How To Process Grief
Updated: Jun 28
Grief isn’t linear, meaning there isn’t a set beginning, middle and end to the experience. Rather, grief is circular, which means it might include revisiting the same thoughts, beliefs and emotions more than once.
No one can put a timeline on grief. There is no amount of time considered to be “normal” for coping with grief and feeling better. Every person’s experience is unique.
The only way out is through. As much as we desperately want to avoid feeling grief, ultimately there is no avoiding it. The energy of grief will stay in your body until you release it by feeling it. The longer the grief goes unaddressed, the more it will begin to manifest in other ways, as it seeks expression.
There are two ways to accelerate the grieving process.
One is by having a witness to your experience. We cannot fully process our emotions alone. There is an inexplicable healing that occurs when you can grieve in a safe space with another person who can be with your experience of grief as it is, without needing to change it, fix it, or look away. Being seen is one foundation for miracles.
The other way is to set an intention of surrender. We have so much fear of getting lost in our grief with no way out. But it’s not true. The more we surrender, the more we allow the grief to leave the body. This is the path to feeling better. The less we surrender, the more we hold on to the grief, the more we keep it inside. The holding on, which is usually because we are afraid of feeling the pain of grief, is actually what prolongs the process of recovery.
As I’ve worked with grief in my own life, and in the lives of others, I’ve noticed five activities that seem to be useful for processing grief. If you are feeling numb – having difficulty accessing your emotions – in response to the ending or loss you are experiencing, these activities can serve as a starting point. On the other hand, if you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions, this framework can help provide some structure for sorting through it all.
Five Activities for Processing Grief
1) Remembering. I encourage remembering it all, both the good and the bad. This can be done through writing, looking through photographs, gathering a group of people to remember through discussion, or any way that feels right to you. The key is to remember what used to be, to acknowledge that it isn’t any longer, and to feel whatever feelings that brings up for you.
2) Honoring. How are you different because of this person or circumstance that is no longer? What did you learn? How was life your impacted? Honoring helps us connect with the meaning of what was. When endings feel meaningless, this exercise can be particularly helpful.
3) Saying Goodbye. Intentionally marking an ending, through ritual and ceremony, helps to make it real and to process the emotions associated with the loss. We might be familiar with funerals as a way of doing this in the case of death. I suggest exploring the use of ritual and ceremony for all types of endings, not only for death.
4) Adjusting. What follows an ending is a period of limbo. An in-between time before anything new has arrived. This can be a very difficult place to be, filled with not knowing. Allow yourself this time to adjust to your new reality. See if you can be in this place without rushing to find ways to fill the space. Revisit your grieving process and see if there is anything left to deal with.
5) Welcoming. You’ll know when you are ready to invite new things in to your life. One day it will just be the right time and it will feel very natural. When you find yourself beginning again, take the time to reflect on your experience. You now have a new perspective on the constantly changing nature of life, the endings that are followed by beginnings, and the truth that grief can be overcome.
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About the Author
Diana Calvo is a psychotherapist and coach who helps people get unstuck and transform their day-to-day experience of work and life. After 20 years successfully climbing the corporate ladder, Diana experienced her own journey of healing and awakening. She discovered her true calling to guide others on their journey out of suffering and into a life of purpose and joy. Diana left the corporate world to start her own coaching business. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her dog Joey and a beautiful view of the mountains. She works with clients across the globe.