I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Coping with Grief Without Saying a Word

I may be betraying my trade as a mental health professional to admit that, personally, I’m not much for counseling and support groups. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid believer in the potential efficacy of these types of experiences. I’m the first to recommend them to anyone who needs a little extra objective and confidential support. Also, I’ve gone whenever the proverbial ‘you-know-what’ has hit the fan in my life, so I hope this is a testament to my faith in the process.

All I mean to say is that talk-focused support isn’t my personal preference. Outside of my closest family and friends, I generally don’t want to talk about ‘it’. ‘It’ being things like grief, personal woes, existential dread…you get the picture. I’m an introvert, I hate having the floor, meeting new people makes me anxious, and I always feel like I’ve said too much too awkwardly. For all these reasons (and more), I gravitate towards coping that allows me to process my experiences without having to say much.

I’m definitely not alone in this.  Many people prefer outlets that allow them to remain taciturn about their grief. What I’m here to say, is this is A-OK! Although it seems like talk-type-coping is commonly recommended for grief, it is by no means the right way or the only way.  It’s important to remember, there are many healthy ways to cope with grief. Though people may assume otherwise, silent or independent coping is not synonymous with bottling things up, withdrawing, or isolating. Actually, many times the opposite is true, as outlets like writing and art allow people to express themselves, connect, and share in different ways.

Below we are going to discuss a few ways a person can cope without talking-it-out. This is only a start, we could spend all day trying to make an exhaustive list and still not be done, so whenever possible we’ll link to further articles and resources. Also, if you would like to share your go-to coping tools in the comments below, please do!

Journaling and Writing:

In our work, we often connect with grieving people who are struggling to get a handle on certain grief-related emotions and experiences.  When a person feels stuck, overwhelmed, or confused, we often suggest journaling (or other forms of writing).

Research has shown that journaling has benefits related to physical health, mental health, sleep, grief-coping, etc. Anecdotally we know this practice helps to…

  • combat avoidance
  • process experiences and emotions
  • connect with positive memories
  • organize thoughts
  • calm down and de-stress
  • shift perspective
  • relieve anxiety

Best of all, journaling is a low barrier coping option; it’s private, confidential (if you keep it that way), cost-effective, and accessible. Though people will often create a barrier for themselves by saying “I’d like to journal, but I’m not a good writer” the truth is that one need not be a good writer to journal.

In case you need the reminder, journaling is for your eyes only. Journal entries don’t have to be a certain length, they don’t have to follow rules related to structure, spelling or grammar, and, unless you’re writing your memoirs, the end product is irrelevant.  It’s the doing of the thing that matters.

If you’re interested in journaling, we have some articles with journaling prompts here and here and here and here and here. We also have a self-guided 30-Day Grief Journaling e-Course.


Aside from the general benefits of reading and connecting with stories, I can think of three ways that reading helps people cope with grief. (1) Reading informative and educational blogs, books, and articles can help a person to learn, conceptualize, and intellectualize their experiences. (2) Reading other people’s experiences through memoirs and fictional stories helps to normalize grief, put experiences into perspective, creates a sense of universality (i.e. I’m not the only one), and instills hope. (3) Reading offers escape and respite.

Looking for a good grief book? Check out our list of 32 books about grief and 32 more after that.

Photography, Drawing, and Other Artistic Expression:

It’s no secret that we love photography as a tool for coping with grief.  We’ve created photo challenges, e-course, articles, and an entire website dedicated to sharing photography around grief.  As we said in our very first article about Exploring Grief Through Photography,

If you have a camera, you can photograph symbols, abstract images, and literal interpretations of people, places, and things regardless of your skill level. The process of creating the images will force you to spend time reflecting on your emotions and will allow you to feel closer to your loved one. The results may not be perfect, but they will tell the world something about how you’re feeling.”

If you have other creative talents, we’re jealous. Use them!  Though, it isn’t really necessary to be “good” or “talented” to use a certain art form in a therapeutic way. As an example, I love drawing as a way to get my thoughts out on paper, but I’m terrible at it. Mostly what I wind up doing is a journal/doodle hybrid and it’s a mess, but it still feels good!

Continuing Bonds:

Many people find rituals and reminders that maintain an ongoing connection with the person who died to be extremely healing in their grief. Though connecting with others can certainly be a part of honoring and remembering a loved one, people often find their most meaningful rituals to be those that are personal and private.


Coping that falls under this heading, whether directly or indirectly connected to grief, helps to promote a person’s sense of well-being and may provide a brief respite from grief.  We love the PERMA model of well-being described by postive psychologist, Martin Seligman.  This model encourages people to choose behaviors and activities that increase positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. For more on well-being coping and how it relates to grief coping, head here.

