How to Survive the Grieving Process After an Unexpected Loss


Feeling empty, exhausted, and like you never want to get out of bed is normal when you’re in the grieving process. Here’s what I learned from a grief workshop I recently attended – I was inspired to share these ideas for recovering from loss by a widow who not only lost her husband, she lost her identity.

“I feel empty,” says MW on How to Recover From Loss and Survive Grief. “My husband was ill from the age of 34. I cared for him for 45 years; he died when he was 68. I’m now in my late 60s and I don’t know what makes me happy or what to do. I think ‘Oh well I’m not going anywhere what’s the point of getting dressed?’ I can’t be bothered and I know this is not healthy. I have no idea what to do. Any advice would be appreciated.”

I recently attended a “Recovering From Loss and Grief” workshop by Dr Norman Wright. Here’s what I learned about the grief cycle from him – and from my own experiences with loss and the grieving process.





“You don’t get back to normal,” says Dr Wright. “You create a new normal, a new stability in your life.”

Recovering from loss can be more bearable when you feel like you’re not alone. These ideas on how to survive the grieving process will help you see that even though one season of your life is over, there is hope for your life. Don’t lose heart; don’t give up on the possibility of love, life, and meaning in your future.

Be open to the possibility that you might still have a Blossom or two left in you – and that you can learn how to survive the process of grief.

How to Survive the Grieving Process

There is a season for everything. Perhaps this is your season to stay in bed, take care of your wounds, and allow yourself to adjust to your new reality.

You lived one way for many years. Now, you must learn how to live in a new season, a new way, a new life. Whether you’re starting over in your 60s or learning how to let go of someone you love, you need to give yourself time to grieve your loss. Here are a few ideas for surviving the grieving process, plus tips for dealing with specific types of grief.

Allow the wispy shadow of grief to live in your heart

We start learning how to recover from loss when we’re kids. We lose our toys and comforting blankets, our innocence and wide-eyed wonder of the world. My childhood experience was a bit different, though…I grew up with a schizophrenic mother, no dad, and a gypsy-like existence. I moved from foster home to foster home, city to city, school to school. I learned how to survive the grief cycle every day because we were constantly saying good-bye to people we attached to.

But it wasn’t until I lost my grandmother and my sister that I learned how to survive the grieving process. That’s when all could think was “I can’t get out of bed” – and so I didn’t. I stayed in bed, and I slept. That helped me recover from loss…but it didn’t erase the pain of missing the people I loved so much.

It wasn’t until my husband and I discovered that we can’t have kids that I learned that we never really recover from loss. We just learn how to live with it. The cycle of grief never ends; it’s part of who we are.

Open your mind and heart to a new, different you

Before, you were a wife. Or maybe you were a mother, a sister, a daughter, an auntie.

Survive the Grieving Process Unexpected Loss

How to Survive the Grieving Process After an Unexpected Loss

Now, you aren’t. You are different now. That season of your life is over, and it’s time for you to let go of that identity. You’re letting go of the dreams you had, the life you shared, the possibilities you hoped for, and the responsibilities you took care of.

You didn’t just lose someone you love. Part of the grieving process is acknowledging that you have lost a huge part of your identity. Maybe you can’t get out of bed because your reason for living has died. Maybe you can’t get out of bed because you pushed someone away, or allowed a loss to happen. However your loss occurred, you are now a different person.

You’re not only recovering from loss, you’re learning how to be a different woman in this world. This is sad, and it needs to be grieved. Maybe part of your grieving process is giving yourself a few days of rest. Allow yourself to weep from your soul, to work through the grieving process, to feel like you’re breaking down.

Learn about the stages or cycle of grief – but walk your own path

“When you’re in the grieving process, your thinking patterns are different,” says Dr Wright. “There’s irrational thoughts, there’s a lot of fear. Part of the fear is that, ‘I will never, never get over this.’ And the second big fear we hear about is that, ‘The loved one that I lost is going to be forgotten.’ And that usually is true. People tend to forget. After about three months, where’s the casserole parade? Where’s everybody coming to help? They’re not around. And we feel isolated. That’s the time when we are in deep, deep pain.”

