Stuff that might help
Grief can include many different feelings that may be stirred up by something that happens or may come in waves over time, even if it doesn’t seem like there was any cause. Some waves of grief can be smaller while others feel overpowering. These experiences are all natural and common. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, or that you’ve “gone backwards” in your experience of grief, it's just how grief unfolds over time.
You might find that different things help you to live with and deal with different feelings or at different times. Here are some ideas that might help, depending on what you need or feel:
Prepare for important days, and come up with strategies to get through the hardest days.
Planning for hard days:
When we’re feeling our worst, it can be hard to think of anything that could help. Use these prompts to think of ideas about what might help, and keep this list so you don’t have to think of what to do in those hardest moments.
If I need help, I can call ________
If I need company, I can call _____
When I’m upset, I can listen to _____
When I need a distraction, I can _____
When I need to feel calmer, I can _______
When grief is intense, I can _____________
Some other activities I can try are_____________
Planning for big days:
Grief can be extra hard before and during important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or special events like a graduation or wedding. Planning ahead for these days can help you avoid feeling caught off guard or stressed, or missing out on it.
Which days are important for you? Mark them in your calendar with a message for each day, something like, “go easy on yourself today,” or “take deep breaths,” or maybe something the person used to say to comfort you. Would it help to mark the day before or after, too, so you can prepare or remember to take care of yourself afterwards?
How do you want to spend those days? Some people do what they would normally do, like school or work, so that they can focus on something familiar. Others choose to do something different as a way to mark the occasion, or as a distraction, or for comfort. Think about:
- Who you would want to see or talk to
- A special or important activity you could do
- A place to go or visit
- Something to wear
- A movie, show, or game to watch
- Music to listen to
- A book to read
- Photos or mementos to keep close
- A special meal to eat or cook
- Anything else that is meaningful for you
Is there anything you need to do (find, buy, schedule) ahead of time to make these days a bit less stressful? Remember, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to spend these days, just find whatever feels like it’s what you need to do.
Plan scripts and seek out resources to make it a little easier to ask for help.
If you need or want to talk to someone, click here for some places to find help
Talk to someone you trust:
If you want or need to talk but don’t know how to start, you could say, “I need to talk, but –:
- I don’t know what to say.
- It feels really hard. Do you think you could listen?
- I don’t want advice. I just need someone to listen.
- I’m having a really bad day. Can we talk about something fun?
Ask for help:
This can be really hard, but you call or text someone you trust, saying, something like “I’m calling/texting because I need help – “:
- I don’t know what to say or how I feel, but it doesn’t feel okay.
- I am really overwhelmed, I think it might help to talk to someone.
- I don’t feel like myself lately.
- I’m thinking about hurting myself.
All of the feelings that come with grief are natural, but some are harder to deal with than others. They can change from moment to moment, or feel like they’ll never pass. Keeping track of day-to-day feelings can highlight patterns, reassuring us that these feelings have changed before and they’ll change again. Click here for ideas about how to do it, and tools to get you started.
Feelings tracker: All of the feelings that come with grief are natural, but some are harder to deal with than others. Feelings may change from moment to moment, or they may feel like they’ll never pass. Keeping track of day-to-day feelings can highlight patterns, reassuring us that these feelings have changed before and they’ll change again. Here’s one way to do it:
Choose as many feelings as you want from this faces chart, and add any others that are missing. You can use different colours or patterns (dots, stripes, etc.) so that each feeling that you choose is unique.
Create your tracker. You can:
- Use one of these bullet journals by Sherry
- Use a regular calendar
- Add numbers to lined or graph paper, using one page per month and one line per day (the number = the date)
- Find free printable mood tracker templates online, like this one: https://www.101planners.com/mood-tracker/
Each day, think about what feelings you had. Fill in one line in your tracker using the colours and patterns that you chose for those feelings in the faces chart.
Over time, you’ll be able to see if there are patterns of when and how often you have different feelings. It can also help to keep track of other things, like sleep; sick days; school, social, or physical activities; really good or really hard days; or anything else. You could use a separate tracker or add notes about these things on the same lines as your feelings tracker. That extra information can help to show when and how those things influence moods and feelings so that you can learn to take good care of yourself.
Sometimes grief feels like a volcano that’s about to erupt. When that happens suddenly, depending where you are, you might want to create a moment of calm, to give you time to get somewhere that you can let those feelings out. Here are some ways to do that.
Grounding activities – These are quick ways to help your mind refocus on the present instead of worrying about the past or future. Start by closing your eyes and taking a few slow, deep breaths. When you open your eyes, try one (or more!) of these activities:
Find five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste (credit).
Find one thing (or two, if you like) for each colour of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.
Go through the alphabet and try to think of something that starts with each letter. These could be things that you can see, or you might choose a category, for example, animals, types of food, or names of musicians that start with each letter.
Deep breathing exercises:
Try the breathing videos found at kidshealth.org
Trace a labyrinth with your finger or a pencil, or colour a mandala to help your mind focus and let go of other thoughts and worries. Here are some places to find:
- Printable mandalas:
- Printable labyrinths:
How to draw your own labyrinths Video
How to create and use a labyrinth Dr. Jay’s “Brief Grief” Activity
- Meditation or yoga:
These are known as “practices”; by practicing, we strengthen our abilities to notice, take care of, live with, and let go of stress. Here are some playlists that you can try:
Sometimes it can feel like certain thoughts, feelings or worries get stuck in a loop, or on ‘repeat’ in our minds or bodies. Here are some quick ways to interrupt that cycle and help your mind or body feel refreshed.
Move your body:
Walk or run for a few minutes. If you are in a small space, try jumping jacks or jogging in place. If there’s a sport or activity you used to enjoy, try it again – if you haven’t felt up for it lately, try it in small doses, even 5 minutes at a time just to remember what it feels like.
Sit or walk outside and try to notice what you can see, hear, and smell around you. If you can’t get outside, open or look out a window, or water a plant.
Wash your face, take a shower or bath, or drink a cold glass of water to help refresh your body and mind.
Let it out...
Make a playlist. Choose something you can sing, dance, jump, yell, or cry to, or pick something meaningful to you or the person who died.
Draw; paint; make a comic, a collage, or a sculpture; take photos or collect old ones. Art can be abstract or realistic. It can be about important people or memories; relationships; life before and after; what you’re feeling; what you miss, hope, or wish for; or anything you choose. You can create images, use colours and symbols, or scribble as hard as you can. You might want to keep your creations in a private spot, share them where others can see them, or tear up the images depending on what they mean to you. Do whatever feels right to you.
You can write stories, poems, songs, letters, lists, a journal or a diary. You could write emails or letters to the person who died, or to your past or future self. Write about people, memories, relationships, life before and after, what you hope or wish, or anything you choose.
Here are some journal ideas:
- I remember when you and I….
- This is what I have to say to you….
- The first time I did _____ without you, I….
- My happiest memory of you is… (credit)
- More journal ideas PDF
- More journal ideas at mindyourmind.ca
Make something – anything!:
It can feel really good to put energy into creating something, with your person or your grief as the inspiration. You might create a song, build a birdhouse, plant a garden (in the ground or on a window sill), make a sculpture, bake cookies, sew a blanket, paint a picture frame…
Here are some links to activities you could try, or adapt them to make them your own: