Caring for Yourself

Grieving for a loved one is extremely difficult, emotional, and exhausting. The actual act of grieving can be quite taxing and take a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health. Everyone grieves differently and uniquely. The intense feelings associated with the loss of your loved one may persist for quite a while.

Taking care of yourself during this time of grieving is extremely important. While you may not be interested or invested in caring for yourself right now, please know that this can be one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself. Here are some things you can do each day to help care for yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually:


Develop a Daily Schedule and Routine

Following a daily schedule and routine can help you by giving each day some much needed consistency. It can help build an overall sense of stability and solidness. Establishing a daily schedule lets you know what to expect. Simply following a regular schedule can promote feelings of ease and manageability. You are resilient and you will quickly get used to having a set schedule. Routines can help reduce any anxiety and uncertainty you may feel about daily event. It also can help you feel more confident in accomplishing daily tasks and activities.

male hiker with arms spread open

Allow yourself to feel and grieve

Individuals experience grief and loss in unique ways. The feelings you have are your own. You may experience many different feelings, some of which seem to conflict with one another. That is completely fine. These are your feelings and this is your grief journey.

If you can, try to open yourself up to truly feeling your feelings. Accept your feelings as they are, knowing that they are just fine. You will survive this. Remind yourself of this fact.

Remember that grieving takes time. Grief is a journey you are now on, and you will need time to accept and process the loss of your loved one.

As you move along the journey, know that it’s okay for you to take breaks and deep breaths along the way. Grieving is a process. Be gentle with yourself. Be nurturing to yourself. This will take time.


Eat Healthy

Often when we are grieving, depressed, or distraught, we succumb to eating high-fat foods and snacks. Some people may do just the opposite and not eat at all. Changes in appetite, eating habits, and diet are extremely common in times of grief. However, it is essential to eat high-quality food. Instead of eating high-fat, high-calorie foods or not eating at all, try eating a variety of foods that are nutritious and lower in fat. Eat regular meals of good food will help you feel more resilient, more energetic, and more capable of managing your days. A diet that’s low in fat and high in healthy foods can help improve your mood and allow for clarity of thought. This, of course, can be really beneficial for your mental health and emotional well-being.


Do Something Physically Active Each Day

Exercising helps reduce feelings of depression, frustration, and anxiety. It’s an excellent way to boost your mood, enhance clarity of thought, and increase your energy. You, like many people who are grieving, may feel tired, lethargic, and completely devoid of energy. Adding even just a little physical activity into your day can help boost your energy levels.

Physical activity does not have to be “exercise” either. It can be anything that gets you moving or that requires physical exertion. Try going for a walk, bicycling, gardening, doing yardwork, hiking a trail, playing sports, going shopping, taking a run, using a treadmill, walking on the elliptical, or anything else that you enjoy – as long as it gets you moving.

Incorporating physical activity into your day will greatly help your emotional health, as well as boost your energy levels and clarity of thought.


Try to Get a Quality Night’s Sleep

eing able to get to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up fully rested can be extremely challenging in times of grief and sadness. You may even experience different types of insomnia following the loss of your loved one. You may have difficulty falling asleep (early insomnia), staying asleep (middle insomnia), or waking up extremely early (tertiary insomnia).

Sleep difficulties are quite common when grieving. Be gentle and comforting to yourself. Remind yourself that grieving takes time. Reassure yourself that getting a quality night’s sleep is important because it can help you think more clearly and handle the many emotions and challenges that come throughout the day. Make getting a quality night’s sleep a top priority in your self-care regimen.

Here are some things you can do to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Establish a regular bedtime/sleep routine.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
  • Meditate.
  • Listen to soft, relaxing music before you drift off.
  • Read a calming book.
  • Disconnect from social media.
  • Limit daytime naps, if possible.
  • Slow down your breathing.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine, especially at night.
  • Use aromatherapy.

Remember that quality sleep each and every night is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Adding a good night’s sleep to a lifestyle that also includes healthy foods and physical activity can greatly improve your mood and emotional health. These are all important ingredients in caring for yourself. Your body and mind need sleep and rest to decompress and refuel. Take the time to ensure that you get plenty of rest each night.


