Your Guide to Grief and Loss: 10 Steps to Healing, Peace, and Joy

Grief. It’s an individual and private thing. I’ve learned that when grieving for the loss of a person, everyone will act and react differently. Like an onion, grief happens in layers. The deeper the love, the deeper the grief. The deeper the relationship challenges, the deeper the grief, too.  Whether you are grieving the loss of a person through death, going through anticipatory grief or grieving any other type of loss, this article is your guide to grief and loss with 10 steps to healing, peace, and joy.

The deeper the love, the deeper the grief. The deeper the challenges, the deeper the grief, too. Click To Tweet

 

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When my parents died, my sister and I grieved differently. Even though we are sisters, our relationship with our parents was very different. Even though my parents were involved in my kids’ lives, their relationship with their grandparents was all unique. As such, so was their grief.

Although grief is individual, it’s not always easy and there are some things you can do to help heal and feel greater peace and joy.

Your Guide to Grief and Loss: 10 Steps to Healing, Peace, and Joy

 

1. Every person feels and grieves differently.

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Don’t be worried if you find you are having a harder time healing than another person, even over the same loss. This usually shows how close you and the loved one really were and what kind of relationship you had. Some people will not cry, while it may take others weeks or months to stop crying. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. However that shows up for you is perfect and exactly where you need to be in any given moment.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Click To Tweet

2.  Be gentle with yourself.

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Stop the coulda, shoulda, woulda. Don’t let the “if-only” feelings take over. “If only I’d been nicer.” “If only I’d made time to visit more often.” “If only I’d tried to do more.” You did the best you could at the time. Period. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame others. Give yourself some space to work through your feelings. I understand that guilt is a real thing and our egos can keep the guilt and shame train going for years and years. Let guilt off of your train and send it away with love knowing you did the best you could as did everyone else. Think about what you would say to your best friend if they were ‘shoulding’ on themselves and then follow that advice.

Think about what you would say to your best friend if they were 'shoulding' on themselves and then follow that advice. Click To Tweet

3. Cry if you need to.

Daily Dose of Hope: http://www.tandyelisala.com/DailyDoseOfHope

 

Let your emotions out. Feelings buried alive never, never, ever die. The more you can allow your feelings to rise to the surface and move through them, the closer you are to healing and peace. Remember that if you allow others to live in your head rent-free, you can’t BE free. If you feel like you need to talk to someone, I encourage you to get help. Talk to a counselor, coach or another professional who can support you through this difficult time.

livinginyourheadrentfree

 

4. If you have a furry baby, play with or pet them.

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Play with your pets or take time to pet them. Pets can tell when you’re sad, and research has shown that petting your cat, dog, etc.. helps stress levels for both you and your pet. If you don’t have a furry baby, find someone you know who does and visit them. If that’s not possible, perhaps find a place to volunteer with pets.

 

5.  Give yourself grace.

 

http://bit.ly/byeoverwhelm

Remember, you will heal in your own way and on your own time. It isn’t a contest. Have the patience of Job.  Do your best to refrain from comparing your situation to others. Most often, you are comparing your entire life to someone else’s highlights. Here are some helpful ways to prevent comparison.

You will heal in your own way and on your own timeline. Click To Tweet

6. Music heals, promotes healing and changes your energy.

http://bit.ly/byeoverwhelm

 

Music is a universal language and can be a very soothing way to cope when you’re feeling loss and pain. You can certainly listen to sad songs as a way to remember the person or relationship and FEEL. However, I recommend shifting to more positive songs to help you shift your energy. Increase your vibration in a few short minutes through music! Check out my various Spotify lists to help give you some ideas.

Grieving and loss playlist

Kicking cancer’s butt playlist

Tandy’s party playlist

Family caregiver playlist 

 

Increase your vibration in a few short minutes through music! Click To Tweet

7. Journal or write.

http://bit.ly/byeoverwhelm

If you find yourself stuck after the loss of a loved one, consider writing them a letter. Include all your feelings towards their death – anger, sorrow, grief, regret. Writing down your feelings can be therapeutic. You may even want to burn the letter once you’ve written it as a ritual, per se. If you do this, imagine the smoke burning up all the negative, sad emotions and replacing them with peace, healing, and joy.

Another idea here is to pray, meditate or practice life-affirming affirmations. These are all great ways to help heal.

8. Forgive.

http://bit.ly/byeoverwhelm

Forgive. Forgiveness. It’s easier said than done, right? If you didn’t have an opportunity to share your feelings before your loved one died, know that you can still say what’s on your mind. Imagine saying “I love you” or “goodbye” and know that they can and do hear you. Forgive yourself for anything you think you did ‘wrong’. Forgive yourself for judging yourself or others. Forgive unsupportive people in your life. If they knew better, they would do better. Forgive GUS (God, Universe, Source) for anything you feel GUS has done to hurt you.  Here’s a good resource about forgiveness.   Here’s a forgiveness exercise that may be helpful for you.

