Melinda Smith M.A., Lawrence Robinson & Jeanne Segal Ph.D.

When you’re working through grief, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time.

Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.

Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say. Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life. Or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to your loved one.

Try to maintain your hobbies and interests. Think about what you enjoy doing. There’s comfort in routine and getting back to the activities that bring you joy and connect you closer to others can help you come to terms with your loss and aid the grieving process.

Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel. Don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own. No one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry to not to cry. It’s also ok to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.

Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop and know that it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing a holiday or life cycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and agree on strategies to honor the person who is no longer with you.

Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel healthy physically, you’ll be better able to cope emotionally.  Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain or grief or lift your mood artificially.