a way to remember your child each year. You could make an ornament with their name or photo on it or decorate with your child’s favorite color. Maybe you could create a personalized wreath, incorporating your child’s favorite flowers or holiday-related items. Throughout the creative process, you (and anyone else you invite to join you) can engage with your grief in an uplifting and healthy way. After you’ve finished, you’ll have something tangible to bring out every year to honor your child’s memory and make them part of your holiday season.

cozy chair next to table with coffee and Christmas decorations

Create a grief corner

When someone you love has died, you or your family members may need time alone. One way to encourage that is by creating a grief corner in your house. A grief corner is a specific spot where any family member can go to sit by themselves to grieve. This could be something simple, like a chair with a cozy blanket, or you could set up a photo of your lost child with some of their favorite toys. If you have other children, a grief corner could help them learn to recognize their feelings and take time alone when they need to.

toys and socks in a cardboard donation box

Give to a charity in their name

Giving time, money, or items to a charity in your child’s name can be a great way to honor their memory. Maybe your child had a specific cause they were concerned with, and you can support that cause. If your child died from a specific disease, you could also donate to support research about that disease to help families like yours. Or, if you lost your child during pregnancy or shortly after birth, you could create a gift basket to donate to a family in the NICU.

You could also consider things your child was passionate about. What was their favorite sport or activity? You could volunteer to teach other children about that activity. Did they have a favorite animal? You could sponsor a wildlife rescue or spend time volunteering at your local shelter. Whatever you choose, giving to something your child cared about will help you honor them in a meaningful way.

person icing snowflake and gingerbread man cookies

Create a new tradition

After a child dies, old traditions may be painful or feel difficult to enjoy. While participating in old traditions might bring up happy memories of your child, you could also start a new tradition in their honor. This could be anything from trying a new holiday recipe to volunteering at a local soup kitchen. If you have other children, creating a new tradition can be a way for them to remember their sibling. These traditions can become lasting remembrance activities you can engage in for years to come.

woman baking with two children

Remember – Include Your Living Children

As a parent, there will be times when you want to grieve on your own and work through your emotions in a private space. That’s perfectly normal and healthy. However, in your own grief, don’t forget that any other children in the home are also grieving.

Children and teenagers may have trouble processing their grief, so you may need to help them along their journey. Look for ways to discuss what they may be feeling. Invite them to participate in some of these remembrance activities with you. Let them see you cry and share memories, so they know it’s safe to do the same. Throughout the process, you will grow closer as a family and find a way to move forward.

It goes without saying that your holiday will look different after losing a child, but engaging in remembrance activities can be a beautiful way to grieve and mourn.

No matter what, don’t forget to take time to grieve and be gentle with yourself. You don’t have to put on a happy face just because it’s Christmas. You are a human being with complex emotions. You’re going to have good moments and bad moments – that’s okay. When good moments come, embrace them. When grief comes, engage with it. By doing so, you can balance the grief you feel with the joy of the season.

Two large rocks laying in grass with encouraging gratitude sayings written on them

Is Grief Stealing Your Joy & Thankfulness?

By Grief/Loss

Grief seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. At the most unexpected and inconvenient moments, it shows up unannounced. You may be having dinner with family, walking down the grocery store aisle, or simply taking a walk around your neighborhood. Right now, your world may feel colored in blues and grays. Your heart focused on the pain you feel and not on the things you have to be grateful for. That’s okay. Grief can feel overwhelming, and for a time, it may feel like it’s stealing your joy and thankfulness.

Just remember these three things as you work through the complex emotions of grief:

  1. Grief takes a different path with everyone.
  2. Grief is the result of deep love.
  3. Grief won’t steal your joy and thankfulness forever.

Person walking on a wooden walkway in a park, focused on the person's calves and shoes

Grief Takes a Different Path with Everyone

Did you know that grief manifests differently for every person? For example, your grief may include anger and sadness. For someone else, it may bring guilt and a deep sense of regret. In short, don’t feel like something is wrong if grief is stealing your joy because that’s just part of the process for you. Instead, acknowledge your feelings, accept them, and then begin to actively work through your grief. Taking intentional time to practice thankfulness can help, even when you don’t feel like it.

For helpful information on how to practice gratitude, go to Nature & Your Grief Journey or Practicing Remembrance & Gratitude During Times of Grief. It’s not going to happen overnight, but as you sort through your emotions, your view of the world will get lighter and lighter until you can see the silver lining again.

Two people holding hands by hooking pinkies together

Grief is the Result of Caring

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, nationally recognized grief counselor and educator, has found that grief is not a universal experience. In many ways, grief is closely related to care or even love. If you don’t care about something, then you won’t grieve it. Sometimes, the care is positive – like love for a spouse. Other times, the care is associated with a negative experience – like wishing you’d had a better relationship with a parent or sibling. Both situations will elicit feelings of grief for very different reasons, but both are because, at some level, you cared or loved.

Dr. Wolfelt says:

“Love inevitably leads to grief. You see, love and grief are two sides of the same precious coin. One does not – and cannot – exist without the other. People sometimes say that grief is the price we pay for the joy of having loved. This also means that grief is not a universal experience. Grief is predicated on our capacity to give and receive love. Some people choose not to love, and so, never grieve. If we allow ourselves the grace that comes with love, however, we must allow ourselves the grace that is required to mourn.

Knowing that your grief is tied to your complex, emotional feelings about a particular person doesn’t make the process any easier. But, in a way, it is comforting. What you’re feeling is natural and normal. Even if the relationship was not wholly positive, try not to suppress what you feel. Instead, find healthy ways to engage with your feelings and give yourself permission to grieve.

Two large rocks laying in grass with encouraging gratitude sayings written on them

Grief Won’t Steal Your Joy & Thankfulness Forever

It doesn’t feel like it right now, but grief won’t color your world so vividly forever. Will you always miss the person who has died? Absolutely, no question. Will you “get over” the loss? In many ways, you won’t. There will be moments throughout your life when grief may show up again. Can you find a way to move forward? Yes, there is hope after loss.

While time doesn’t heal wounds, it does give you the space you need to work through your grief. Right after a loss, the pain is at its sharpest. Over time, its sting does lessen and occurs less frequently. Taking time to sit with your pain, to experience it, and to wrestle with it will help you move toward healing and reconciliation. It won’t be easy, but it’s necessary to embracing life and thankfulness again.

Man quietly sitting at an outdoor cafe while writing in a journal

Tips & Tools for Working Through Your Grief

Dr. Wolfelt says, “It is not instinctive to see grief and the need to openly mourn as something to honor…[but] to honor your grief is not self-destructive or harmful, it is courageous and life-giving.” But perhaps you don’t know how to begin. How do you embark on the work of grief? How do you confront your pain, so that you can process it in a healthy way?

To help you on your journey, check out the resources below. They will help you work through your feelings and discover the best want for you to move forward and find joy in life again. Grief won’t steal your joy or your thankfulness forever – unless you let it. Above all, remember that with intentionality and fortitude, you will see the sun again, and it will be beautiful.


Mustering the Courage to Mourn

Exploring Your Feelings of Loss

Grief & the Six Needs of Mourning

10 Helpful Tips When Grieving a Loss

5 Tips for Grieving When You’re Feeling Isolated

Grief & Difficult Relationships

How Creativity Can Help You Deal with Loss

5 Benefits of a Grief Journal

Skip to content