10 Tips for Grieving Forward

February 21, 2022

Grief often rolls into our life unexpected and uninvited. We all eventually lose someone we love. Grief descended on our life like a thick fog when we lost our three year old son Jenson.

Here are 10 helpful tips I’ve discovered through personal experience for grieving forward and navigating your loss.

1) Stop Running

When something unwanted invades our lives, it’s easy to want to exit stage right. The great escape artist in us all emerges ready to perform the ultimate magic trick. But escape is an illusion.

Grief is like a grizzly bear. Every instinct in your body says run for the hills, but in order to survive you must NOT run. You can’t outrun a grizzly. If you try, it will catch you and devour you. Don’t let it win. Face the grizzly bear.

Put down your running shoes and instead pull out a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. You can’t speed through grief or airlift over it. You have to walk through it one step at a time.

2) Ride the Wave

You’ll find grief rolls in like an uncontrollable wave.

After hundreds of attempts to stop the wave and getting body slammed to the ground (I’m nothing if not persistent), I finally realized my approach looked a lot like a toothpick trying to control a dam of raging water. Zero chance of holding it back. Fighting the wave only created tension and torment.

A better approach is riding the wave. Yes, you’re riding it barefoot and blind with no control and no end in sight, but every wave eventually hits the shore and recedes back. As much as you didn’t sign up for a surfing lesson without equipment or getting tossed around in rough waters, ride the wave when it rolls in versus trying to fight it. It will save you a lot of extra pain and suffering.

3) Peel the Onion

Like an onion, grief contains many layers and the closer you get to the center the more it makes you cry. It involves processing a lot of complex emotions. When a death is tragic or includes a lot of unresolved conflict, it may feel as if you’re in a mine-field of onion bombs all needing to be excavated and peeled back to their core. Take it one onion at a time.

Opting out leaves your emotions with only a few bad options for making their exit depending on whether you’re an exploder or a stuffer. Exploders tend to injure other innocent parties where stuffers injure themselves.

Do the hard work of peeling back the layers of grief. A close friend who lost a son told me, “Grief is the hardest work you’ll ever do.” And she nailed it. You’ll be tired. You’ll be raw. You will feel crazy. But you’re not crazy, you’re just grieving (decision paralysis while buying hand soap at Target is TOTALLY normal – not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).

4) Look for Light

The veil of grief produces a deep darkness which can make you question whether you’ll ever see light or some sense of normalcy again. In the midst of the darkness, look for light. It’s there… it’s just hard to see due to the fog grief creates.

Make a conscience choice each day to find at least one positive thing and give thanks for it. It can be as simple as “I’m thankful I have a comfy bed” or “I’m thankful for a beautiful sunset”.

Train your mind to look for light.

“It is during our darkest moments where we must train ourselves to see the light.” – Aristotle

5) Receive Relief

When others show up offering help or relief, now is the time to say yes and thank you. You’d like to offer me and my family a week away at your vacation home? Yes please, thank you.

For the majority of us who don’t have friends with vacation homes, when asked “how can I help?” here are a few ideas. You can bring dinner. A Starbucks coffee sounds good. You can bring groceries. I could really use a friend to just sit with me. I need a dinner out to make me feel normal.

You’ll instinctively know offers that come without conditions and those laced with future obligations. Trust your instincts and lean into your safe people. Lean in hard. It’s one of those times when the goodness of others can shine if you let in love and light.

6) Honor Love

“Grief is just love with no place to go.” – Jamie Anderson

I heard this quote a few months ago, and it cut straight to the core. It explained why doing things to honor those we love helps us move forward.

My mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. Writing her eulogy and creating a card for the funeral with a picture of her and the scripture that embodied her life helped me both honor her and process my own feelings. It became a tangible expression of my love for her.

Some people start non-profits, others bring flowers to gravesites, and some post memories via social media. There are endless ways to honor love. It gives your grief a place to go and allows your loved one’s memory to live on.

7) Grieve your Way

My husband and my approach to coping varied dramatically. Doug would take skinny dips in and out of the grief pool and rage to music or get a tattoo because it made him feel as if he was taking on some of Jenson’s earthly pain (hello two sleeves in a year). I approached it by diving head first into the abyss unsure if I’d ever emerge again and using creative outlets like writing to unearth pent up emotion or design to make things beautiful.

Everyone grieves differently. Give grace to both yourself and fellow grievers as you learn to grieve your way.

8) Expect the Unexpected

Don’t be surprised when it shows up again out of the blue as an unwelcome house guest. I’ve found certain dates are guaranteed triggers such as our son’s birthday or the day he passed away. But others act like the boogeyman hiding in the bushes and jumping out when least expected. Often triggered by some kind of sound, sight, smell, or song, they help me realize I still have more onions to peel (ugh).

Grief is not a one and done type of event. You can’t schedule it and cross it off your to-do list. When it flares back up, go back to riding the wave, peeling the onion, looking for light, receiving relief, honoring love, grieving your way.

9) Laugh Again

What did the left eye say to the right eye?

Between you and me, something smells.

Why did the hipster burn his mouth?

He drank coffee before it was cool.

Did you hear about the two people who stole a calendar?

They each got six months.

Laughter is good for the soul. Don’t be afraid to laugh. It’s ok to keep laughing and living. (Expert tip: If you’re looking for more jokes, google is your friend — the above jokes courtesy of the internet).

10) Lean Into God

Hold onto his truth. I grabbed hold of the verse that God will bring beauty from ashes. I couldn’t see anything but ash and dust all around after years of chemo and a departure at three years of age from this earth, but I held on tight to this promise and still cling to it when the wave of grief rolls in.

As you journey through the valleys of anger and depression, remember God can handle your anger. Let him have it. And then let him comfort you.

I got stuck for a while giving Him the cold shoulder because I wanted a re-write. He waited patiently. Then I unleashed my anger at the injustice of it all. He listened. And once I was ready, he comforted and reminded me He will keep his promise to bring beauty from ashes.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

Grief isn’t something you “get over” but you can grieve forward and find joy again. From one griever to another, keep bravely walking forward towards the light. You’ll find sorrow somehow opens you up to experience even deeper joy. It’s a mystery I still can’t explain…

Categories: Grief grieving healing
Tags: grief, grieving, grieving forward, healing, how do you get through grief, how to deal with grief, tips for grief,

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