Dr Wright’s books on the grieving process are excellent – and the more you learn about how to grieve in healthy ways, the better you’ll be able to handle your feelings. You will go from “I can’t get out of bed” to “I’m getting up for an hour. Then I’m going back to bed” to “I stayed out of bed for four hours! I’m exhausted, but it was good.”

Learn how to lovingly loosen your grip on the past

Before I started blogging full-time, I was a freelance writer. One of my assignments was to write an article for a health magazine about recovering from loss and letting go of someone you love. I shared my experience of the grief cycle, and I shared suggestions from psychologists on how to survive the grieving process.





The article was so well-received that I decided to take it a step further. I interviewed counselors and grief therapists about living with loss and letting go, and the result is my ebook How to Let Go of Someone You Love.

The secret to letting go is to do it every single day – or several times a day if your grief is fresh. So every morning I accept my life for what it is. I didn’t have healthy parents growing up, and I won’t ever have a baby. I lost my grandma and my sister. I’ve lost my beloved pets, friends, and hopes for my life. And I’ve learned that accepting and surrendering to my life as it is – to how God has planned my life – is the best way to let go and cope with the grief cycle.

Finding comfort – and Blossoms – in the grieving process

I refuse to live in darkness. I don’t accept the burdens of the past; I refuse to carry them. For me, learning how to survive the cycle of grief is about recommitting my life to God every morning, and surrendering myself to Him every night. I find comfort in knowing I’m loved and protected, even in my suffering.

If you need to be comforted when you’re still in the grieving process, read Words of Comfort When Your Heart is Broken. But, don’t allow yourself to skip over the pain of processing your grief. Unresolved grief and pain will come back to haunt you. This is why it can be so important to allow yourself to stay in bed if you’re too weepy to get up.

Dr Wright says, “If you have any type of unresolved loss in your life, the loss that you now experience reaches back into your past, grabs ahold of that loss, and brings it forward so you’re dealing with not just what you experience this week or this month—you’re experiencing the past.”

Create reasons to get out of bed

If you have no reason to get out of bed, you need to create activities and responsibilities. A dog can be especially helpful for this, because he requires walks and attention. Whether you’re 68 or 88, you can still find ways to be involved in whatever is alive around you: animals, kids, coffee shops, library events, community activities, church groups, neighborhood associations…or even grief support groups.

You don’t necessarily need to join a grief support group or talk to a counselor (though those can be very helpful), but you do need to remember that we were made to connect with other people. Your burden will be lighter if you share it with others. You don’t have to talk about your loss or the grieving process – you might volunteer with kids or animals, or at a community gathering.

Don’t wait until you feel like it. When you’re recovering from loss and goring through the grieving process, you won’t feel like being around people for a long, long time. You may need to force yourself at first…but it will get easier. Maybe it’ll even become enjoyable!  No matter what type of loss you’re dealing with – no matter what stage of the grief cycle you’re in – you’ll find comfort if you join with others who are suffering.

A prayer to help you recover from your loss

May you accept your loss, and may you give your burden to Christ. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden,” He said, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I will give you rest.”

May you surrender to both the sad and the joyful parts of your life. We all encounter both, don’t we? Hold on to those little bright spots, those little Blossoms of light and life. Set down your heavy burden of grief for a moment, and pick up God’s peace, joy, and freedom. May you heal emotionally during the cycle of grief, and may you recover spiritually from your loss. May you find people who comfort and cheer you. May you Blossom despite the pain of grief and loss. I pray for strength, courage, hope, and faith. May light and love enter your heart, and may your spirits lift higher and higher.

How to Survive the Grieving Process

How to Survive the Grieving Process

“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present,” says Jan Glidewell on 4 Ways to Come Alive When You Feel Dead Inside.

May you let go of the past, and start looking forward to the future.

I hope you found my thoughts on how to survive the grieving process helpful. I shared the biggest losses I experienced in my life, and mentioned a few ways I deal with grief. My next article offers more practical tips on surviving grief; it’s about whether widows “should” move to a new house or apartment after a spouse dies.