Share your go-to coping tools in the comments below.  Also, subscribe.

February 13, 2019

28 responses on "I Don't Want to Talk About It: Coping with Grief Without Saying a Word"

  1. I found all these responses, very interesting! I mainly do journals, for everything! I like writing! When dealing with grief, a very painful grief, I want to do it all. I write, I talk, I share! What is inside, must come out, or I will self destruct! What happens when I can’t talk to those close to me, about my feelings, is that I close down! I, not only, feel isolated from them, I isolate myself and start thinking negatively. Convincing myself that they don’t care! These negative thoughts multiply very quickly! I resort to writing, which helps me to see a pattern in my behavior, and how I react to not getting the response I was looking for. My grief gets all tangled up inside! I feel angry, resentful, hurt, lonely and so alone! You’ve lost someone so dear to you, and now it feels like you’ve lost the ones who remain! Feeling this way, leads me to share my very core, which is often riddled with regrets, guilt and the inability to forgive myself! So, writing is still the winner here, for me. You can’t make people talk to you or make them listen! Not even loved ones! It’s not how it works! Talking or listening should be consensual, unless in a professional setting. A journal is good for me, because I can go on until I drop from writing fatigue, but, commenting or blogging is ideal for me, because I can be talking to those who also like to talk, but, leaves the option for those who may only want to read, taking what might fit for them, or read on to what others write, hopefully finding something they can relate to. As someone with grief, guilt, regret and forgiveness issues, I can be a confessional writer! As my journey continues, how I write will show me where I am, and if I’m moving forward, or not!

  2. I saw a few comments about empty nesters and wondering if they are still around.

  3. What do you do though, when you don’t want to talk about it and your husband does. Our daughter died 7 years ago at birth. I miss her every day even though I never knew her. Her death changed me into a hard, uncaring person. I have nothing to talk about. What the heck would I even say? All I know is, it hurts. It hurts to the point that just saying her name out loud throws me into a flood of tears. I don’t want to feel that. My husband wants to talk about her all the time, but he has stopped because he feels like I don’t want to hear him talk about her. Yes, one time in a fight, I did tell him to stop talking about her. But that is because he blames me for her death and I am not the cause of her death. One in 200 children are born still. There is nothing that we could have done to save her. She died. It just happened. There is no one to blame. Please help. I am trapped inside myself.

  4. I don’t get along with my mother. She is extremely strict & old-fashioned. So it bothers the stuffing out of me when people say “You will miss her…” “You will cry your eyes out…” et cetera. If she dies peacefully, there’s no reason for me to be shocked for more than a week (or at most a month) after she dies, because, I repeat, we don’t get along. (I only contact her when I have to. She lives in one facility, & I live in another, miles apart.)

    I am disabled from birth & she was strict from the beginning. I miss my father, however, & a substitute grandmother that lived in the neighborhood, & a cousin that died recently. And I definitely miss Fran McDaniel, who was murdered by her (expletive) estranged husband (I still have an unrequited crush on Fran because she was an organist with a beautiful face, & also because she never nagged me.) I even miss Princess Diana although I never met her. She had a personality similar to mine (sophisticated yet childlike, strong yet vulnerable).

    But will I miss my mother? No, not for more than a month; possibly even less than that!!! She’s not the mother I wanted.

    • Webmaster: After you have read my earlier comment regarding my mother, please delete it. It’s not worth the risk of her finding it. It’s between y’all and me, not for her eyes. She reads lots of articles about grief, & I don’t want her to see what I said about her. THANK YOU.

      Claire Dixon

  5. This was posted the very same day my mother-in-law died…just an observation. Two mothers gone in two years (mom in 2017, mother-in-law in 2018).

  6. I was just reminded the above was posted the day my mother-in-law died, which was almost 14 months after my mom died…just a day or so from the 1-year mark of mom-in-law’s passing…realized this past weekend that since 1978, at least 65 people that I know have died…mostly acquaintances and co-workers from past and present jobs, but included in that are aunts and uncles, a great grand-parent, grandma and grandpa, and a close childhood friend. Many different people, many different connections, many different influences in my own life, and all. Sobering thought on the number, and most of this is since 1998 (my favorite uncle died unexpectedly 21 years ago yesterday. But the hardest of these continues to be my mom, even after nearly 26 months it is still hard, and Mother’s Day is the worst…just thinking out loud through the keyboard of the computer…

