Taking Care: Ten Ways to Survive Hard Grief Days

My hardest grief season begins in November and runs to the end of May.  Thanksgiving through Dominic’s birthday on (or near) Memorial Day are days full of triggers, memories and stark reminders that one of us is missing.

If I could fall asleep November first and wake up in June I’d do it.

But I can’t so I have to employ all the tricks I’ve learned in the nearly four years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven to survive those particularly challenging months.

Here are ten ways I survive hard grief days:

1.  I make lists of things to do.  I’ve found that if I don’t make a plan for each day it’s far too easy to just lie around and feel sorry for myself.  I use index cards but whatever works for you is fine.  I list household chores, phone calls to make or notes to write, exercise, errands or whatever.  And then I consider them non-negotiable.  These are my marching orders and after my morning coffee I start down the list.

2.  I do something creative.  I crochet or arrange flowers or sew a little.  Taking just five or ten minutes to make something beautiful changes my perspective.  I have a can opener that takes the lids off without sharp edges and I make magnets for friends and family members or just to have on hand for a little gift.

3.  I take a walk.  I am thankful I can go outside on my own property and enjoy fresh air and country sunshine.  I know not everyone has that option.  But even a walk inside your office building or up and down a couple flights of stairs gets the blood pumping and releases endorphins.  If I can’t walk, then I at least change my physical position-from sitting to standing, from standing to moving.  Body position impacts my emotions.

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

4.  I find something to make me smile.  There is scientific evidence to back our common sense experience that smiling lightens our mood and helps our hearts.  I read jokes or check out some of my Facebook friends that tend to post funny memes or stories.  Sometimes I just “practice” a smile and even that can send feel-good hormones surging through my system.

paco face (2)
“Don’t try to win over the haters, you are not a jackass whisperer.” ~ Brene Brow

5.  I call or text a friend.  Sometimes I just need to know that someone else is aware of my hard day. No one can undo my grief but when I feel there is a witness, it lightens the load somehow.friends pick us up6.  I stay off Facebook and other social media platforms.  I love that I’m able to keep in touch with friends and family via social media.  But it can be full of drama and negativity as well.  So if I’m having a tough day, I remove the potential for it to be made harder due to random comments, posts or photographs.

Styled Stock Photography7.   I pet my cats.  I have always been an animal lover.  But I truly do not know how I could have survived these past four years without the companionship of my cats and other furry friends.  Study after study confirms that being in the presence of pets lowers blood pressure and calms nerves. 


8.  I go with my feelings.  There is no rule book that says I have to be tough and hide my tears.  If I’m having a hard grief day it is perfectly acceptable to let the sorrow wash over me and let the tears fall.  Sometimes fighting the feelings only prolongs my pain.  Often a good cry is cleansing and I am much better afterwards.

sometimes you can hurt yourself more by keeping feelings hidden9.  I journal.  There are things I need to “say” that are better kept between me, God and my notebook.  I have kept a journal for nearly three decades.  Many times just writing out my feelings, my fears, my thoughts and my frustrations is enough to take the sting out.  There’s something about not keeping it all bottled up inside-even if no other soul reads it-that acts as a catharsis.

10.  I copy encouraging quotes or Scripture and hang them prominent places throughout the house.  I have notes tacked to my bed post, on my bathroom mirror, taped to the cabinet next to my stove, stuck on the fridge, slid into my wallet in my purse-absolutely everywhere.  Because when my heart is hanging on by a thread, the smallest bit of encouragement is often enough to help me hold onto hope.

None of these things undo my grief in the most basic sense.

Dominic is gone, gone, gone and I will not see him or hear his voice until we are reunited in the Presence of our Savior.

But they DO help.

One of the most devastating aspects of child loss is the overwhelming sense that NOTHING makes sense anymore and that I have absolutely NO control.

Choosing helpful habits and actions gives me a way to regain dominion over a tiny corner of my world.

And that little bit of action strengthens my spirit and helps my heart hold on.

remember to take care of yourself you cant pour from an empty cup




Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

21 thoughts on “Taking Care: Ten Ways to Survive Hard Grief Days”

  1. I appreciate your writing Melanie. but I feel so alone. everyone on here that I have read your posts all have the comfort of believing they will see their child again. I do not have that comfort. therefore, my grief has not changed since the day Lydia took her life. so I can relate to alot of everyones feelings except the one thing that would take away some of the pain

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so sorry Sandra! You’ve shared often of the deep pain you feel being certain your precious daughter, Lydia, will not share eternity with you. I wish I had words to take it away but I don’t. I pray for you very often and genuinely hold out the hope that Lydia reached out to Jesus in her last moment and that you will be surprised in Heaven by her joyous countenance. In the meantime, I pray for supernatural grace, strength and comfort as you trod this broken road. ❤


  2. Melanie, I just want to thank you again! Somehow, you always seem to hit right where I am in my feelings. Today is no different! I was just thinking this morning about how much comfort I have gotten from my cats in the last year. I have always been an animal lover and have a special soft spot for cats but having them has been invaluable for me since losing my Sam. Just the weight of their little bodies in my lap, the purr of contentment, the “conversations” with them…It’s like he is there with me. You see, Sam LOVED cats. We actually joked that he was going to grow up to be the crazy cat lady. He even had names picked out for all the cats he was going to have. He struggled with anxiety and having cats was one of the things that calmed him. He said they soothed him in a way nothing else could. It’s like they know we need them and are more than happy to be there!


