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How to Recover From Loss and Survive Grief

“I can’t get out of bed,” may be all you can think when grief washes over you. These ideas on how to recover from loss during the grieving process are inspired by a widow who not only lost her husband, she lost her identity.

“I feel empty,” says MW on Living Alone After the Death of a Spouse. “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….

How to Recover From Loss and Survive Grief

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 getting out of bed during the grief cycle, 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 cycle of grief. 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.

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 grief cycle 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 cycle of grief is allowing saying “I can’t get out of bed” and allowing 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

stages of grief cycle i can't get out of bed

“When you’re in the grief cycle, your thinking patterns are different,” says Dr Wright in Recovering From Losses in Life. “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 grief cycle and 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.”

Take heart.

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 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 “can’t get out of bed” cycle of grief, 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.”

Grieve the losses in your past

How to Get Out of Bed When You’re in the Grief Cycle
Surviving the Cycle of Grief

If you’re stuck in some stage of the grief cycle, it’s possible that you’re actually stuck in a past loss. Losing a pet is one of the saddest things a human being can experience because of the unconditional love and vulnerability a dog or cat offers. Yet, we don’t allow ourselves to fully grieve the loss of a beloved family pet.

In Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss, I share what I learned about the grieving cycle from veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts. If you have unresolved grief for a pet you’ve loved and lost, read the book. I also included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways. Learning how other people recovered from loss and survived the cycle of grief might help you deal with your own loss.

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 grief cycle, 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.”

i can't get out of bed stages of grief cycle
How to Get Out of Bed When You’re Grieving a Difficult Loss

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.

“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.

A final tip for surviving loss and recovering from grief…

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.

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.

If the grieving process is consuming you, read What to Do When Grief Overwhelms You.

I welcome your thoughts on recovering from loss and the stages of the grief cycle below. While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. 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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xo

18 thoughts on “How to Recover From Loss and Survive Grief”

  1. Hey James, thanks for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your loss mate. I can’t even begin to imagine how heart wrenching that must be to be living through. I wish I had the right words to comfort you in your heartache but I’m not sure that I do, and I hope my words here don’t make you feel worse. Please forgive me if I miss the mark.

    I’m just so glad that you have accepted Jesus’ help and recognize that He is walking alongside, and bearing this burden with you. Please know and be assured that she is at home right now in unimaginable joy and peace in Paradise with the Lord. While that special connection you had together with her on this side of eternity has become elusive, it is not lost forever. Should it remain elusive in this life, you can be assured that you will both be reunited again on the other side with Jesus, together in that unfathomable, perfect peace and joy.

    I know all too well how sometimes the promises of Scripture can sting when you’re hurting and you aren’t feeling them. When things get tough I find some comfort in what Paul says in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”. That’s not to detract from the very real pain you’re experiencing, but to magnify how how great your eternal hope and future is, and how much God loves you.

    There are better days in store for you, your joy will be restored one day. You do have an awesome reward waiting for you and you’ll always have that hope and promise in your heart, no matter how bleak things look and feel at the moment. Cling to this hope you have in Christ.

    I’m praying for you that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you mate.

    Adam.

  2. This site seems to be for women only, but I see that ‘Adam’ commented here, so I’ll add some thoughts.
    If it doesn’t get posted, oh well – at least I tried.

    I do find this quote below (from the above article) to be helpful and it’s seems like a good thought process and where I think I really need to be, but I’m just having such trouble adjusting to ‘my new reality’ and all the drastic changes therein.
    ………………………….
    …So every morning I accept my life for what it is…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…
    ………………………….
    The only time of true happiness in my life has just been ripped out of my hands by the recent loss of my dear, sweet young wife just 3 weeks before she turned 35 and the day after what would have been our 8th anniversary.

    Our 7 short years together was the only truly happy time in both our lives.

    When she came to me in Nov. 2009, (we met a few years before), I brought her to a place of much needed safety, love, happiness, joy, support, humor, fun, light-heartedness, warmth and daily comfort in ‘our togetherness’ – things she so deserved and finally found in and with me. (Her life had been tragic up until then, as was yet once more with her recent illness, needlessly unfair suffering and subsequent death.)

    As a result, in return, what I experienced being with her was true love, joy, fun, happiness, union, support, valuable purpose and much meaning in my life by taking care of this younger, vulnerable, troubled woman who needed me so very much.

    So, I basically rescued ‘the damsel in distress’ – and we were both very glad about that. I always wanted to be someones hero. Who wouldn’t?

    But after just 7 years together, her life ended in tragedy anyway, despite all my consistent and continual efforts to keep her safe, happy and warm – things I said I always wanted for her, from even before she came to me in Nov. 2009.

    Now I’m not only grieving the loss of ‘the love of my life’ – such a beautiful, warm, happy, loving, fun spirited woman, whom we both believe(d) God clearly brought to me to protect and nurture, but I’m also grieving the loss of our happy union and daily interactions of positivism and much love, our lifestyle, living arrangement and conditions, not to mention having to come out of retirement and go back into the working world just to make ends meet now, which is increasingly difficult on my body, physically – something she was happy about when I retired just a few years ago.

    So my daily life went from fun-loving, happy, laughing, singing short, silly fun little songs including our own language (our own word-play on some words and phrases), plus watching and doing things we enjoyed together – to missing her terribly and trying to cope with her terrible suffering and tragic death at such a young age – plus all the drastic changes and adjustments for me since.

