Tips For Self Care While Grieving

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”

~Christ on the Mount

Bereavement is hard! And so it is important that you make yourself as comfortable as possible as you do your griefwork. You need and deserve the comfort of a soft landing, especially at night, when grief often lurks in the shadows… Let’s look at a few ideas for self care while grieving.

Hands gently holding a heart

Life has smacked you down hard, and you deserve a little indulgence and pampering… even if you have to provide it for yourself! Go ahead and invest in a few items of creature comfort to hold on to for the bumpy road that lies ahead.

Don’t miss our collection of unique and creative comfort items at the end of the page.

A Hierarchy of Grief Needs?

Comfort and sympathy…

Have you ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Don’t be put off by the name, it’s an interesting concept. Maslow’s Hierarchy is a psychological/philosophical model developed in the 1950s by Abraham Maslow. This is what it looks like:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
And this, simply, is what it means:

Each of us is motivated by needs. Our most basic needs are inborn, having evolved over the ages. We must satisfy each need, in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious and basic needs for survival itself. Only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with the higher-order needs of philosophy and personal development.

But if the things that satisfy our lower order needs are swept away for some reason, we are no longer concerned about maintaining our higher-order needs! We resort to fighting for survival, and loftier pursuits are ignored!

Tips For Self Care While Grieving

Bereavement Hierarchy of Needs

Well, I am proposing to you now a very real “Bereavement Hierarchy of Needs”: (basic needs are listed first)

  1. Food, drink, and shelter
  2. Comfort and rest
  3. Friends and family (emotional support)
  4. Knowledge & coping skills
  5. Time & healing

See where comfort fits into the scheme of things? It is a simple and basic grief need, and deserves your attention! Just as in Maslow’s hierarchy, when the more basic needs are not met, the higher-order needs will not even be visited.

The lesson to take from this? Take care of your basic needs (food, drink, shelter, comfort, and rest) and the more difficult tasks (emotional support, coping, and healing) will fall into place much more easily.

How to Find Comfort

How do you find comfort when you feel like you are adrift in a sea of misery?

We propose some interesting solutions below and urge you to take the time to explore and attend to this most basic need…

On a simple note: surround yourself with comfort items, and allow yourself some of your favorite comfort foods…

A pet maybe?

Woman holding a cute cuddly gray kitty

Why not give some thought to getting a dog or cat? (It’s called a pet for a reason).

Love dogs? Then now’s a good time to get one! Unless you want to spend hundreds of $$ on an elegant purebred, find your new companion at the nearest animal shelter.

If you prefer a dog, go for an older, calmer specimen (no chewed up shoes or poop on the carpet). Let his sad old eyes pick you out, and request a hands-on meeting before you decide.

So you’re a cat person instead? Some adult cats are pretty set in their ways, and find it hard to adjust to a new home and routine.  But, rescuing an older cat from the pound might be just the thing to help you focus on something comforting. Whether you start with a new kitty to love and mold to your household, or an older, more settled cat, ask to hold and stroke her before you settle on one, to assess her temperament.

Pets provide tactile comfort and give you something to be responsible for. This combination can be very soothing to the soul in your time of sorrow. A new pet can be especially helpful for bereaved children.
Young boy holding his dog

For more information on pet care and recommended accessories for your beloved pets, click here.

A Soft Landing

Also on the most basic level, make sure the place you rest at home, your bed, and lounging area are comfortable and supportive. Soft and cozy fabrics are a great idea.

You can find what you need at Walmart or the dollar store. Just so you find them soothing and comforting. But we have searched carefully and found several very unique and quality comfort items you might not find elsewhere. Check them out:

Healing Grief – Strategies for Physical Survival

Take care of that body…  You’ll need it later!

The grieving process puts a huge strain on your body. It can lower your resistance and leave you open to true physical ailments. And normal grief can cause so much physical discomfort that you may even have signs and symptoms of real illness. It is likely nothing serious, just normal grieving.

When to go for a checkup?

When you deep down feel something is really wrong, or when worry about your health is starting to contribute to your already significant anxiety and stress. It’ll be worth the money to get checked out and bring peace of mind.

Rest & Sleep

Woman sleeping peacefully

You may not know this, but during sleep, your mind works… at making sense of what happened to you during the day. If you interfere with this normal sleep pattern (alcohol and sleeping pills mess this up), you wake up exhausted. Your mind is not as capable of helping you through your grief-work.

Try activities that help you relax, like yoga or meditation. If you would like a simple free guide to help you get started with meditation, click here:  Free meditation guide

At bedtime, drink some warm milk and put on soft soothing music. Grab a really boring novel, and settle in.

Try Benadryl or Valerian Root, an herbal, for occasional use only on really difficult nights. Do NOT get in the habit of taking sleepers every night. Very bad for your health and your grief.

You might find that as your grief matures, you are overwhelmed by stress and anxiety from coping. For some excellent new strategies and tools to help fight excessive stress and high anxiety, join up for our free  Stress Management E-Course.



Legs of people running

If you were on an exercise routine before your tragedy struck, try to get back to it as soon as you can. If not, go for a slow jog or brisk walk at least every other day. Get on a bike and tour the neighborhood. Get out in the fresh air and sunshine.

Exercise releases stress and tension. It will do you good to get out of the house for a few minutes, and your body will thank you later.


A plate with grapes and cheese

I know, it can be difficult to even eat right now, but you must provide your body with fuel. Grief expends an enormous amount of energy. You may not be able to face a big plate of gooey lasagna, but surely you can nibble on some grapes and cheese, right?

Get rid of all the ice cream, chips, and candy. Stock up on nourishing snack foods. Fruits, cheeses, cereals, and yogurt are all very good and easy on the stomach.

Eat frequent small nourishing snacks to keep you going. Take a multivitamin daily, with a meal. And now is not the time to go on a reducing diet.

Alcohol and drugs

Man drinking alcohol

The pain of grief is so overwhelming, especially in the beginning, that you may feel tempted to avoid it with alcohol or drugs. An occasional respite with a glass or two of wine won’t hurt. Getting drunk every night will. Alcohol is a depressant, you know.

Artificial quick fixes will only postpone the inevitable and add to your problems. It’s only too easy to fall into the trap of avoidance and become dependent on chemicals to get you through the day.

You are strong enough to face this squarely and make it through without them. Don’t add addiction to your problems.

      “Grief is itself a medicine” – William Cowper (1731-1800)

Prescription sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications are some of the most addictive drugs out there. If you were already on an antidepressant before this happened, by all means continue it, and let your doctor know what has happened.

But be very careful about accepting new treatment for depression just because you are grieving. How to tell the difference between normal grieving and clinical depression?  Here’s an excellent guide to depression.

P.S. This is not a good time to quit smoking. Smoking cessation, though well worth doing, is a hugely stressful undertaking, one you don’t need to tackle right now.


Tips For Self Care While Grieving

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