Additional Ideas for Surviving the Grieving Process

Get a journal to write in, and answer the following questions about the grieving process:

  • What is one word that describes how you feel about the grief cycle? You can write more than a word if you’d like. Sometimes it’s helpful to just bundle all your feelings into a single thought. Expressing your thoughts and feelings is one of the best ways to deal with grief, because it helps you process your emotions and move forward.
  • How have you grieved in the past? As we get older, the grieving process changes. We might become more accepting or more depressed, depending on the situation.
  • Who is one living person that you’d get out of bed for? Write about who they are, how they make you feel, and when you’ll be with them next.

Life is a series of letting go of people and things, big and little.

I welcome your thoughts on recovering from loss and the grieving process below. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of surviving the grieving process.




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17 thoughts on “How to Survive the Grieving Process After an Unexpected Loss

  • Marcy

    Thank you for these ideas on surviving the grieving process. I lost my boyfriend of 8 years exactly one year ago, and I’m still struggling to let go. I do feel better and am through a lot of the grief cycle but I still have trouble letting go of his stuff. I know I can do it and I want to move forward, but I think it would help to know what it means to let go. I don’t want to forget him but I do want to live again. I’m only 32 and I feel like I have a lot of life left to live.

    Marcy

  • Blessings

    yes this what I have been looking for this, how to survive the grieving process.
    it has been a whole lot of struggle trying to accept the lose of my parents at 8 years. accepting and overcoming is just what I need .I know God has been and will heal me and take me through all this safely. thanks for the advice……..

  • Blessings

    I have really struggled and have been fighting with my self to accept the loss of my family at 8years of age.few years down the line and still I cannot bear it.
    if feels like I’m all done.I mean..”.why me “has been my question
    I have been looking for something and really I love this.. thank you It has helped me and I believe God will take me through all this safely

  • Laurie Post author

    I wish I had the right words of advice, or words of healing and comfort….but the truth is that there are no quick tips on how to survive the grieving process. Sometimes time heals, but some people say that not even time decreases the pain of grief. I believe that’s because they haven’t found the right tools, they haven’t found what works for them.

    If you can’t let go of regret, if you’re stuck in a painful downward spiral, please seek help in person. You CAN lift yourself out of this! You don’t have to be one of those people who never heals from grief or disappointment.

    I’ve always found so much comfort, healing, and emotional freedom in God. I’ve spent alot of time with Him, journaling and working through difficult issues from my past…and He really is the healer. He really does mend broken hearts and souls….but we have to turn ourselves over to Him before He can do anything for us.

    If you’re not into God, you may find this article helpful:

    4 Ways to Come Alive When You Feel Dead Inside
    http://theadventurouswriter.com/she/i-feel-dead-inside-come-alive/

    I will keep you in my prayers….it couldn’t hurt, could it?

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  • Tricia

    I have not slept through the night in years. I wake up every night with regret over the decisions I made (or didn’t make) that landed me in this position. I have overcome so many obstacles in the past but not being able to have children and losing my marriage because of it has been more than I can bear.

  • Sarah Mumford

    The word I would use for grieving is tiredness. After losing our daughter 2013, 3 miscarriages then being told we can have any more, u find it can be wearing. Trying to focus on the positives and stayin in the moment rather being caught in the downward spiral of emotions and depression is something u need to work on.

  • LAUREL

    Thanks for tips on dealing with grief. My dogs are my children due to fact I was unable to have children. I returned from a disappointing vacation I had planned on over a year ago. I kept both dogs at home had different expletive watching them and paid one woman for two weeks. They did well but my older dog 16.5 year old Yorkie seemed weaker and more tired than ever. I was recuperating from a cold and bad jet lag so was a little weak. I went to MD for treatment got home at 2pm fed both dogs and walked them briefly. Older dog bagged to go out in back by pool and I let her out at 3pm at 340 I woke up in recliner to find her floating in pool I know it is my fault that happened June 1st today is July 5 and I have been to a pastor tried to pray nothing will lessen my grief or feeling of guilt. My remaining dog a 7 year old scotty won’t go anywhere near a pool now and I would love to sell my house and just move what can I do. Friends keep telling me it was an unfortunate accident but I knew better and warned others not to leave either dog out by the pool. Feel like crap in Florida.

