Grief and Self-Care for the Rest of Us

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Eleanor Haley

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Self-Care is a phrase thrown around quite a bit in the mental health field. As in, self-care is essential for individuals dealing with grief to avoid a nervous breakdown. Or, as in, mental health professionals need to practice self-care to prevent burnout and continue to function in the everyday world.

Both of these statements are true; I don't dispute them for a second. Still, whenever I hear someone talk about the importance of self-care, my eyes glaze over, and I vacantly nod my head and say, "Oh yes… self-care…super important", while thinking, "Uh oh, they're starting to talk about self-care...just walk away…no one will notice".

When we talk about self-care, we refer to efforts towards a healthy lifestyle and stress management, which I fully support. However, what irks me is that the tools and techniques suggested for self-care are often so un-relatable, I can't get behind them. 

As a working mother of two, I reject the idea that I must give up bad habits like Lifetime Movie Marathons and adopt healthy lifestyle choices like organic diets, daily exercise, and yoga to take care of myself. Lifetime Movies help me to escape. And although I understand yoga and exercise are good, they require perseverance and hard work. These are resources those most in need of self-care – the distressed, over-stressed, overworked, anxious, angry, and depressed – may not have in abundance.

That said, if you fall into this category, please don't give up on self-care. Not until you fully understand what it requires and have considered how it might be realistic for YOU.

The BAR approach to self-care

Woah, not so fast, put that bottle down. In this context BAR is an acronym that stands for:

Balance, Awareness, and Realism

…let me explain


Balance can have quite a few implications when it comes to self-care. For example, it could mean that you try to maintain a good balance between your needs and the needs of others (your children, your work, your significant other). 

Or it could mean finding a balance between coping strategies that are typically thought of as negative (staying in bed all day, drinking every night) and coping that may have a more positive impact on function (going on daily walks, seeking therapy).

The basic underlying idea is that you should give a decent amount of time to things that will make you feel better by increasing health and happiness and decreasing stress. Your efforts might be as deliberate as scheduling an hour to play tennis or as subtle as allowing yourself a 15-minute break to put on your headphones and listen to music when things get tough.


After a significant event like a death, we suggest looking introspectively at how you are coping every so often. Doing this can be challenging because it means having to be honest with yourself and possibly say, "I'm not doing that great." 

If you find yourself saying, "I'm not coping well," then it may be time to make lifestyle changes or get help. We should note, when you are at your lowest, self-awareness can be hard to come by. It may be hard to be objective so consider talking things over with trusted and honest friends and family.


This one is simple. It means that it's important to set realistic expectations for yourself, go easy on yourself and choose practical coping methods for you. The things that enrich your life may be totally different than the things someone else might choose. So take some time to make a list of the things you find fulfilling and strategies you might realistically utilize to reduce stress.

Grief and Self-Care: 20 Ideas

Here are a few examples. As you will see, self-care doesn't have to be complicated and can include various activities.

1. Go outside:
  • Get 20 minutes of sunlight and/or fresh air
  • Take a walk
  • Garden
  • Open the windows
  • Be active: bike, hike, explore
2. Put on headphones and listen to music
3. Read a book: Choose books that will help you escape (mysteries & romance)
4. Watch a movie
5. Deliberately unplug:
  • Turn off your phone
  • Shut down your computer
  • Don't respond to e-mails after work
6. Get a hobby:
7. Get enough sleep/Take a Nap
8. Yoga/meditation
9. Make a date with yourself
10. Make a date with family or friends
11. Do things that make you feel fulfilled:
12. Do things that make you laugh
13. Get organized
14. Find out more about nutrition and make positive dietary changes
15. Don’t overbook: take a look at your schedule. What can you eliminate?
16. Take a bath
17. Find solitude
18. Find silence
19. Slow down
20. Find ways to feel close to your loved ones memory

For more suggestions, check out the following articles:

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

We wrote a book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
real-life book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:

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12 Comments on "Grief and Self-Care for the Rest of Us"

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  1. Pamela t  August 16, 2023 at 10:57 pm Reply

    I think a big problem with losing so many loved ones from my experience of knowing 33 so far half were so close. I tend to not get close to anyone.even though you may go do something with someone as i do iam never really there and feel akwarx because i dont want to get to know them yet am lonley .everything they say goes in one eAr and out the other i try to make the appropriate response but no feeling there . You can mever replace the closness . I had to realize that no matter what tommorrow will i choose to make it happy or sad i have to go threw it anyway .and what would my friends i miss do and family they were stronger than me. I felt heck ya they would continue on . I also watch near death experience and have passed myself once so know its true if they could feel sadness they would feel sorry for us being stuck here but they are to busy living it up in a pAradise a real paridise knowing we will all be together soon and everthings ok they dont worry well i myself would at leAst like a tanglable letter saying they are ok but their timeline is diffr3nt wish god would do something abouthatt

  2. Faraz  January 6, 2023 at 8:58 am Reply

    Self-care is about making small, realistic steps toward improving your mental health. It’s about finding balance and awareness and being realistic about what you can and cannot do. So take the plunge and commit to self-care because the more you practice it, the easier it will be to stick to it. To learn more, you can also check this blog post, 5 Activities Ideas To Boost Self-Care.

  3. Amara Smith  March 17, 2020 at 6:04 am Reply

    Nice Content covered. I think One Should Practice Self Care on the daily basis. Gratitude i think everyone must include.

  4. KOJRJBSMGDOTXLOE  September 16, 2018 at 2:21 am Reply

    Unquestionably consider that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be at the internet the easiest thing to take note of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while people consider issues that they plainly don’t recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also outlined out the whole thing with no need side effect , people can take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thanks

  5. Weekend Edition: March 24, 2013 - What's Your Grief  March 24, 2013 at 9:19 am Reply

    […] Though we will be the first to admit that we struggle to get our butts off the couch, we have talked here about exercise as important for self-care, and we have also talked about how we use music and playlists to help with mood.  Scientific […]

  6. Crying In Public (aka sometimes socks are sad) -  March 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm Reply

    […] Worried that your crying is not normal and your grief may have crossed into the complicated realm?  Check out our post on normal grief vs complicated grief.  Just looking for some general tips on taking care of yourself when overwhelmed by the emotions of grief?  We have a self-care post too. […]

  7. Cindy Adams  March 2, 2013 at 10:56 am Reply

    What a great article! Can I post it on my website?

    • Eleanor Haley  March 2, 2013 at 2:18 pm Reply

      Hey Cindy, absolutely we’re all for sharing! I’m glad you found us and liked the article.

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