  7. journaling and reading helped me tons during my teenage years…when I got together with my son’s dad he did not understand my journal habit and often got upset about what he found in those pages so I stopped…I stopped for years…10+…FB post did not make justice of how much I bottled up inside throughout those years…I regret stopping because I feel like so much of my life…so many details came and went and I never recorded them…when we split I still didn’t get back into journaling…I was too afraid someone will find it again and judge my feelings again…as time went by I regain happiness and balance, I was thriving and so I started journaling again…it felt so good!!! during the first few pages you can feel am still unsure to let it all out, when I meet my wonderful partner I was able to record slowly how things happened, how I felt and how I was falling in love…
    on September 12/2018 he passed away…suddenly…I still cant believe its been 6+ months without him…
    My grief journey has been one of the most painful experiences of them all so far…I cried every single day for months…and to this day I still have grief waves that feel like I am back to day 1…no one understands your grief, no one will ever be capable to tell you the right words although they sure try…I have journal about 80+ pages in my computer writing all my sorrow down…the first few months I could barely function so I never recorded the pain of funeral arrangements, endless crying and my most raw depressive state of mind….but as time went by I started feeling like I was “forgetting” memories, feelings…him and I…and I panicked! so I started writing everything I could remember as well as almost daily entries of how I felt…some are as short as one sentence…and others took pages…I plan to put them together with our pictures one day…when I gather enough strength to do so without sobbing…and thanks to journaling…not as many details of our relationship or my feelings will go forgotten…I think of it as a legacy…regardless of who finds it and reads it…this is me…and I should not be ashamed of writing down how “the true me” feels. Thank you for your website…it truly feels like a safe place to be at…

  8. I suffer being alone after empty nest can anyone advice i want counceling or a group of empty nesters please responce if know of any hethank you .god bless…

  9. Any one out there suffer from empty nest syndrome if know a single mom counceling or grief please let me know thank u

  10. Yes hi guys i suffer empty nest syndrome i am climbingout thank god..butt only problem staying alone is so hard i see her room myself walone i feel numb .any sugestions or any body suffering with this please help..

  11. Hiking and walking outside, in nature, in the hills, on the trails, by the ocean, etc., is my go-to for coping with grief and everything related to emotional health (trauma, depression…).

  12. I’m an introvert and not a group person. I don’t care for free writing and journaling either. My brain insists on proper sentences and punctuation. However, I sew, these days mostly quilts but I’m also making memory bears with chef clothes (my son was a chef) for my other son, daughter, hubby, 2 grands and myself. I also make kids smocked and embroidered clothes. I’m finding that doing shorter term things helps more at the moment. Finishing is important. The one thing I’m stressing myself about is what do I do with the quilt I started 5 years ago for my son before he relapsed. I stopped making it because he wasn’t going to need it soon. He started asking about it in the last 4-5 months and I was going to work on it to finish for him. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. That makes me very sad.

  13. I remember i LOVE to take photos. Dad passed in January – awful time just horrendous – I have decided to buy myself a camera (not a wow expensive camera and not the cheapest one either – some mid range one) and then get snapping. I would like to host a photographic exhibition to mark/remember/celebrate his life and mark the loss as another part of my tapestry of grief. So if I am up for it – next January I will exhibit the work (title – yet undecided – camera yet un-bought). My kids and close friends will be invited and I plan at this stage to have it open to the local community – but may well change my mind – depending on how I feel closer to the time. I am feeling passionate about this and so was thrilled to read this post that referred to ‘photography and grief’. Perfect timing. My dad also loved photography so there is that lovely connection for me too. thank you.

  14. Thank you – thank you – thank you!!

    Having already journalled like 25,000 words (which was a great opportunity for me to start opening up about my loss) – just yesterday I decided to make a photographic memorial/grief narrative following my dad’s recent death. He died in January after suffering a lot with cancer. After lots of umming and ahhing about what and how to next step through this grief jungle – I remember i LOVE to take photos. He has opted to leave me a small bit of money and I have decided to buy myself a camera (not a wow expensive camera and not the cheapest one either – some mid range one) and then get snapping. I would like to host a photographic exhibition to mark/remember/celebrate his life and mark the loss as another part of my tapestry of grief. So if I am up for it – next January I will exhibit the work (title – yet undecided – camera yet un-bought). My kids and close friends will be invited and I plan at this stage to have it open to the local community – but may well change my mind – depending on how I feel closer to the time. I am feeling passionate about this and so was thrilled to read this post that referred to ‘photography and grief’. Perfect timing. My dad also loved photography so there is that lovely connection for me too. thanks again. Perfect!!

  15. I am so very thankful to have found your site!! This is the very first article I have received via email and it was SO ON TARGET for me (an introvert!!) THANK YOU. My go-to coping activity has been journaling for many years now and in recent years I have ventured into the art journaling world. It is a wonderful way to process life and work through healing.

