Grieving – Practical Tips for Getting Through Grief

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When you lose someone close to you, the grieving process can be devastating. It impacts your health, thoughts, focus and capabilities for much longer than you may expect.

I went through my own tough grief process not long ago and with a lot of work, I found tips that really worked for me. These practical tips for getting through grief will help you continue to function and accomplish the tasks that must be accomplished even while you’re grieving.

Whether you have to continue to go to work or not, you will have work that needs to be done as you settle your loved one’s affairs and estate. As much as you may not feel like working or making difficult decisions, very few of us have the luxury of only grieving and not doing anything else. You will continue to grieve, but these tips will help you continue with the day-to-day and the overwhelming tasks and decisions that you must take care of.

Younger woman holding head and looking sad with text overlay.

I am not a mental health or grief counselor. I am a problem solving person that has experienced grief myself and want to share tips that worked for me. Please always consult your mental health professional or family physician for counseling or medical care.

I lost both of my parents somewhat unexpectedly in a six month period. We were very close and losing them hit me hard, so I had to figure out how to cope with grief and loss. In the midst of severe grieving, I had to deal with disposing of their belongings, sell their home and settle their estate. Oh, and I still had three children and my own business to care for.

My nature is that of a problem solver, so as I found my way working through grief, I found tips that helped me continue to take care of the business and responsibilities that I needed to.

Grieving – Tips for Getting Through Grief

  1. You have to go through, you can’t go around.
  2. Most days will be one-foot-in-front-of-the-other days.
  3. Create a master notebook and folder for everything you need to know and remember.
  4. Take notes when talking to anyone about important tasks and information.
  5. Use a Running To Do List.
  6. Prioritize all the many tasks you must accomplish.
  7. Accept help when it’s offered.
  8. Show yourself grace when you’re not at your “normal” best.
  9. Take a trusted friend or family member with you to all appointments and interviews.
  10. Seek support, counseling and others that understand the grief process.

What is widow’s fog?

I had never heard of widow’s fog or widow’s brain until after my grief process, but that’s the perfect description of how you feel and how your brain operates during grief – you are living and working through a fog. I described it as trying to think and move through jello every day. Not only was it difficult to navigate, but it was so very exhausting.

You’re probably not at your best physically, mentally or emotionally and they’re all interconnected and compounding the fog of grief you have to continue to function in and work through.

Practical Tips to Get Through Grief

You Have to Go Through Grief. There are no shortcuts and no ways around it. Trust me, I looked for them. I just wanted to do the “right things” to hurry up and get the grief done with. But it doesn’t work that way. You have to go through grief to get to the other side of grief. 

It’s important to take care of yourself physically. It will be one of the last things you worry about, but it really is important to take care of your health while you grieve. The grief process will take a heavy toll on your physical health, so do everything you can to take care of your body. Sleep. Eat well. Do the things you know you should to take care of yourself.

Young woman with head bowed and eyes closed.

Many Days Will Be Days that You Get Through One Step at a Time

Many days, especially early on, will be days where you just have to put one foot in front of the other and trudge forward.

Do what you can each day. Get out of bed. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Eat.

Do one or two tasks that you must. Don’t beat yourself up about what you don’t get to. Do what you can and keep moving forward.

Not all days will be like this and eventually the days when you skip, maybe even dance, will come again.

Create a Master Notebook and Folder for Everything You Need to Know and Remember

There will be so many tasks you will be required to accomplish, all while grieving and not at your best.

Many of these tasks will be things you’ve never done before and have no idea how to do (close bank accounts, transfer an IRA into your name, file a tax return for the estate, etc.).

You’ll need to collect names, phone numbers and emails for companies and people you have to deal with.

The best way to keep track of all the information you need to track is:

  • Designate one large spiral notebook for all your notes. Add tabs to the pages so you can find reference information later.
  • Designate one accordion file folder to hold all the documents, bills, statements and paperwork that you need. 
  • Put all notes into the notebook, even if that means that you staple the sticky note you wrote on into the notebook. You want every piece of information in one spot so that you don’t have wonder where it is and waste time and energy trying to find it.
  • Put every document into the accordion file. You will end up with many statements, letters, forms and pieces of paper that you will need to settle the estate and file taxes. Keeping them all in one place will make it easier for you to work through the tasks that must be accomplished.
Hands of three people on a table signing a document.

Take Notes When Talking to Anyone About Important Tasks and Information

You will need to keep track of appointments, due dates, next-step information and more, all while you are living in the fog of grief. Don’t try to remember important information. You won’t. There is just too much to keep track of and your brain is operating at reduced power. 

