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20 Ways to Navigate Grief

Grieving is the work we must do before we are able to fully embrace life again. It is impacted by our culture, experience and identity. Here are some ways to navigate the process.

1. Rest and Nutrition

As you already know, grief is work. Get plenty of rest and eat nutritious foods whenever you can.

2. Accept Support

Ask for and accept support from family and friends. They will be eager to help but are often unsure about what to do. Let them know what you need.

3. Journaling

Consider keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. This provides you with a way to express yourself and gives you some perspective on your progress.

4. Exercise

Try to get some daily exercise, even if it is just a short walk. Exercise can help you manage your anger and frustration. It can help boost your energy levels during the day and help you get restful sleep at night.

5. Avoid Big Decisions

If possible, delay major decisions until after the *acute stage of grief.

Big changes, like moving or changing jobs may drain you of energy and complicate the grieving process.

*According to the National Library of Medicine “Symptoms of acute grief include tearfulness, sadness, and insomnia.” They are natural and universal and typically require no treatment.

6. Read Books or Guides

Reading books on grief related to the type of loss you have experienced can be very comforting and provide you with a deeper understanding of your grief experience. Our
Donor Family Aftercare Team can provide references.

7. Give Yourself the Compassion You’d Give Others

Be gentle with yourself about your grief journey. When people indicate that “you should be over this,” gently remind them that everyone experiences grief differently and tell them how they can help you.

8. Share Memories

Share memories about your loved one. This can help you feel closer to them and ease your pain. Putting together a picture album of your loved one’s life can provide comfort and also creates a nice keepsake.

9. Lean on Your Faith

Speaking with your religious leader or clergy may be helpful.

Spiritual readings in line with your beliefs may help give you some perspective and sustain you through this time.

10. Anticipate Anniversaries and Create Meaningful Rituals

Holidays and special days, such as the anniversary of your loved one’s birth or death, can be difficult because the person’s absence is more pronounced. This may be true for many years. Plan ahead for how you will spend this time and develop some rituals for remembering your loved one. For example, light a candle at mealtimes or play their favorite music.

11. Get Input from Experts

Obtaining counsel from an accountant or lawyer regarding your loved one’s estate or will can help you feel confident that these matters are being handled properly, which may help reduce your stress.

Even the advice or guidance of friends and family who have navigated the estate process and/or paperwork can be helpful and might allow those around you to feel useful in helping you when you need it.

12. Work Towards Balance

Avoid getting over-involved with work or other activities. While work provides some necessary relief and structure, you also need time to think and experience the pain of your grief. If all the hours of your day are filled with activities, leaving no time for anything else, you may be avoiding your feelings. Try to find balance.

13. Manage Your Grief in Healthy Ways

Exercise, sleep, journaling, nutritious food, connecting with your faith/religion and talking about how you’re feeling are all things that can help you navigate the normal feelings of loss.

Avoid the use of alcohol, tranquilizers, sleeping pills and other drugs. These give only temporary relief and may complicate the grieving process. Feeling the pain is one of the necessary tasks of grieving your loss.

14. Let Us Help

if you find yourself preoccupied with your loved one’s gifts of donation or the process of organ, eye, or tissue donation, please get in touch with one of the members of our Donor Family Aftercare Team.

15. Caring Physical Touch

Being touched, held, or hugged by someone who cares about you can be very healing. A massage can help reduce the effects of stress on your body and provide comfort.

16. Recognize the Need for Breaks

Find ways to take a break from your grief, like going to a funny movie or reading a good novel. It is okay for you to laugh and have fun. Finding enjoyment can provide relief and help create balance in your life.

17. Talk with Someone You Trust

Talk about your feelings and thoughts with someone who listens well and will not tell you how you should be feeling.

We all have gifts that can be useful to friends and loved ones in crisis. It may be a gift to a friend who is a good listener – to listen when that’s what you need.

18. Make Decisions When You Are Ready

You don’t need to decide everything right away. For example, your loved one’s belongings can provide comfort and help you feel close to them. Deciding what to do with your loved one’s belongings should occur when you are ready.

19. Find A Support Group

If – for example- your loved one died by suicide, you may tend to isolate yourself due to feelings of guilt and shame. You may want to consider seeking the help of a support group to better understand your feelings and receive support. It can help to share with and hear from others who are processing similar feelings. Our Donor Family Aftercare Team can assist you in locating grief resources or support groups.

20. Let a Professional Guide You

If after six months you are seeing no improvement in your ability to function, or at any time you have thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or die, you may be experiencing a depression that requires professional help. Talk with a mental health professional about the difficulties you are having.

This content was developed from our From Heartache to Hope grief resource for friends and family of organ, eye and tissue donors.

You can find more general information and resources in the Donor Family section of our website.

Click here for more resources specific to grief.