 

toforgiveisthehighestmostbeautifulformoflove

 

 

9. Find and do things you enjoy.

http://bit.ly/byeoverwhelm

Be sure to take time just for you. Watch a funny movie or do something that makes you smile. Sometimes, when we’ve been in intense situations with a huge time investment, such as caregiving or going through a tough life situation, it can be difficult to find ourselves again. Finding one thing that you enjoy and making time for that while you are in the midst of grieving can be really helpful to feel more aligned.  Love yourself. The more you love yourself and the more you are gentle with yourself, the more you create space for healing, love, and light. Another alternative here is to remember who you enjoy spending time with and make time to get coffee/tea, lunch or catch a movie with them.

 

10. Remember and honor your loved one.

 

This can show up in so many ways. Perhaps you can keep a family tradition alive. Maybe talk about your loved one and share positive memories with others. Sometimes, starting a new tradition inspired by your loved one or your family can be helpful in moving forward. Think about and plan your lasting life legacy. One thing I did was interview my kids separately and blogged about their respective answers. This was a fun exercise and a good way to embrace and hone my legacy. You can check out these interviews here.  I created a Legacy Starter Journal to begin the conversation. You can get that here. 

http://tandyelisala.com/legacystarterjournal

Want more articles like this?

https://tandyelisala.com/3-grief-myths-and-how-to-bust-through-them/

https://tandyelisala.com/17-revealing-lessons-about-death-that-will-make-you-think-differently-about-life/

https://tandyelisala.com/thrive-in-life-sleep-and-meditation/

https://tandyelisala.com/the-complete-caregiver-respite-guide-you-need-to-know/

https://tandyelisala.com/226-songs-to-put-you-in-a-better-mood/

https://tandyelisala.com/the-truth-about-problems-that-will-make-you-think-differently-about-life/

 

Above all, give yourself TIME, space, grace and love to grieve your loss.

What would you add to this list? Comment below! 

Next Step

Because every life matters and every life is a story worth telling, get your FREE Legacy Starter Journal here and start documenting your life stories. 

http://tandyelisala.com/legacystarterjournal

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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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30 replies
  1. Stacey Myers
    Stacey Myers says:

    These are such great points! I really like the shoulda, coulda… It is really easy to think that we should be handling things in a certain way instead of just being with whatever it is that we are dealing with. As we know people deal with grief in different ways. And to go easy on ourselves.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      AMEN, Stacey! Self-compassion is SO very important. We MUST be gentle with ourselves when grieving. I’m glad the shoulda, coulda, woulda resonated with you.

      Reply
  2. Katarina Andersson
    Katarina Andersson says:

    Seems like some great tips dir grieving abd especially that each person is different and that others around you should respect that. Sometimes it seems like you should follow some official rules to be like everybody else…

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thanks for your comments, Katarina. I think there can be some general guidelines (such as what I wrote about) but I think everyone’s experience with grief is different for everyone.

      Reply
  3. Carol Rundle
    Carol Rundle says:

    Although I had experienced the death of my father, grandparents, and other close relatives, as well as beloved pets, it was not until the death of my mother in 2012 that I really understood grief. I allowed myself to ride the waves of grief as they came and my husband supported me in listening to me when I needed to talk, and just holding me when I needed silence. I am now supporting a young (35) friend whose husband was killed in January. Even in “normal” conversations, she will tear up. She’s showing me (again) how grief takes its own form in each of us. Grief really is a normal part of life.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Carol, thanks for sharing your beautiful story. I was in the same boat as you. When my mother died in 2012, my reaction was, well, traumatic for everyone involved. The waves of grief were INTENSE. I had friends, my kids (who were also grieving) and sister (also grieving) to talk to. Grief is definitely a part of life and the more effectively we can move through our grief, the more joy and peace we’ll feel.

      Reply
  4. Holly Jean
    Holly Jean says:

    Tandy, Grief is such a tough topic. I believe each of us deal with things in our own ways. I liked your post and the ideas you share to help your readers get through these tough times!

