Learning To Grieve Well

Posted on September 21st, 2010 by Colin and is posted in Growth

                                                                  Learning To Grieve Well                                

I have found from personal experience with the loss of my sister and the many emails I’ve been sent most of us don’t do a very good job of grieving well. Life doesn’t do a great job of preparing us for these types of experiences!

Because grief can be so painful, and seem overwhelming, it frightens most of us. Many people seem to worry if they are grieving in the “right” way, and wonder if the feelings they’re having are normal.

One thing I think we can agree on is grieving well is NOT easy. I know how difficult it’s been for me but I am slowly learning. So, how do we grieve well? I want to share two things that I have learned that are helping me and make a request of you.

1. Paying attention to the feeling of grief

If not careful, the first tendency is to mask the painful feeling of loss by engaging in different forms of self-medication. Drinking, over eating, shopping, throwing ourselves into our work, drugs and gambling are all ways we might quickly take ourselves out of the pain of grief into pleasure.

The function of self-medication is to put a buffer between ourselves and the experience of our emotions. Self-medication serves to numb us so that we are out of touch with what we feel.

Most self-medication activities are fine and a natural part of everyday living. The danger lies when they become a crux or a habitual coping mechanism.

Numbness is not something we want our heart to experience, because there is more to life than grief: numb our heart, and we will find even the more enjoyable things in life difficult to appreciate. Finding our smile will become even more difficult.

The long road to recovery is often slow and winding and if there is an over reliance on self-medication we can lead ourselves right back to where we started – more pain through empty addictions!

The healthiest thing we can do is just surrender to the grief. Don’t try to fight it, deny it or avoid it.

I am a surfer. I love surfing. I have found the experience of grieving to be just like surfing. Some times I know a wave of emotional energy is coming and I manage to ride the wave of grief to the end of its energy.

Other times I think I can ride it but its too big and I’m thrown off and taken under by the grief’s powerful force. Like surfing, this is the time to surrender to its energy. Fighting it is futile. It’s too powerful. You’ve got to let it take you down, all the way down, until you hit the bottom. Only then can you make your way back up to the light of the surface.

Here is how it was put it in an email that was sent to me:

“You must go through very difficult times, but if I may have one tiny bit of advice: live the pain and the grievance to the fullest, go to the bottom of it, and then light, joy and life will shine again”

Wise words.

2. Don’t go it alone

This is what one person put in an email to me,

“many, many times in my life I have sentenced myself to face my pain and my grief alone because I was scared to share it with others.”

That is what happens when we try to face our grief and pain on our own. It’s often a very foolish and very sad thing to do! It’s so important to share our grief and our pain with others.

My last video Baring My (Your) Soul proved this to me. Just look at the amazing response that followed. The encouragement and support blew me away!

Yes, it can be very hard to admit our struggles to others and the risk of sharing (I nearly didn’t) does take courage. It’s scary and the outcome is somewhat uncertain but the blessings can be huge!

Also be careful not refuse the help of your spouse, children, or friends as they try to comfort you. The more people there are around you, the better possible chance of a faster recovery.

3. My request to you – Share your proven techniques and coping strategies that can make bereavement easier and more comfortable to endure.

I’m not sure there is a “right way” or “wrong way” to grieve… but I believe there are ways to make the whole ordeal more bearable and find, with time, successful closure.

I have been sent so much wisdom from those of you who have lived through grief. So many of you have shared your personal stories of how you’ve learnt to handle grief.

You have helped me in so many ways and I’d like to ask you to be kind enough to put your strategies, ideas and suggestions in the comment boxes below for others who are grieving to learn from.

What are you top tips to grieve well?

I’ll kick it off what’s been helping me over the last couple of weeks:

Listening to inspiration music.

We didn’t have hymns at Sharon’s funeral; we played four tracks of music instead. Sharon chose two of the tracks. Mick chose one and I picked one (Well that’s not absolutely true but more on this in another post). Each track was specifically chosen for the lyrics.

Even though it’s not easy to listen to these tracks I feel very close to Sharon when I do. In a funny way I find them very comforting and they are helping me to grieve well.

Here are two of the tracks we played. The first is the one Sharon chose. Its Eva Cassidy – Song Bird

(make sure your speakers are turn up)

Track two is the one Mick chose. Kate Bush – Women’s Work

Two amazing songs!

Now it’s your turn…

Please leave your:

  • Book recommendations
  • Useful websites/blogs
  • Personal strategies. What’s worked for you?
  • Experts in this field
  • Poems or songs
  • Any other

in the comment box below.

If you have something to share please stay on this site and share it no matter how small or insignificant you think it is.

Please hit the Facebook like button to get this out to as many people as possible. Help people to find this post. The bigger the list of resources, ideas and strategies the better!

