Top 10 Healthy Ways I Am Grieving

21 Jan

Top 10 Healthy Ways I Am GrievingMy father recently passed away, and while I knew it was heading in that direction and he certainly had fought a good fight against what turned out to be seven cancers over 30-some-odd years, there was more to grieve than just his death. Death has a way of putting what is unhealthy under a microscope and forcing it up to our eyeballs to view it whether we wish to take a close look at it—or not.

If you are grieving a person, a relationship loss, or even a shift in the plans you had for your life, some of these may work for you. I am not an expert on grief. I share this as a layperson going through the motions in real time.

10. Color!

Say what? Huh? My therapist handed me an adult coloring book. If you need one, here are some examples at my friend Mary’s site (which is fun to check out anyway): Some similar books can be found at Walmart for $5. I spent the holidays coloring through visits with family, a funeral trip, and some relationship dynamics.

I almost laughed out loud when my therapist recommended coloring, but I gave it a try, and I have to admit: It is so grounding. I often pray as I color. It causes me to be still, so I can hear and not just talk when I pray. I use twistable colored pencils so I don’t have to keep sharpening.

I even color through my children arguing! We all have to usher the peace in any way that we can, right?

9. Rest, Be

As Dad was passing and even afterward, I found it difficult to focus. Everything moved in slow motion. The rest of the world seemed to be moving at a swift pace while meanwhile I floundered between stunned and weary. I gave myself permission to go to bed earlier, whenever possible, and to catch a catnap here and there.

I also expected less out of myself for a while. I didn’t want my days to be spent escaping between the covers, which can be its own red flag after a while, but I also didn’t try to take on the world. I lowered my expectations for each day and focused on the few things that had to be accomplished, like feeding and driving family members to activities. I didn’t write a lot or even keep my blog marketing schedule going.

One of my favorite songs is “Be Still” by Selah. I needed someone to record this concept for me because I am usually resistant to Be Still. I have been attempting to get to know Be Still for a while now.

8. Look at Pictures and CardsTop 10 Healthy Ways I Am Grieving2

If you are visual or a word person, on the days you are ready to confront and work through the grief, it can be really nourishing to read over the sympathy cards again and flip through photo albums.

When my grief was raw and real, I simply couldn’t handle the cards. I read through some of them quickly and set the rest aside until a day I felt strong enough to face it.

On my somehow-less-tender days, I pushed through and found them to be very healing. It’s a beautiful thing to feel loved for, thought about, and remembered. It’s especially helpful to read reflections of your loved one.

7. Know Your Fragility

I have to say that some days I awaken to find myself feeling shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. I want to wake up and find that my loss was a nightmare and all is well with the world again. On other days, I function almost normally.

In this state of unpredictability, be aware that there is a tendency to misread other people, be oversensitive and easily annoyed, and wish the rest of the world was feeling what you are (not really, but kind of really). Know this upfront about this process so that you surround yourself with people who can handle it (see Number 5) and avoid situations where you are likely to be triggered, at least in the short term.

I am not ashamed to say that I bawled my way through Walmart several times. I have no idea why. It was a trigger. One day I just couldn’t handle being with people in a crowd at church so I sat in the empty nursery in the dark, rocked in a rocking chair, and prayed.

6. Help Others

One of the most essential steps I took was to spend part of my week helping a friend or two out. It might be something small or more significant, but it always helped me feel like in my pain, I was offering compassion to another heart in need.

A word of caution: It would be dysfunctional to completely throw ourselves headlong into someone else’s situation or problem and not take care of ourselves. It can be tempting to distract ourselves with another person’s woes at the expense of working through our own. This step isn’t intended to replace our grief; it is meant only as a way of feeling purposeful during a season of deep discouragement.

Helping others propels us forward in purpose, reminding us that although we’ve lost a loved one, life goes on and there are many people out there who benefit from our kindness.

5. Keep Your Circle Small 

I can’t say enough about this one. Choose your inner circle well, and don’t have unreasonable expectations on anyone else.

It’s not that you reject others during your mourning, but at any given time, only a few people have the assignment to walk a difficult road with us. It isn’t realistic to expect the friend you catch the occasional yearly lunch with to necessarily want to talk three times a day with you about this.

Allow the people you know more peripherally to extend their love and comfort and graciously acknowledge their role in lifting you up to higher ground that day, but know that only a few folks in each season of our lives are God-assigned to wipe our snot and to listen to the same memories rehearsed over and over again. They may not be the same people who hold our hands through the next crisis or loss, but God bless them for being available this time.

I took a train to see a cousin several states away because I so desperately needed to be with family to grieve.