    Reply
  5. Marie Leslie
    Marie Leslie says:

    What a lovely explanation of the grieving process. I especially like your focus on remembering that grief is individual and that we will all grieve on our own timetable and in our own way. I think this article is especially helpful not only for those going through the process, but for those who love and support them as well. Definitely sharing this one.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Awesome, Marie. I’m so glad this is helpful for you. I agree it contains good information for the grieving AND their loved ones supporting them. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  6. Robin
    Robin says:

    Great article! And great points about taking care of yourself. When I had a really bad year (both parents, husband down with back surgery, and boys under 5, I did not have / take time to grieve. And it made the process take longer. Wish I would have had your article back then.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Robin, I’m sorry to hear about your bad year. That’s a lot to deal with. Not taking time to grieve definitely makes the process longer. When we don’t have time to heal, it manifests in some way for us physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Thanks for your comments and I certainly hope this article helps others.

      Reply
  7. Celea Star
    Celea Star says:

    I’m pleased you have spelled this out. Understanding that Kubler-Ross Five stages are not a measurement of loss/grief. I also believe our sense of loss/love is individual to each person. I especially like finding things that are enjoyable, fun even. Getting involved with life, experiencing the goodness that is all around us, appreciating what we have here and now is imperative to me.

    In my family, coming from Hungary, loss is celebrated for three days after the 6 hours weeping-mourning-wailing time has passed.We rent a big hall, have music, food, alcohol, and dancing. We talk about the good times, the fun times, the sad times, the times that drove us crazy. Most stay the whole time, napping where and when can. Some go home to clean up and come back to begin anew.
    As a child growing up, this was normal. When I later saw how others outside of our rather large community, handled death my concept was back then, that they were dishonoring their dead. What did I know? I thought everyone did the same thing. As I got older, I realized many things were done differently than how I was taught.
    Recognizing everything is a paradigm, a belief that we hold, having more options to be gentle with self is a good. Crises affects each according to what is known and for some unknown. Each one of us is affected by our thoughts of our own mortality when another makes the transition we refer to as death.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Celea, thanks so much for your heartfelt comments and sharing about how your family in Hungary managed loss and grief. I find it fascinating how different cultures and countries handle grief. There are so many beautiful ways to share loss and love. When my mom was actively dying, we played music, sang and told stories about what we appreciated about her. Thanks:-)

      Reply
  8. Lorii Abela
    Lorii Abela says:

    Death is inevitable and grief is a quite strong emotion. It can be debilitating but through time it can heal. However, what you have shared here will definitely give ease to the person experiencing it.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thanks for your comments, Lorii. Grief is definitely a strong emotion and can hold on for dear life. I certainly hope this information helps those experiencing grief to help heal.

      Reply
  9. Alene Geed
    Alene Geed says:

    Thanks Tandy. Have spent time recently with a friend who lost her husband. She said it helped to know that grieving is different for everyone. She has a terrific support system of family and friends..which is a great comfort

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Hi Alene, having a strong support system is critical. I’m glad it helped your friend knowing that grief is different for everyone. Sometimes, it can be difficult for friends and family to know what to say or do to help the grieving. Just being there and listening helps tremendously.

      Reply
  10. Sonya
    Sonya says:

    Great points! When my grandfather died, I just shut myself away, didn’t want to talk to anyone, nobody. It’s just how I dealt with it.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      I’m sorry about your grandfather, Sonya. Shutting yourself away from others is a common day to deal with grief. I hope you are at a point where you can think lovingly on his life and impact on you.

      Reply
  11. Geniece Brown
    Geniece Brown says:

    Hi Tandy,

    These are all wonderful tips and much needed. #8 speaks to me the most as I lost a first cousin earlier this year to suicide. Not too long before I heard the news, I had planned to take a trip to Atlanta to reconnect with her as I had not seen her in a few years. I felt like I totally missed out and maybe if I had connected with her earlier that what happened could have been prevented. Thank you for this heart-felt post.

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      I’m so glad this spoke to you, Geniece. I think suicide is particularly difficult as we go back around and around and around about hints and signs that may have been there and how we could have prevented it. The truth is we DID do the best we could at the time. Sometimes, suicidal people don’t want others to realize what they are about to do. The fact is we are only responsible for our behavior.

      Reply
  12. Meghan Monaghan
    Meghan Monaghan says:

    Loving and forgiving myself have been my two biggest challenges when it comes to grief and regret. For me, I’ve found that healing comes in the process of “moving forward” versus “closure.” Like you mention, we all have different ways of dealing with life and loss. Helpful tips. And you know I LOVE your images/graphics!

    Reply
    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Lol about the images, Meghan! I agree with you about ‘moving forward’ versus ‘closure’. In the moving forward, we are evolving and growing and grieve differently at various stages.

      Reply
  13. Melanie Boylan
    Melanie Boylan says:

    Sensitively and beautifully written and extremely helpful. Making time for oneself is so hard these says as we allow people and apps to follow and track us. We all need to be reminded that we need to look after number one first at times. Great information Tandy x

    Reply

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