    • Ann

      My 12 year old beloved companion schipperke passed a yellow/orange stool that turned green on the top after an hour in the sun. He began vomiting. Because he has done this in the past, I believed he would recover (He had seen a vet in the past and had blood tests.)
      I could not get him to the vet for six days. Now I know I should have not waited and taken him to an animal hospital within the first couple of days. He had been showing signs of a problem about a week or two before, but I thought it was my 15 year old dog that was vomiting. He panted alot at night and began staying in the bedroom.
      Blood tests showed he had botulism. Where he contracted botulism I cannot imagine.
      He is not one to pick up and eat everything he finds but he did eat poop from my other dog.
      The vet injected him with TRT fluid therapy and 10 mgs of Cerena, also in pill form and amoxicillin and Denamarin along with a diet of chicken and rice, as to where he stopped eating all together. He would stand and stare at his water dish for some time before drinking; this was before and after he stopped drinking. I was using an eye dropper to get water down him as he was showing dehydration. The vet did an ultrasound which showed everything was in good condition except that the liver was putting out an enzyme. His intestines were swollen but there were no parasites. More medication. Because he drank a bowl of water, the vet told me he could go home. The vet was to do a liver biopsy in three days. If hind sight was foresight, I should have gotten a second opinion. He died on the 10th day from when he had the yellow/orange stool.
      I did not get him to the vet to have him euthanized, as he had nerve seizures and died on the way there.
      My heart is broken, I’m sick and I miss him so very much and feel I did not do enough in the beginning to help keep him alive. I should have taken him for a second opinion instead of relying on one vet who kept putting me off. I didn’t take the time to research botulism or I would have panicked and got him to an animal hospital right away. I hope posting this will help others to recognize any changes in their beloved pet, get them to the vet immediately.

  • Laurie

    Dear Janice,

    I missed your comment – I’m sorry! How have you been – are you still struggling to accept the idea of living without children?

    It really is a process – and it’s definitely a grieving process. How to survive? It depends on the woman. My faith is my strength and power…I believe with all my heart that God simply chose for me not to have kids. My life is unfolding the way it is for a reason. I don’t have children so I can help women Blossom!

    And that’s the second way I’ve survived the grieving process that accompanies infertility and childlessness: I blog. But it’s not just me writing, it’s bigger than that. I feel called to Blossom, to connect with women, to be a conduit of light and freedom.

    So for me, the two biggest ways to survive grief are God and blog! 🙂

    Here’s an article I wrote about grief and infertility:

    5 Surprising Secrets for Coping With Childlessness
    http://theadventurouswriter.com/blog/coping-with-childlessness/

    I hope it helps, and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  • Janice

    Hi Laurie,
    Thanks for the article, its been comforting. Am in Africa, just turned 40, single & childless – so many unanswered prayers. Lost dreams & hopes. I feel stuck in heartache of what could have been. Accepting the reality of life as it is is very depressing.
    Kindly suggest any links to sites with articles that could help.
    Thank you for being a blessing.
    Janice.

  • Laurie Post author

    Thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine the pain of losing your best friend to suicide, and not being able to speak honestly and openly about what happened to her friends. I’m so sorry for your loss, and thank you for sharing how unpredictable the grieving process can be.

    I’m glad you’re writing your memoir – I think that’s one of the best tips on how to survive the grieving process! And, it’ll be helpful to others to read about your experience.

    In sympathy, with encouragement,
    Laurie

  • the madscribbler

    The one word I would use to describe my grieving process is UNPREDICTABLE. In April my best friend of over 20 years killed herself following a two day long argument with her husband. She was only 44. She was the very last person I thought would ever kill herself. It’s been a very difficult process with more drama from her husband (who still won’t tell most of her friends the truth) her dad (a gentle man who has started to read her journals). I have been writing a memoir on the process. It’s difficult but I am blessed with a supportive husband and dad, and loving friends and an incredible church community without whose support this would all be too much.