Go on… leave your mark!

Bless you all


This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 4:08 pm and is filed under Growth. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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    Take a look at some of the responses we have had to this article.

    1. Sep 22nd

      Hi Colin,

      Really interesting post. In particular, I think you’re really right about this: “I’m not sure there is a “right way” or “wrong way” to grieve… but I believe there are ways to make the whole ordeal more bearable and find, with time, successful closure.”

      At Cruse Bereavement Care we maintain that there is no ‘normal’ way to grieve and strive to provide the best possible support for any bereaved person that wants it. You can find a lot of useful information on our website, http://www.cruse.org.uk, or contact your local branch.

      Hope that helps.
      Best wishes,


    2. Colin
      Sep 22nd

      This is just the kind of support I’m hoping this post will evoke. Thanks for posting Caroline. cx

    3. Kenny
      Sep 22nd

      HI Colin,

      I must admit, I’m fortunate in that I’ve only lost one person close to me in my life that I suppose I ‘grieved’ for and that was my grandmother. I say supposedly as I never really grieved. My grandmother was 86 when she died and in a conversation just prior she told me that at her age she was content as she felt she did everything she wanted to do in her lifetime. Now, I always remember her that way and I also always celebrate and am thankful for the lessons, experiences and moments we did share growing up. So while it’s limited in numbers, my experience is about celebrating and being proud and grateful for the feelings and memories formed from the relationship.

    4. Colin
      Sep 22nd

      Thanks Kenny. I know a few people who were helped greatly by regularly filling out a gratitude journal. Nice one! cx

    5. Carmel van den Bergh
      Sep 22nd

      Colin, there is a lot written about grief and for me it’s listening to my inner self and as you said allow your emotions to flow where & when ever they come to the fore. I find it happens for me at the least expected times and instead of fighting I just let it flow and feel it to the end. There is no right or wrong way – it’s about understanding and awareness and for everyone it will be different.

      In helping others – listening and just being there can be a great help without offering any advice.

      Thinking of you often.

    6. Colin
      Sep 22nd

      Thats been my experience Carmel. Thanks for posting. Good to hear from you. cx

    7. cat
      Sep 22nd


      I too would recommend cruse bereavement care for anyone, young or old, who is bereaved. Sharing experiences such as people have here is such a powerful way to support one another, as it reduces the tremendous feeling of isolation, particularly as we realise we are in fact ‘normal’ in both our differences and in our similarities in ways of coping.
      I find one of the struggles many bereaved people face is often several months on, when friends, neighbours and well wishers have given the support they are able, and restore focus on their own lives. The calls, visits and messages may slowly ebb, yet it is so important to realise that people have not ceased to care, It is at this time when we can feel our most isolated and vulnerable – perhaps we feel there is some unspoken expectation that we will have ‘moved on’, and that makes us afraid to let others know how much we are still hurting. We all must travel our own grieving journey, yet If we can find courage like yours Colin, to allow others to see us, to share our memories sorrows and joys, then we may find the burden we carry is lighter along the way.
      Thank you for ‘baring your soul’. I think it is a beautiful one.

    8. Colin
      Sep 22nd

      Hi Catherine, in an attempt to manage expectations and feelings of isolation, Mick (Sharon’s husband) and I have talked about people ‘moving on’ with their life. Even now, one month after Sharon’d passing, this is happening. Thanks for dropping by and reminding us of this important area of grieving well. cx

    9. Sep 22nd

      A book that helped me understand the madness of deep grief was written by a journalist, Joan Didion….It is called A year of Magical Thinking.
      It showed me that the 1st year of loss is the hardest, and after that it truly does get easier to remember someone with love and with less pain attached.

      Another book is by my favourite all time author, Isabel Allende…and it chronicles the loss of her beautiful 28 year old daughter..called simply Paula..It is amazing, frank and heart wrenching.

      And to top them all, is by an inspiring cookery writer, Elizabeth Luard, who lived here in Tarifa many years ago, and wrote a book of her experiences bringing up her 4 children, and the later tragedy of the loss of her daughter.. the book is called , Family Life..
      These three women are all renowned writers and were able to capture honestly and beautifully their loss and despair.

    10. Sep 23rd

      Hi Colin:
      What has helped me the most when I have grieved the loss of people I love is to make sure I celebrate their lives. I know there is a better place that they go to and when a person suffers before they die, I am happy to see them go to a place where they no longer suffer.

      My dad died unexpectedly of a medical error. Our family was devastated. However, I know he is with whenever I hear chimes! After he died and I was sad or crying I would hear chimes and I knew it was him.

      Look around you for signs of Sharon. She is there with you and when you see that “sign”, smile and know that she watches and smiles and loves… still.