4. Get Out!

I am an introvert by nature. Holing up in my room with my laptop and a few good books is my daily preference. Because I tend to enjoy alone time, it can be too much of a temptation to stay in and marinate in my mood. It is definitely helpful to take some time to process on my own; space can be good for a time, but if I stayed in all the time, I would never come out.

Make sure to have a coffee date or jogging buddy or two so that at least once or twice a week you are talking to someone either about your loss or life in general. Be sure to pick someone you can be fragile around (Number 7).

3. Understand Your Cycles of Grief

There is a lot of debate over the cycles of grief and their order. If you generally accept that they are present in one form or another and don’t get bent out of shape that you experience them with some variation in length and sequence, being familiar with what to expect can be so healing.

I literally went around them like a clock at first, to the extent I would tell my older children: “I’m sorry. I am in the anger phase and am very impatient and stressed. It will pass, but my state of mind right now is not a reflection of my relationship with you.” For my younger child, I simply said: “I’m really missing Pop-Pop, and that’s why I have a lot of feelings right now.” After about 12-18 hours spent wanting to swear up a storm, I would move onto sadness again.

Articles I found helpful include:

2. Attend Counseling/Support Groups

There are some complicated parts of my grief that are simply not going to work their way through the cycles without a little help. Help can certainly come in the form of conversations with good friends, yes, but if you’re stuck after a while or your grief is mixed in with challenging relational struggles, you may benefit from seeing a therapist. I always walk away encouraged, strengthened, and equipped with concrete strategies and tools.

If you aren’t keen on a therapist, consider a grief support group. You may find one in your local area unique to your particular area of grief: child loss, suicide loss, traumatic event, etc.

(My friend Tammie shares her journey after child/suicide loss.)

1. Pray!

Hands down, the best way I am working through this period of mourning is talking to God throughout the day and sharing with Him every emotion I experience. He understands. He is not intimidated by cycles of grief. If you need help knowing how to talk to God, read the Psalms. King David was among those crying out to God so honestly, so raw. If nothing else, cry out: “Jesus, please help me!”

If it helps you, I wrote about my prayers of grief at Your Tewksbury Today: “When You’re Stuck Like Me.”

Whichever of these strategies/tips you choose, if you are not walking through it but are stuffing your sadness someplace, I guarantee you that escape cannot be forever. One day it will bubble up from a geyser within you, and you will not be able to contain or control it anymore. Walk through it. Compartmentalizing may help you get through your work day, but shoving it several layers down within your heart just guarantees an eruption weeks, months, years later.

Grief has to be experienced. It has to be engaged. It’s a long-term thief unless you grab its hand, understand its purpose in healing, and let it be your companion for a while. If you ignore it, it’s a beast that will claim more and more spaces of your heart and mind, lashing out when you least expect it.

Be grief’s friend—at least for a little while. It may not seem like it, but it is your friend if you let it in.

Remember: Grief wouldn’t have shown up if you hadn’t loved deeply. You spent your heart currency, and now your heart has to carry that pocket around empty. Healing is necessary. It can’t be skipped.

How have you handled your grief? Would you care to share any tips here at Espressos of Faith?

*This blog has been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Worshipful WednesdaysWomen With Intention WednesdaysGrace & TruthA Little R & RRaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

Anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).


Posted by on January 21, 2016 in Grief and Loss, Ministry Moments


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20 responses to “Top 10 Healthy Ways I Am Grieving

  1. Deb Little

    January 21, 2016 at 10:49 am

    So much help for so many in this! I have been through Grief many times in my life. Even so, I learned some new ways to get through it! So important to note that you need to get through it, not over it or around it. Yes, walk through it, take as much time as YOU need. It is not a sprint, for sure. And sometimes it is more like a marathon. The time it takes is not important. Going through the process, not being alone while you do, those waves will come less frequently & with less intensity. Will they ever be totally gone? The short answer is no. But, the good news is, you will be able to deal with them with more peace. Isn’t that what we all want?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 21, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Oh, Deb, yes, and did you see the article you sent me in here? You have been a tremendous help and blessing! I hope everyone reads your comment because you added so much I didn’t elaborate on. You should write your own blog on it! I’d post it here at #EspressosOfFaith! xoxo


      • Deb Little

        January 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        Yes, I did see the article. Love that you made it your own! I may take you up on your offer! Much love & healing to all that read your blog! xxooxx right back at ya!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Carter (@themomcafe)

    January 21, 2016 at 11:04 am

    This is a such a wealth of wisdom for those who grieve. I want everyone who suffers from loss to read this. I will surely remind myself of your advice when I am under a current of loss. THANK YOU for offering your experience and your help to all who desperately need to find comfort in the hard grieving process. Sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 21, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Thanks so much, Chrissy! I really appreciate your kind encouragement and for being one of the people walking me through it! xoxo Muah!