    So within just a few months I’ve basically transitioned from fun, love, support, warmth, joy, security and inner contentment and meaning in being with and taking such great care of her – to all of the exact opposite now – sadness, misery, anguish, grief, sorrow, loneliness, heartache, financial struggles, drastic changes in living conditions and comfort, and last but certainly not least, just missing so very much ‘the true love of my life’ whom I (we) finally found in each other.

    And most of us know just how hard that can be and how long that can take, if we ever do in fact find ‘that one person’ at all, (which many never do).

    I know to give it to God and I have been since even before her death – and to let Jesus carry my burden and to let Him ‘bind up my wounds and heal the broken-hearted’ as scripture says, but I just can’t seem to get there – or it’s taking too long, or it’s not effective or thorough enough.

    I don’t know, but it’s been 15 months now, and although I feel like I’ve made some progress along the way, it also feels like all of that has led me only to have to go right back to the beginning and have to start all over again – again and again.

    I don’t know how to ‘look forward to a happy future of joy and contentment’, when the only happiness I’ve ever known has now come and gone. I don’t see how it’s possible.
    I was a sensitive, emotional child raised in an insensitive, unemotional home, starved for affection by a cold, ‘seemingly nasty’ mother (which continues to this day).
    Happiness ‘didn’t live there’ in our home, so I don’t actually know what that is or what it’s supposed to look like.

    I’ll be 60 in less than 3 short years, and my health is starting to decline, as it has been for the last 5 years.
    So it’s not like I’m still 35-40 with much time and a healthy body to carry on with.

    Just feels like I’ve lived a hard life, then finally found someone to love and something to live for, which only lasted 7 years, then it ended tragically, and way too early, (she was perfectly healthy – the picture of health, in fact!).

    And now the future looks bleak – downhill, hopeless, and depressing once again – and once and for all from here on out this time, I’m sad to say.

    So after that brief 7 years of happiness, life has become hard once again, except it’s even harder now that I know what I had and loved so very much – and what I’ve truly lost – and miss daily, if not hourly.

    Not trying to be a pessimist here – that’s just how I feel and just how it looks.

    (I have no children and I never knew my grandparents. My only pet died 19 years ago tomorrow and I’m not able to have another where I live.)

    We had something very special – almost magical together for 7 short years.
    I know almost everyone says that about their lost mate / relationship / relative, but we really really did have something special – something unique – and I don’t ever see that coming into my life again.

    Obviously no one could ever replace her. Everyone is different and unique.
    She is unreplaceable. Everyone is.

    And I know that counting on someone – anyone else means being co-dependent on someone else for your happiness. Something that I learned about long ago.

    But when that ‘certain someone’ comes into your life, changes absolutely everything, and then is gone almost as soon afterwards, where do you go from there?

    How do you replace alone, what took 2 of you to carefully build, cherish and nurture over time – something precious to you that you both loved and couldn’t believe happened to you and something you now just don’t think you can ever live without?

    Thank you for reading.

    James

  3. Thank you so much for this. I’m so glad to have a Christian’s perspective through this grief. You’re doing some amazing work here touching hearts and shining the light of the Lord into the world. Thank you and God bless.

  4. Dear Pam,

    I am so sorry for your loss, of both your husband and your brother. And, losing your best friend…it really does seem like an endless heaping of loss and grief, doesn’t it?

    While I don’t feel I have the right words of comfort to help you through the stages of grief…I’d like to share one of my favorite books on grieving. It’s called Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen.

    The following “recipe” for a pot of Tear Soup is taken from the back of the book; the tips can be used to help those grieving any type of loss.

    Helpful Ingredients to Consider

    In a Soup Pot, mix…

    a pot full of tears
    one heart willing to be broken open
    a dash of bitters
    a bunch of good friends
    many handfuls of comfort food
    a lot of patience
    buckets of water to replace the tears
    plenty of exercise
    a variety of helpful reading material
    enough self care
    season with memories
    optional; one good therapist and/or support group

    Directions
    Choose the size pot that fits your loss. It’s ok to increase the pot size if you miscalculated. Combine ingredients. Set temperature for a moderate heat. Cooking times will vary depending on the ingredients needed. Strong flavors mellow over time. Stir often. Cook no longer than you need to.

    Pam, trust your instincts and cry when you want to. Laugh when you can…and allow your heart to grieve and slowly heal and get stronger.

    Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss is written for children, but it is so healing and comforting. Here’s a link:
    http://amzn.to/2gxslgI

    Another really helpful book is
    Progressing Through Grief: Guided Exercises to Understand Your Emotions and Recover from Loss
    http://amzn.to/2hjG7lY

    Progressing Through Grief is divided into three sections, each focusing on key factors that create a powerful process for healing:
    Understanding why grieving is important, and how grief affects your body
    Identifying complicated feelings and learning skills for coping with them
    Journaling to move through overwhelming feelings and practicing self-care through relaxation techniques, nutrition tips, and meditation practices.

    Again, I am so sorry for your loss…I hope you find the right support and resources you need to heal…and that you give yourself time for your heart to heal.

    If you’d like to share memories of your husband, brother, or best friend please feel free to write them here. Sometimes sharing a funny or heartfelt story with people can be a healthy and healing way to work through the pain and grief.

    In sympathy, with warmth,
    Laurie

  5. Overwhelming for me.
    I lost my husband of 42 years August 2015.
    He was the best hubby ever.
    My brother died unexpectedly 2 days after my husband & i cared for my best friend of 48 years this year for 5 months 24/7 she passed in August 2016. I am struggling & very lonely. The struggle seems endless

  6. 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……..

  7. 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.

  8. 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

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