survival tips

These grief survival tips might help you get through the difficult emotional process of grief. Find below some practical tips that many have found helpful on their road to acceptance and recovery.



Slow down

Meditate, nap, sit in the garden, smell the roses. The exact opposite of keeping yourself busy, busy, busy. Being busy might keep you from having time to think, but it won’t necessarily help you heal.

Exercise regularly

We were blessed with endorphins, our bodies’ own ‘feel-good’ high, it’s natural and it’s free. Allow this brain chemical to neutralize stress hormones to help you feel better. A half hour brisk walk is all you need, exercise need not be brutal, just regular.

Let yourself cry

Tears cleanse the soul. Have the courage to cry. According to Biochemist William Frey, tears contain ACTH or adrenocorticotropic hormone. This is why one feels so much better after a good cry, we literally wash away harmful hormones from our bodies. There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love. If you feel like crying, but are not able to, try watching a sad movie. This can help to get the tears flowing and give you the release you need.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions

Allow yourself to feel your emotions, don’t block your feelings. Feeling deeply sad about the loss of a loved one is normal. It is not healthy to block one’s emotions. Don’t postpone, deny or cover your pain. Be with your pain now, everything else can wait. An emotional wound requires the same priority and attention as a physical wound. Give your mourning the time it needs to heal. The sooner you allow yourself to feel your emotional pain, the sooner it will pass. The word ‘emote’ is Latin in origin, it means ‘I move’.

Write about how you feel

Writing leads to healing. Daily writing can be very useful. Writing first thing in the morning or last thing at night are recommended. Write about how you feel, pour your emotions onto the page. Expressing your feelings in a safe place helps release the hurt and clear your mind. Much later in your recovery, when you look back on these pages, you will see how far you have come. Writing can help one obtain understanding and insight. Answers often surface on the pages. Emotion affects us at a cellular level. Grieving can take its toll on your body. Writing can be used as an outlet for your thoughts and feelings, and thereby improve one’s health. This is a powerful and highly recommended exercise in recovery. If you don’t know what to write, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • A letter to the deceased loved one can be an excellent way to finish unfinished business and say the goodbye that you never had the chance to do in person.
  • Write to the people who have been most understanding, letting them know how much you appreciate their comfort and support.
  • Write a letter to God. Ask for a sign that your loved one is okay and for the courage and the strength to make the adjustment to life without their physical presence.
  • Clarify your goals by writing about how you will begin to reinvest in life. Develop a plan to deal with your new life, thereby limiting the time spent only on your loss.
  • Some suggest burning what you have written in order to liberate that energy from your life. Others suggest only doing this much later, when you have reached the end of your grieving process, as there can be great value in re-reading your written pages at a later date when the issue comes up again to be re-processed with a better perspective. We are all different. What you choose to do will be right for you.
Join a group

Join a bereavement group. Even though the thought of being with strangers may be overwhelming, eventually you will cry less and laugh more as you share stories with others who truly do understand how you feel. You will also feel good about helping other group members which in turn helps you begin to feel strong and whole again. Find details for Compassionate Friends and South African Depression and Anxiety Group in useful links.

Keep to your own timetable for sorting out admin.

Honour your own timetable for sorting out your loved one’s personal things. The added tragedy of loss is that many of us are also left to cope with the mechanics of concluding the deceased’s business matters at a time when we feel unable to cope with anything.

Take time to consider big moves

Put off major decisions where possible. Immediately selling your home, car, or getting away from the reminders of the life with your loved one can add to your burden if they are done too soon. Give yourself time to consider big moves or decisions. Look to family, trusted friends and professionals, do not be afraid to ask for help. Gloria Linterman, (author of ‘The healing power of grief: The journey through loss to life and laughter’) wrapped up personal objects belonging to her deceased husband. A treasured fountain pen, a tie and other objects. She sent these precious items to her husband’s close friends with a note letting each person know how special their friendship had been to her husband. It gave her a beautiful way of putting closure to relationships with his friends, some of whom she knew she would not keep up with after his death.

Dance to your pain

Dance your broken heart. Grief can last years, but your nervous system needs a break every now and then. Here is a wonderful exercise for you, designed by Dr. Molly Barrow who holds a Ph.D in clinical psychology: Set an evening aside to honour the memories of someone who was once precious, but is now missing. Light some candles, get out the worn photo’s, drop the fake smile from your face. Allow yourself to really feel the pain. Step into the murky water of your tears and despair and wail and cry. Then crank up some rhythmic music, and express the pain physically. Boldly and wildly move your body in an expression of your hurt. Next, gradually change the dance to a joyful or silly one. The physical efforts release the brain chemicals.

Don’t hold in

Grief held inside is poison. The act of grieving is about releasing the toxic thoughts and physical ramifications of those thoughts. Smiling when you feel like you could fall to pieces in pain, or pretending to be fine when you’re not, is not fooling your organs. Get the pent-up rage, despair or guilt out of you. The change from a grieving movement to a happier movement will send a powerful signal to the mind that you are trying to recover from grief.

Purging grief is a detox-cleanse that allows you to recover. You never have to stop feeling love and longing for what you miss. You need to fall back deeply into your sadness periodically, feel terrible and then release it quickly just like a cramp in your foot. Then laugh loudly, our bodies respond to the emotion we act out, so act out the joyful dance and feel free to laugh at yourself. Eventually the pain will go, and the good memories will last forever.

Take breaks from your grief

Be kind to yourself. You may have lost all interest in life, but don’t forget your physical needs. Thinking that any form of enjoyment is wrong when grieving causes millions of mourners unnecessary suffering. Grieving is hard mental and physical work, it affects every organ and system in the body. If you fail to take breaks from your grief, it can lead to depression and even illness. Each day plan a time for self-nurturing. Go to your private place and consider your grief without interruptions. Restoration through meditation, music, solitude or rest will replenish the severe energy drain associated with grieving. Fear, anger, guilt and depression also consume enormous amounts of energy.

Reinvest in life

Make a ‘to do’ list as a guide for the following day, try to limit the time spent only on your loss. The more attention you give to your loss the more power you give it to dominate your life. Grief is a process which involves making choices. At some point, it becomes necessary to decide whether you will be continuously loss oriented, or restoration oriented. You will still need to give your grief time, but reinvesting in life is part of moving forward.


You may not be able to read anything early in your grief, but when you are ready, there are some wonderful self-help books to be found. While family and friends may not understand what you are going through, there are people who have traveled the road you are on and they have published their stories to help others who find themselves in the same situation. See below for some recommended reading:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Beyond Grief by Carol Staudacher
All books by Author: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
Boy – by Kate Shand (for grieving moms)
The Power of now by Eckhart Tolle
The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Protect your loved ones

Get your own
affairs in order
Before it is too late!

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, all come from earth, and to earth all return.

Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust,
all come from earth,
and to earth all return.