Take notes in your designated notebook. The act of writing the information down will help you remember it and then you’ll also have it written down for future reference. 

Use a Running To Do List

A Running To Do List allows you to keep track of everything you need to do in one place. You can add more tasks as they arise and cross off tasks as you accomplish them.

Grab your copy of my free printable Running To Do List that also allows you to schedule tasks for accomplishment. Your Running To Do List works in conjunction with your notebook and accordion file. The To Do List is your reminder of what you need to do. The other tools contain reference information.

Prioritize All the Many Tasks You Must Accomplish

There will be many, many tasks that must be accomplished. Thankfully, they don’t all have to be accomplished immediately.

Determine the tasks that must be addressed first and prioritize the tasks. As new tasks arise, you may need to re-prioritize.

Since you may be operating at reduced capacity, you won’t be able to do everything right away – some things will have to wait. When you take the time to prioritize items on your Running To Do List, you will know which items must be done now and which items can be tackled later. This is invaluable on those days when just getting dressed and eating is a huge accomplishment. Knowing what, if anything, must be dealt with that day will help you focus your limited energy on the must-do items and not waste your limited energy on items that can wait.

Accept Help When It’s Offered

Friends and family will offer to help you – accept those offers. I never understood how truly helpful a home-cooked meal from a friend is until I lived through my grief. The act of planning, shopping for and preparing a meal may be beyond you for a period of time. The wisdom of our ancestors created the tradition of sharing a meal with those who grieve – accept the wisdom and the gift. 

You friends and family will want to help. They can’t help you with the grief, but they can help you with tasks you have to do. Allow them to do other tasks for you when they offer. Help that is really helpful when you are grieving is:

  • A prepared meal
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cleaning
  • Running errands
  • Yard work
  • Car maintenance
  • Writing thank you cards for you
  • Caring for pets

Show Yourself Grace When You’re Not at Your “Normal” Best

As an over-achiever, it was very difficult for me to be operating at a standard so much below my usual capabilities. I finally realized that, of course, I couldn’t function at 100% when so much of my heart, soul, mind and body were grieving.

At that point I decided to show myself grace and accept my reduced capabilities. This acceptance allowed me to stop wasting energy beating myself up and made it easier for me accept the help that was offered. 

Take a Trusted Friend or Family Member with You to All Appointments and Interviews

Because you are overwhelmed and not at your best while you are in the fog of grieving, it is wise to take a trusted person with you to any appointments.

You will need to comprehend a lot of new information in dealing with settling your loved one’s estate and make decisions. Knowing that you are working in a fog, means that it’s beneficial to have another set of eyes and ears with you to help you process the information and support you when you make decisions.

Situations when it is wise to take a supportive friend or family member:

  • Medical decisions
  • Funeral decisions
  • Any financial decisions
  • Decisions dealing with a loved ones’ belongings
  • Completing legal and financial paperwork
  • Making decisions involving changing your own life, such as moving or serious medical choices
Two people in meeting with a woman in a suit.

Seek Support, Counseling and Others Who Understand Grief

There is benefit in talking with a grief counselor or a grief support group. Even if you think that it’s not going to be helpful or you don’t need it, I recommend you take advantage of the resources that are available.

By talking with a trained counselor, you’ll know that you’re doing everything you can to care for yourself during the grief process. The counselor can answer questions you have about the grief process and connect you with resources available in your community.

Again, our physical, mental and emotional health are all intertwined. You need to be purposeful in caring for all aspects of yourself while you work through your grief.

Older woman sitting alone on bench with head bowed.

I looked for the shortcut, the magic wand, the way around or to hurry up the grieving process. I can tell you that they don’t exist. You have to go through the grieving process to get through it.

These tips for getting through the grieving process will help you support yourself at a difficult time.

I’m now two and a half years through my grieving process. I can tell you that the jello-like fog will subside. You will find your new “normal”. For me, I’m not living at my previously “normal”, but I have found my way to a new capable, functioning “normal.”

It is possible. You have to be purposeful, putting one foot in front of the other, take advantage of the help that is offered and use these tips for getting through grief and loss.

More information you may find helpful:

Songs About Losing a Loved One

white and pink flowers in bouquet with text overlay reading Songs About Losing a Loved One

Purposeful Ideas to Honor Deceased Loved Ones

Soldier holding folded flag in cemetery with text overlay reading 25 Purposeful Ideas to Honor Deceased Loved Ones

End-of-Life Checklist (to make it easier for your loved ones)

Man writing in notebook with laptop and cup of coffee, And images of 3 estate planning worksheets

Poems About Losing A Loved One

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Collage of two men grieving with text overlay

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