  16. Thank you for this today. I have n interest in therapy or joining a support group-and am so tired of people telling me to. This is validation of how I am feeling is appropriate for my journey. I choose to sew, garden and bake. I have made so many baby toys, quilts ( and I have no grandchildren but there is the hope of them someday) Being creative has helped me more than anything else. Its much cheaper too!

  17. Is this webinar worth CEU, if so how many please?

    • Hey Monica, I’m afraid it’s not approved for CEU’s. We are working through the process to get approval for online offerings, but it is lengthy and were still not there. So sorry!

  18. My husband used to do drawings of the musicians during our monthly chamber music outings. Then I would would stand proudly by when got the signatures of the surprised and pleased performers.
    After he died, the director of the music series made a slide show of many of the drawings, and presented it at the beginning of the next performance. It was a great honor and very comforting.
    After that, I took up the mantle and become the unofficial artist of the Jewel Box series. Perhaps this is continuing bonds. Our styles are very different and I never wanted to “compete” with him, but it feels good to share this with him now. And it’s a great conversation starter with the musicians too!
    Perhaps they’ll do a slide show if my work one day.

  19. As an introvert, I also would never have considered talking in a group. But in my immediate grief, I joined a grief group at the suggestion of my Pastor. And it was surprising how much I “enjoyed” it. There had been a real need inside of me to talk about it and it ended up being an incredibly positive experience. From a decidedly non-group person!!

    There were / are situations in which I definitely do not want to talk about it, for sure. But the group thing helped in my case, which still shocks me now!

  20. These are wonderful suggestions. As the director of grief support at a funeral home, I always tell people that they are the only ones who know how they should mourn their loved one. My experience is that often (definitely not always) the introverts gain by just be being present. The knowledge that they are not alone, has a big impact, as does hearing that what they are experiencing is normal. Another thing I do is to give people lots of handouts to give them information, inspire them, offer other options such as you suggest. Sometimes 1:1 support is best. No matter one’s particular style, it is always important for them to know that others care and are there for them in whatever way they need.

  21. Breathing – just simple deep breathing like that I do in my Yoga practice.

    Breathing helps sooth me, it calms me from the inside and warms my body from my lungs outward.
    When i’m experiencing an anxious moment in life, to settle myself and breath is the most simple and best way for me to dissolve all that has washed over me.

  22. My Dad and I shared a luv of nature and gardening. When he died, I enrolled and completed my Master Gardener training. During this intense and long study period, I kept my connection with my late Dad and imagined telling him all that I learned and discovered from this fascinating course. With my focus redirected to studying, memorizing, and research, I had little time for despair. My graduation was a huge accomplishment for me, not only for completing this grueling curriculum, but also for seeing me through a very sad time, the devastating loss of my Dad. I had always wanted to get this certification; with Dad’s death, the opportunity became clearer – don’t wait, just do it. Finding the silver-lining among the clouds isn’t easy, but it can be located, if we bravely open our hearts and minds.

  23. Kate: I had the same experience. I wasn’t embarrassed because I liked being anonymous and people just listened. What I did find is that I felt better a day or two later. I am not going back, but that experience was a step in my healing. I see Cathy had a different experience. So there may be some differences in the way the counselors conduct the group experience. The bottom line is that this is not a good fit for me. I would recommend one session for everyone. I found it painful that some people had been going for a couple of years, and they were still deeply grieving. That interfered with my hope to move forward.

  24. Writing a journal may be helpful to some. I have chosen to write in blogs that may be helpful and encouraging to others. I find this to be therapeutic to me the giver and hopefully to the message receiver. As I reread my message, I learn from it myself as I assess how I am doing. I went to one counseling group and used up half a box of tissue. What I learned about myself is that there are others in the same stage of grief, and there is only so much that the body and soul can give to the grieving experience. It’s almost like the body can only cry a bucket of tears, and then it will not cry again. It’s almost like there is a limit to emotional pain, and then you heal emotionally. The one thing you need to never lose is hope. Hope that you will be better someday. Hope that there will be others in your life that will fill the emptiness. Hope that your religion gives you more comfort. Never give up on hope. Do activities that make you hopeful. Get out of the house. Take the opportunity to talk to complete strangers. I am an introvert, but I take this step forward, too. Bless you!

  25. Have an in-house hospice visit on 4/23. Found the groups to be too overwhelming. Hearing others losses was very sad indeed. Hoping help will come soon.

  26. A nearby hospice offers a meditation group. It has been amazing for me. The facilitator does some guiding with statements about loss, regret, fear, etc for the first part, then we are silent for 10-15 minutes at the end.

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