Focus on the Present Moment

Try to slow everything down and just focus on the present moment. Even though you currently may be feeling emotionally distressed and depressed, it does not mean that your feelings will be with you forever. Focus on the current moment instead of thinking way off into the future. Know that others have felt, managed, endured, and progressed through many of the same feelings you’re experiencing right now. There is hope. Allow yourself the time you need to get through this moment before worrying about the next. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can also help you stay in the present moment.


Slow Down and Breathe

When feeling distressed or in crisis, you might feel like your mind is racing and that everything is simply going too fast. If this is you, try slowing down your breathing. The act of focusing on your breathing can boost emotional health and help you feel more centered, more aware, and more resilient. Mindfully breathing can help reduce depression, anxiety, and feelings of overwhelm. Breathing slowly and focusing on each inhaled breath has been shown to help slow down the central nervous system. It can give you clarity in how to handle the challenges of our day.

Try this: Inhale slowly, taking a big, deep breath. Focus on your breath while you are inhaling. Tell yourself, “I am slowly breathing in, 1, 2, 3.” Exhale slowly and tell yourself, “I am slowly breathing out, 1, 2, 3.” Do this slow inhale/exhale for 1 minute.

Slowing down your breathing and focusing on your breath can help you decompress. It can help relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling. It also can help you in making the decision to talk to someone about how you feel. This breathing exercise can be practiced anywhere, anytime, and will be helpful for your overall mental health.


Go Outside and Enjoy Nature

Go outside and enjoy nature. Look at the sunshine. Feel its warmth. Breathe in clean, crisp air and acknowledge the beauty that surrounds you. Pay attention to the trees, the leaves, the grass, and the wind.

Feel the awesomeness of nature all around you. Take time to walk and enjoy everything that nature provides. This is great anytime but is especially important in times of grief. You may feel overwhelmed by everything that is happening around you or by anyone who’s asking something of you. In contrast, nature asks for and demands nothing. It is simply there. It accepts us as we are. It allows us to appreciate its wonder and beauty.

When you’re grieving, you need time to think and to process. This can be difficult sometimes. Getting out into nature can give you with the time and solitude you need to process your feelings and emotions.

Going outside and being with nature also can shed some light on the natural cycle of life and death. Nature’s seasons remind us that life begins in spring, continues through summer, fades in autumn, and dies in winter.

To a great extent, our own lives parallel the seasons. You may feel that the loss you’ve experienced has thrown you into the deepest grief of winter that you have ever experienced. You may feel that you will never be able to experience joy or happiness again. However, we can promise you that, like the seasons, spring will come in time if you let it.

Do Things You Enjoy

Do Things You Enjoy

It’s important to take care of yourself, especially when grieving. So, make a list of things you truly enjoy doing. Then start doing at least one of those things each day. The things you enjoy could be all kinds of different activities, such as reading, playing a musical instrument, listening to music, drawing, cooking, playing with a pet, writing, talking with friends, shopping, participating or watching sports. No matter what’s on your list, be sure to do something you enjoy each and every day.

Young african woman smiling at sunset

Do Not Use Alcohol or Drugs

Alcohol and drugs can worsen feelings of grief, sadness, and emotional distress. Alcohol and drugs do not solve problems. Avoid such substances whenever you’re feeling sad or depressed. Instead, talk to someone and share how you’re feeling.


Connect with a Pet

Pets can be great emotional healers. Pet parents often report higher levels of happiness and emotional health. Many say how helpful pets are in. elevating their mood and bringing them a sense of joy. Having a pet can help keep you from becoming overly consumed with thoughts of depression, pessimism, frustration, or hopelessness. Instead, pets can help you put your focus on other things – like their wants and needs. Pets are really good at giving and receiving affection, too, making them truly therapeutic. They’re so therapeutic that many counselors use pet therapy in their practices.

Open Up and Connect with Others

Open Up and Connect with Others

One of the most important psychological needs we all have is the need to build positive connections with others. Research shows that people who feel positively connected with others are significantly less likely to experience sustained depression and more likely to demonstrate resilience. Building positive connections greatly contributes to a feeling of overall life meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. People who are connected with others are more likely to open up and authentically share their feelings of grief and hurt. With this in mind, you can begin to connect with others by opening up and allowing yourself to interact with them. Talk, listen, and spend time with other people. It doesn’t matter what you say. What counts is that you’re talking, listening, and interacting – and you are not alone.