  3. November to June is also my hardest grief season, Patrick went to heaven Thanksgiving weekend in 2015 and his birthday is May 6. This one has been particularly hard, maybe it’s COVID and all that’s gone with it or maybe it’s just my general discontent with everything else right now. I’m looking forward to some joy this June when I get to travel with my sister to Colorado for our niece’s wedding, then the grandsons come for a visit in July. Thank you for your words as they always seem to help me.


  4. Melanie,
    At the top of my list to survive hard days is to read your blog💕. I’m amazed at how much you think like me. I lost my oldest son two years ago the day before Mother’s Day, while he was at college in a car accident. I’ve read many books, articles etc, but by far yours is the most helpful!! Another thing that helps me is to sing hymns. I did not feel like singing at first, but it was part of our homeschool day. Some of the lyrics were very hard but some were uplifting. After many months I begin to notice that the hymn singing was becoming therapeutic. It’s one of my son’s favorite part of the day. He picked the hymn “One Day” for our May hymn of the month. The last line is “One day He’s coming- O glorious day!” I can definitely say amen to that! Thank you for your healing blog💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a sweet thing to say! I’m thankful the posts help your heart and make the journey a bit more bearable. I love that hymn by the way-we sang a version for an Easter program one year. Often just that line comes to mind when someone mentions “one day I’ll such and such” and I think-yes, you will. But what I”M looking forward to is THAT one day! May the Lord continue to give you the strength to hold onto hope. ❤


  5. thanks melanie! i needed to read this today. i am in my “hard” season with all our bdays this summer and trying to muscle thru(its not working). reading some practical tips from a sister in Christ really helps!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My life was so normal before Kayleb passed away. Even though death was no surprise in my life, losing a child was never a thought.
    I was the Sunday School Teacher, I had been the Youth Choir Director, Born Again/Saved at 13 and never once lost Faith and Love for our amazing God.
    But this October, 12 years ago, the normal life, the normal days, STOPPED. Never again would I feel that, never again has my life felt “Normal”. And it will never again.
    I too walk the path of many Mom and dads before me. It’s a lonely road, even if other parents are walking it, it’s still dark and lonely.
    I thought friends had “backed off”… for years, I had thought that. Until a good friend told me. No, we are still here. It you Susan. You have closed up. Which is easy to do. Less pain to see what should have been, what could have been.
    Thank you Ronda for showing me, I never realized it.
    I still have the same Faith and Love for our amazing God. It’s not His fault. We live in a sinful and painful world. That’s why He gives us Hope and an eternity in the end.
    This road shows no favoritism, none. This life shows no favoritism, none. We are of free will, and it is the cards that is dealt to you. But God will always be there, no matter how dark the road is.
    I’ll see my son again, that’s the glory in it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was the first information I have gotten that actually made sense. I am new to this list my son two months ago. Still trying to figure this out. Do you have a website I can access. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can sign up to receive the blog posts via email by using the link on the right side of posts. There is a public Facebook page, Heartache and Hope you can access here: https://www.facebook.com/heartacheandhope/

      And if you are on Facebook, search for Heartache and Hope and ask to join the private closed group for bereaved parents by following the directions and answering the questions.

      I am so very sorry for your pain and your loss. I pray that the Lord meets you where you are and gives you the strength you need for each day.

      p.s.-there are over 1000 posts on my site and some may be just what you need for right now. There is a search bar where you can put in topics you might want/need to explore. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Cindy, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I know it’s hard. I lost my son 14 months ago and I still feel like it was yesterday. I know you have probably gotten a lot of advice and it’s hard to navigate through it all. Just know you are not alone! We see you! The best piece of advice I got in the early days after losing my Sam was that it’s okay NOT to be okay. Feel what you feel and don’t feel like you need to apologize for it. I was introduced to this blog a few weeks ago by a friend who lost her son just before we lost ours. It has been a great tool for me. Reading the blog and comments has been wonderfully helpful and knowing I am not alone in my grief has lifted a huge weight. I know it seems impossible right now but, with time, things will get better. You will be forever changed but you can learn to live through the changes! Just remember, you are not alone! My heartfelt prayers will be with you as you navigate this most difficult journey. Carol


  8. Good morning Melaine, I am finding more and more reading your blogg how very much in tune I am with you. I am thinking that if we weren’t so many hundreds of miles apart we could be firm friends. I realise you lnow virtually nothing about me as I don’t write other than like you a private journal. However, when I read your posts it is like having a twin.
    Bless you for being in my life x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will take your words as a great compliment, Carol! I can tell by the many comments you share that you are a grace-filled lover of Jesus and people and I hope I’m your twin. Thank you for always speaking encouragement and giving me feedback. It makes such a difference to help me keep on sharing. ❤


  9. How does the saying go “We never know how strong we can be until we have no choice”. Totally agree with you on all these tips, especially number 8 – if you feel sad and need to cry then do just that; I spent so long trying to fight that side of things but it really just makes matters worse. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I almost didn’t add that one because I thought it was common sense, but then I realized that there are many times I try to fight it too. That never really works unless it’s just a tiny prick of the heart. If it’s a really, truly grief wave I’m going to have to spend some time crying. It will not be denied. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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