Grief Exercises

Let’s get proactive and pragmatic. Remember not to fear failure. If an exercise doesn’t work for you, try another one.

Every one of the books listed on the Book on Grief page features exercises for processing grief. Some exercises, like those in The Grief Recovery Handbook, are deliberate and guided (“write a Grief Completion Letter,” for example). Others fall more into the realm of general self-care. The following are a sample.

The Grief Workout

Adapted from Julia Samuel’s Grief Works.

Commit to a 1-hour “grief workout” once a week:

  • 10 min writing in a journal about everything that’s swirling around inside you
  • 20 min exercising
  • 10 min meditation
  • 20 min watching or reading something funny

Sample Visualization Exercise

There are many out there! This one is for moments of distress when control or calm is needed, like work

  • Think of a television screen.
  • Visualize the distressing image on that screen
  • Take three breaths
  • Change the channel
  • Put a positive image on the screen
  • Take three breaths
  • Turn off the television and move your attention to something else
    • This is not meant to be a long term treatment for grief.

Developing Continuous Bonds

A sample from “16 Tips for Continuing Bonds with People We’ve Lost”

  • Talk to them
  • Keep photos of them around
  • Incorporate them into special days and events
  • Imagine what advice they would give you in tough situations
  • Talk about them with new people, who never got to know your loved one
  • Live your life in a way they would be proud of
  • Take that trip!
  • Write letters and notes to them in a grief journal

Early Grief Diary

This is an exercise from It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine. The purpose of the exercise is to gather data about one’s grief experiences, especially when it feels out of control. This is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy exercises for treating depression and anxiety Notice what happens in a given timeframe – When do you feel X? When do you not feel X?

For the next week, keep a log of how you feel throughout the day, under different circumstances, in various places, and in various social situations. What do you notice?

Write A Grief Story in Six Words

This is exactly what it sounds like!

Consume the Grief Stories of Others

You are not alone! Grief comes to us all. Grief is big enough to allow for time alone and time with others. The two are joined when taking in grief stories. Grief stories are everywhere: in songs, movies, TV shows, books, poems, and all over the Internet. Many find that sharing and connecting over loss is a relationship-deepener, even between strangers. The world is hungry to talk more about grief! We have a book list and plenty of resources on this site to discover the wild world of grief (Check out www.optionb.org or www.whatsyourgrief.com to start)

And, do set up boundaries and protect yourself as needed. If hearing about other people’s grief makes you feel more isolated, take a break. If fictional TV grief plots are upsetting and triggering, avoid them. Take care to set up a world that works for you, not against. Remember that grief changes; the same grief story on two different days could result in two extremely different reactions. Be kind with your reality, however it comes up.

You will find more exercises and many helpful tools on our Resources page. Visiting there is an exercise in and of itself.
For now, it’s time to learn a valuable skill that will not only help those you care about, but even return to help you deal with grief.