      I absolutely loved the song Sharon picked out for her funeral. She was a very brave and kind person whom, I feel, does not want you to grieve, but be happy that she no longer suffers.

      .-= Tracey´s last blog ..LAWS! More Info… =-.

    11. Colin
      Sep 23rd

      Thanks for your 3 top book recommendations Cheryl. Perfect! cx

    12. Colin
      Sep 23rd

      Hi Tracey. For you its chimes for me its butterflies. The room Sharon passed away in was full of images of beautiful butterflies. Now, when I see one, I think how free Sharon’s spirit is. Thanks for sharing whats helped you with your Father. cx

    13. Matt
      Sep 23rd

      Grieving, like all emotions is part and parcel of the human experience. Stay MINDFUL of this emotion as its a powerful force – like alchemy. It´s a change to our chemistry that heightens our senses; raises our awareness and really, really opens our eyes.

      Sideline your grief with gratitude and GIVING and ZOOOOM, launch yourself into hyper space, where possibility is infinate!

      But as Col says, don´t go it alone, humans heal best in commune. We may not always feel or show connectivity to others, but when the shit hits the fan, who´s not driven to the mercy of others?

    14. Colin
      Sep 23rd

      Thanks Matt. I was sent an email by someone who put their attention and energy into helping others in times of crisis and their believed it had brought closure to their grieving quicker than if they hadn’t. Cheers bud cx

    15. Henrietta
      Sep 23rd

      Hi Colin,

      My father died a long, sad and towards the end painful death. At the time despite the fact he had been ill such a long time, it became the hardest thing we all had to deal with. Coming from a large family we all grieved our own way.

      This initially seperated us as a family, but as time progressed we realised the power of each other and wonderful qualities our father had passed on as individuals.
      We realised that we were trying to overcome grief too quickly, instead of having realistic expectations and understanding time was going to heal us. Positive affirmations and positive memories helped me personally overcome the nature of grief. A few years later and now I feel so privileged and humbled to have had such an amazing person in my life, someone that inspired me and whose legacy will continue to live through me and my children. My father died before I met my husband or had my children but I feel they know him as much as I do. I constantly talk to my daughter about grandad and she has a beautiful picture by her bed.

      I believe my father’s energy never goes away and has been absorbed by his children. I am more postive now than I ever have been and I thank grief for that because it makes you seize the precious times that before i just took for granted.


    16. Sep 23rd

      Dear Colin,
      Grief comprises a whole range of emotions from guilt and anger to love and compassion. We feel them all so strongly when we are grieving, particularly for someone we love. The Energy of Grief is almost akin to being in love in a spiritual sense – the world looks and feels different in some alternative way. We sense a bigger picture, compassion is awake in us.
      Another part of Grief is that the heartache at times, can feel completely debilitating and we wander if we will ever ‘get over it’. We don’t in that, at times in our lives, grief revisits, although on a daily basis we feel more capable. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, hearing a certain song, a turn of phrase, a photograph, a memory, they all take us by surprise. We are transported back to that loss and that’s OK! As you rightly say, we grieve in our own ways, and giving ourselves permission to do it ‘our way’ is an important step that helps to remove any pressure to conform to how we are supposed to grieve, (according to experts, books etc) and ‘get over it’.
      I also believe that it is very easy to define ourselves through our loss. The experience is a part of our experience in this life, it is not all of who we are. In defining ourselves through our losses, we continue to hold on in a negative way. Giving ourselves permission to be happy again, in the right time and way, may for some of us, feel selfish and difficult – and it is the way forwards.
      I used (and still use) EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) to help me when my son died and I recommend anyone who is grieving to try it.
      EFT does not remove Grief, as that is a natural process, comprising many different aspects and events. However, it lessens the damage, it softens the process, it brings clarity and new perspectives. It brings Freedom from Guilt, anger, overwhelming emotion, shame, fear – you name it! Emotion will always overrule logic and EFT helps remove unnecessary emotion, allowing clarity.
      Often called ‘acupuncture for the emotions’, it is painless, easy and permanently effective.
      There is a free download and get started pack here
      You are grieving in the perfect way for you Colin. I love your purity and transparency. Through your example, I believe many people will find the strength to grieve in the right way for them.
      Penny x

    17. Colin
      Sep 23rd

      Hi Henrietta. I’m certainly learning we all grieve in our own way and we can be in a different place to where the rest of the family are. We might meet at the same place occasionally, but most of the time we are in a different place which can lead to the feeling of isolation. Thanks for sharing. cx

    18. Colin
      Sep 23rd

      Hi Penny, this is great resource. Thanks for your wise counsel and for posting the link here. cx

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