  3. Hillary

    January 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Bonnie, I am sorry to hear of the loss of your father. May God bless and guide you through all the stages of grieving and bless all those who have walked this path with you.

    Number 5 is so true, it’s beautiful. In fact I think this whole article is a blessing to anyone who might be grieving right now or who has not yet fully confronted their grief.

    I hope you will not be offended, but your last few paragraphs reminded me, for some reason, of the movie Inside Out and the role that sadness played in the young girl’s life. Yes, grief has its place in our deep experience, and healing does accompany it. I even think we can bless others through our grief as you have done here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 21, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Hillary, wow….what an encouragement to me! Your words are so ministering! I really appreciate your reflections…love “Inside Out”! Yes, it all needs to happen. It’s healthy and part of our healing. Bless you for your words!


  4. Susan Gaddis

    January 21, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Bonnie Lyn. I lost my parents some years ago and the pain is always nearby. This is a wonderful article and one I’m passing on. Seems we’ve had more than our fair share of deaths in our church family this last year. Thank you for the great advice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 21, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      Thank you, Susan! I remember you mentioning some of those deaths. 😦 So hard. I find it’s simple things that get me through, and I am happy to face anything that makes me remember how big my love is. 🙂 Blessings to you! Thanks for coming by!


  5. aimeeimbeau

    January 21, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    I really like how you shared the things that are helping you walk through grief. So often, we just want it to go away. But grief is necessary in our healing. I like the idea of sitting in the nursery instead of with the rest of the congregation. Do you think that writing this post has helped you to process, grieve and remember your dad?
    I think grieving in a healthy way for someone also honours them.
    Worship music is one thing that has always helped me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 21, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Aimee, so kind of you to come by. Yes, writing this, when I was ready, was very helpful! Like a guide for the next time I face it but also something to come back to right now. My ideas may not be for everyone, but it’s surprisingly the simple things I find the most comfort in. The nursery moment, while painful, was one of my most intimate times with God. Dad brought me to that place as I missed him so much. 🙂 I love worship music too! Blessings to you!


  6. Amy L. Sullivan (@AmyLSullivan1)

    January 23, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Bonnie, I am so sorry for your loss. I think it’s brave of you to share about what you are doing to stay healthy online for others. This has been a big year of loss for us. I find that being outside helps me.


    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 23, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Amy, thank you so much for stopping by. I am so sorry you have experienced loss this year too. It really does rattle and shake us, leaving us to shift or reevaluate priorities in our lives. I’m so sad about the losses but grateful God teaches us and helps us through them. Outside is a great plan! Thank you! Bless you, my friend!


  7. Sharon

    January 27, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Such wise advice here, Bonnie. My father passed away two years ago this month. In the immediate aftermath of that, my siblings and I began to shoulder the heavy burden of caring for our mother. We had not known fully of her shortcomings, her own mental decline, until we began spending more time with her. As I look over the past two years, I sometimes feel like there hasn’t been a chance to take a breath, and grieving has sometimes been swallowed up in the immediate challenges of caregiving.

    But, I can’t say that I’ve stuffed it. I’ve just let it arise as it comes, taking the time to feel it and process it, and learning to release the pain to the One who promises to bind up our wounds and be close to us when we feel that our spirits are crushed.

    Grief can also happen with the living. I’ve learned that painful truth – as my mom, my best friend for all of my life, slides into dementia. I grieve the relationship we’ve had in the past. And there are days when the sadness overcomes me.

    That’s OK. It’s all part of being human in a sinful world. But I am grateful for a Savior who Himself wept. As in everything, He understands completely.

    I love the image you expressed of holding hands with grief and walking together for a time. It’s a beautiful image. Grief, though painful, can be a friend on the way to healing.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 29, 2016 at 10:48 am

      Sharon, your comments are such a blessing to me. Thank you so much. I read them several times. I have a close friend who experienced the same thing you did…Dad passing and then watching Mom disappear into Alzheimer’s. So much loss at once. Thank you for sharing your piece with me. Jesus weeping also bring me much comfort! Blessings, my friend!


  8. aladyinfrance

    January 29, 2016 at 8:09 am

    There is so much here. I was so raw when my brother died. I wish i had had this list when I was alone and grieving then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bonnie Lyn Smith

      January 29, 2016 at 10:51 am

      Oh, Jennie. I can only imagine. I hope to process more of this and share as I learn. Such an important thing to learn to do well. We just keep losing people as we go. Much love!



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