Top Ten Steps for Grief

Ten Actionable Steps Through Grief

Grief is work. Moving through grief means taking the necessary steps to reclaim your changed life in its new formation.

I didn’t wake up the day after my husband Dave died and know which way to go, who I was or what the next days, weeks and months would bring. I was sick, tired and broken. I was alone. Because I was knowledgeable about grief, hospice, and all the theories, the outside world could see me as strong and able. Ironically, that may have made me feel even more alone. But I was strong. I am strong. And it was difficult still.

Nonetheless, my travel across the loss chasm has been nothing short of a major overhaul of re-identification to stand proudly in knowledge and acceptance for who I am today. I could never have predicted how this journey would come to affirm love and life so profoundly. Always an optimist, maybe more so now, I believe in every cloud there lies a silver lining.

My Top Ten Grief Steps

Here are my Top Ten actions that have brought me through the active stage of grief to my place of peace and deep acceptance. After each, I’ve offered a way you can apply these ideas to your life one step at a time.

Count my Wins. Noticing what’s going right, even when it was simply to get out of bed or show up. This single step has been the biggest change of habit for defying my thoughts associated with perfectionism, to-dos, overwhelm and downward spiral. Wins are different than gratitude; these are your personal unabashed pat on the back!

  Write three wins daily for a week and see what happens.

Change my diet (not dieting). I’ve made big time changes in how and what I eat with amazing results affecting my mind, body and spirit. I nourish myself with real food from the inside out. I can’t underscore the importance of education and follow through on this step. Food is as much life as breath. Yes, preparation can be a hassle, but when I know this is one giant step for loving myself, being present and choosing consciously, each meal reinforces all that is well (Win!).

  Name one simple diet change you’ve been meaning to do and commit. (Ex., no sugar in coffee. Sitting down to eat. Cooking for self.)

Create rituals for comfort. My favorite are “something for the garden” on Father’s Day with my daughter, and vacation during the death anniversary week. Some holiday traditions stay; other have been let go.

  Looking to your next milestone date (anniversary, birthday, holiday, etc) what simple honor or acknowledgement of your loved one can you plan for that date?

Coaching. Being coached and coaching others is a powerful mirror for personal insight and growth. I love this aspect of my life! Coaching is a co-creative and forward looking process of accountability to live your best life every day.

   Identify a non-judgmental, trusting and supportive person in your life. Or, contact me!

Writing. Journals, blogging, reflections. This consistent activity has been powerful and necessary for me to see my journey. I keep both public and private writing. It is also my container for saving precious memories. Any type of expression works – painting, music, art, words, photography, scrapbooking. I do a bit of all of these things.

  Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse (or even a  phone app) so when an insight or thought, memory or angst that needs to be expressed appears, it can be written down.

Walking weekly with a friend. This started long before my loss but became more vital for its routine, normalcy, friendship. I’ve included other forms of exercise too. I’ve made sure to get myself moving at the gym, outdoors, jumping around the living room, and yoga.

  Ask yourself, “When am I going to move around for a few minutes today?”

Confirming my story of Spirituality. One can’t get through a significant death without some personal theory, faith, affirmation or questioning of the afterlife regardless of your beliefs. Expanding my sense of being in this world and what may unfold in the next is one of my ongoing quests through life.

  Follow your heart; seek your answers. 

Being present with a respectful nod to the past and an eye on the future. This includes giving into the grief, love, and loss as lessons along my life long journey. I’ve had to learn what and how “be present” really means! I find that in a present state decisions are easier to make and more clear.  Emotion of the past –guilt, shame, shoulda’s – and emotions about the future – fear, anxiety, worry – melt away into what is necessary to “be and do” right now.

  Set aside just five to ten minutes a day for yourself to breathe, know and sit without an agenda. 

Loving myself. This has been the most work for me to know and define me as I am today. As a result, I provide myself with the love and care I deserve. Loving myself fulfills one of the critical pieces I miss that was always given by my husband – his love for me. I began by remembering what he loved about me and wondering if I too could love the same about myself.

   Fill in the blank: One thing about me my loved one loved was   _____________________.

Choosing consciously. Choosing to be happy. This is a component of loving myself. For me, this means taking responsibility for how I react, being proactive in the direction I head, and letting go of the things, people and situations that no longer serve my best interest. Figuring out what makes me happy is now part of the adventure!

Listen to your words – what you say to yourself and what you say to others – for truth and excuses.

The death of my husband and the subsequent grief is what has brought me here. Your loss and grief brings you here. There are no accidents! You are here to make a better life.  Choose one of these actions today for moving along on your journey of healing. It all starts here! Of course, this is not only what your loved would want for you, but more importantly this is time you make life happen for yourself.

Which one do you want to do? Share your next step here, then come back and let me know how it goes.


4 replies
  1. Bonnie Walker
    Bonnie Walker says:

    Thank you for this article. It is sooo helpful. Ci would like to ask you to provide it to mt email above so I can file OT as a monthly check-up— which I will review the first week every month to gage my progress. Several resonated. Cesp walking, loving self,

    • Joan H
      Joan H says:

      Hi Bonnie. That’s a great idea to make a checklist. So here’s a link for you or anyone to download Ten Actionable Steps in PDF format to print and save. > . Let me know how you proceed. I can help you through grief by coaching (phone or Skype) in a way that honors your memories and the re-identity needed since this change in your life. Let me know when you are interested. ~Joan

  2. Bonnie Walker
    Bonnie Walker says:

    Oh, I left off the part of confirming my own spirituality. For most of my marriage we were in ministry, and I think I am confused how to separate my own spirituality from what and how we served together our Savior. It was such a exciting life and now…. With the leader gone , I seriously need to re-confirm. Perhaps this one part of your 10 steps will be the best one for me. Again thank you for answering. I have been stuck!


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