How to Survive Grief and Loss


Whether it’s a break up, a death or something awful in between, losing someone can be completely devastating. One minute they are beside you, laughing at something only the two of you could understand. And then suddenly, they are gone — and there’s nothing you can do to change the circumstance.

It doesn’t feel fair and the intense waves of emotions can really be disorienting. But the overwhelming feelings of grief and loss don’t have to last forever. People always say time heals all wounds — but that’s not entirely true. In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper didn’t just suddenly stop loving his ex over time. That shit took some effort — new activities, new health, making new friends, creating an emotional strategy.  After some time, some J-Law and meeting a new part of life, he was able to move forward.

What people should say is: some time plus effort can heal all wounds. And with all the wounds I’ve been healing over the years, the three efforts below are definitely the keys to what helps me the most.

Memorize The 5 Stages
The first and most helpful thing that you can do is commit the five stages of grief to memory. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Memorize them. Because you are going to feel them all, multiple times. You might be in disbelief a break up happened, then get pissed about it later that night with the girls, then text him soon after to change the situation, only to hear nothing. Boom, back to being pissed and then spending the whole weekend depressed.

Loss can be maddening like that, but when we understand which stage we are in at the present moment, it really helps you feel less crazy. It reminds us that we are not alone, and that it is a shared human experience to feel pain this way. And eventually we will heal over.

Use a Therapist – Not Your Family & Friends
If you need help, get help. Get the full hour of unfiltered talking space to work out your turmoil in therapy. Spend hours combing through Amazon and get all the self-help books you need. Join support groups online, or find them in your community. Whatever it takes to get your head above the water, you should do. No shame to your healing game — just get your head straight the best way you can.

But be conscious of how you grieve with your friends and family. They are not —and never signed up to be— your therapist. The minute you start treating them like a therapist, and then do it again, and again, you are slowly changing the terms of your relationship, which can often build resentment. So just separate the two. Sharing your pain is healthy to do, but try to save the heavy problem solving stuff for the people who can actually help (unless a loved one has explicitly expressed their commitment to your healing, step-by-step, and you want to take it.) But as a general rule, try to keep your friends and family your happy place — rather than a therapy shelter.

Keep Loving
Your presence on this earth is felt by so many people. You are an important part of the fabric that surrounds you — your friends, your community and the future unknown.

Especially on the darkest days of your grieving, try to carve out an activity that lets you give love. Find a kickstarter you believe in and donate if you can. Perhaps find a friend who needs help cleaning or painting, and just commit to doing a good job for them. Or maybe even take long walks in your favorite places, eat your favorite healthy meal and just show some love to yourself. Keeping your heart open and actively participating in love will allow those channels of healing to flow — bringing you along faster to the last chapter of your grieving story. When we close our story off from love, the pain just stays with us.

What have you found helpful when you are grieving? Anything special that’s always worked for you? Share in the comments below!


For Zenfulie reader, KT — all my love, rest in peace ♥. 

Cover Image Story

Kazimiera Mika, a ten-year-old Polish girl, mourns the death of her older sister, who was killed in a field near Jana Ostroroga Street in Warsaw during a German air raid by Luftwaffe.

Photographer Julien Bryan described the scene in “Warsaw: 1939 Siege; 1959 Warsaw Revisited.”: “As we drove by a small field at the edge of town we were just a few minutes too late to witness a tragic event, the most incredible of all. Seven women had been digging potatoes in a field. There was no flour in their district, and they were desperate for food. Suddenly two German planes appeared from nowhere and dropped two bombs only two hundred yards away on a small home. Two women in the house were killed. The potato diggers dropped flat upon the ground, hoping to be unnoticed. After the bombers had gone, the women returned to their work. They had to have food.

But the Nazi fliers were not satisfied with their work. In a few minutes they came back and swooped down to within two hundred feet of the ground, this time raking the field with machine-gun fire. Two of the seven women were killed. The other five escaped somehow.

While I was photographing the bodies, a little ten-year old girl came running up and stood transfixed by one of the dead. The woman was her older sister. The child had never before seen death and couldn’t understand why her sister would not speak to her…

The child looked at us in bewilderment. I threw my arm about her and held her tightly, trying to comfort her. She cried. So did I and the two Polish officers who were with me…”


  1. Mary Coomer

    This article on grief and loss hit me at an opportune moment. I found it particularly useful to be reminded that those five stages will appear multiple times.

  2. Pingback: Learning To Say Goodbye

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