How to Care for Yourself While Grieving

Recovering from grief is never easy, whether your caregiving role extended for months or years or was the result of an unexpected death. Your grief is real, and it's compounded by new demands, new feelings, new responsibilities, new people to comfort or contact, and big empty spaces in your heart and life.

When is there time for you? How is your physical, emotional and spiritual health at this point?

Rely on any of the following tips to make a difference in how you cope with loss and bereavement. Start doing just one self-care activity today, and add a few more tomorrow. Pay attention to your progress. Whatever your loss, doing something for yourself every day will help you recover gradually.

Emotional Care

  • Write emails, letters and poetry. Write in a journal. Record your feelings on tape.
  • Talk with others about how you feel to release bottled-up feelings and tension. Join a bereavement support group.
  • Laugh! Grief is serious, but not always solemn. Laughter discharges grief energy.
  • Read books, articles and poetry written by others who know about loss.
  • Phone a compassionate, supportive, cheerful friend.

Mental Care

  • Affirm to yourself that you are OK—hurting, but OK. Loss is the problem, not you!
  • Notice what’s on the top of your mind. Then notice what surfaces next.
  • Keep a notebook to release thoughts that weigh on you.
  • Make it a habit to put things like keys and paperwork in the same place every time, so you can find them.
  • Make lists of things to do.
  • Lower your expectations—about how much you can do, and how soon.
  • Expect that you will not be able to concentrate, make decisions and remember things as well as usual.

Physical Care


  • Eat healthy foods: bread and whole grains, vegetables and fruit, meat, milk and dairy products. Avoid junk foods.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: 8 glasses of water and juices a day for hydration and eliminating wastes.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. They can cause dehydration, headaches and low back pain. Alcohol steals vitamins, decreases circulation, can cause heart fluttering and can act as a depressant.


  • Helps clear your mind and improve concentration
  • Generates a feeling of accomplishment and control
  • Releases chemicals to promote a sense of well-being
  • Increases energy and enhances body’s ability to fight disease
  • Strengthens heart muscle and improves flexibility
  • Controls weight and improves muscle tone and appearance, which helps to improve self-image
  • Relaxes muscles afterward, promoting better sleep at night
  • Reorganizes and redirects static energy to help you feel calmer
  • Works best outdoors early in the evening, if possible

Sleep and Rest

  • Before bedtime avoid caffeine, heavy foods and major mental or physical tasks.
  • Avoid violent TV programs late at night.
  • Avoid overuse of habit-forming tranquilizers and barbiturates.
  • Relax before bed by taking a bubble bath.
  • Read an upbeat book in bed before sleeping.
  • Encourage your mind to let go of your day.
  • Listen to a meditation, relaxation or guided-imagery tape.
  • Practice relaxation by tensing/releasing muscles from toes to top of your head.

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