Your Grief Survival Kit


BY: Tensie Holland, LSW

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

​After the death of a loved one, our initial concern may be, "How will I survive?  How will I make it without my loved one?"  Your whole world changes, nothing is the same and things just don't seem to fit. It's as if your coping and stress management skills vanish or just don't work anymore. You're now in the "grieving zone." It is an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place to be. 

You may experience many symptoms of grief which include feelings of sadness, anger, fear, guilt, loneliness or even relief.  You may have headaches, stomach upsets or a lump in your throat or chest.  Some of your changes in behavior can include low motivation and decreased ability to concentrate. You may also notice changes in your eating patterns such as poor appetite or a desire to overeat. You may not be able to sleep, or sleep too much.

Grief is as individual as you are. Adjusting to a loved one's death means exploring ways that are helpful to you in your unique circumstance. You may decide to try new or unconventional ways to cope.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve – only healthy or unhealthy ones. Above all, it is important to let yourself feel.  It's not healthy to bottle up feelings. They are a part of the grieving experience.   

To provide some relief, find what is helpful or comforting for you, and use those to promote healthy grieving and healing. What you use comprises your Grief Survival Kit:

  • Journaling: Write your feelings in a journal. Many are pocket-sized. You can also write letters to your loved one, or to your God or Higher Power. You can keep a journal or letters on your computer, if that is more comfortable.
  •  A good cry/tissues: A box of tissues may become your best friend. Always keep some handy in your car and tuck a few in your pockets. Tears are healthy and release feelings bottled up inside.
  • Quotations/affirmations: A favorite quote that inspires you, or a loved one's favorite quote or saying. One woman shared that her husband always said, "Atta girl!" and she found herself saying it out loud to herself. Find or create helpful affirmations, such as "I surrender to the power of healing" or "Just for today."
  •  Prayer/Psalm: Many people find the Serenity Prayer helpful.
    Candles: You may benefit from the calming effect of candlelight. Light a candle in memory or honor of your loved one. 
  • Picture/memento: Display a favorite picture or tuck one into your belongings. One woman said that she carried her husband's handkerchief in her purse. A man wore his wife's jewelry and proudly shared the story of each piece. One daughter carried her mother's driver's license in her purse. One woman slept with her husband's picture which her children had laminated.
  • Clothing:  Many people find comfort in wearing clothing items of their loved one. One woman remarked that wearing her husband's sweaters felt like getting a hug from him.
  • Aromatherapy/essential oils:  Many oils provide a calming effect to the senses.
  • Exercise: A great way to release emotions and the stress of grieving.
  • Meditation or healing thoughts books or CDs. There are many book and audio resources which provide healing thoughts for grievers. Pocket-sized books are handy.
  • Music: Songs that you find comforting or inspiring. Or perhaps your loved one's favorite music.
  • Adult coloring books: Calming and relaxing. While your insides may be shaky, this activity may create an outward stability.

Create your own tangible Grief Survival Kit or just practice with what is available to you. You may also note that your "Kit" may change over time. Use as often as needed. Take the steps toward healing your broken heart.

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