How do I cope with the raw pain of my grief? 18 things that have helped me survive.

The other half of my heart and soul “graduated to heaven” about 18 months ago. It is so hard to believe 1 ½ years have passed since I last heard the sweet gentleness of his voice or shared our very last hug. :0( ….I want to talk to him so badly that it truly feels like emotional torture.

His death was incredibly unexpected. The time from his first symptom to death was less than 48 hours. I still find myself shaking my head and whispering to myself, “that couldn’t have REALLY happened.” So many days his death still feels like yesterday. The rawness and sharpness of early grief still comes to visit me on a much more frequent basis than I like. Grief has become my constant, uninvited companion.

Here are a few comforts, strategies, etc. that have helped and continue to help me survive this excruciating and unwanted journey in my life. I would love to hear what things have been a help to you on your personal grief journeys. Please feel free to share in the comments below!

1) Keep Your Body Moving— Forcing myself to keep my body in motion as often as possible. Short walks, moving around the home, working on my little projects. A quick brief release of endorphins grants a hint of relief.

2) Revisit the Comforts of Childhood- For some reason, in this season of feeling deeply broken, my heart is so drawn to the things that brought me comfort as a child. My sweet Daddy’s homemade spaghetti sauce he made each Sunday morning before church, playing Rummy with my Mom. Scouring Amazon for a favorite old toy I absolutely loved as a kid, snagging it and playing with it with my children.

3) Create– There is something so therapeutic for me about trying to direct the swirling tornado of emotions inside of me and focusing it somehow into creating a new outward thing of beauty whether beauty to the ears, or eyes. The process of brainstorming ideas for future creative projects seems to be a little energizing too. Flute, piano, photography, little crafts with my kiddos, rock painting, doodling, adult coloring books, & sticker mosaic books, are a few of my faves.

4) Find Ways to Nurture– Losing your spouse is a loss like no other. For years, I have poured my absolute all into caring deeply for, encouraging and loving unconditionally my husband. Now he isn’t here. Where is a healthy place to put all the tremendous amounts of love and nurture I so desperately long to give to him? As cheesy as it sounds, the 4 P’s have worked for me, (lol)…Pets, we are looking forward to caring for a kitten this summer. Plants, I have a friend who described my home as a jungle because there are so many plants. I especially like rehabilitating the not so pretty plants from the Lowe’s clearance. Places, improving the land around you, gathering trash at the playground, raking in our neighborhood. People, who in my life could use a little x-tra TLC and encouragement? Starting of course with my number one relationships right now, my children.

5) Don’t Let Pride Stop You From Getting the Kind of Help You Need- This is such a hard one for me, but so very important. I am glad I have swallowed my pride to accept these sorts of resources as vital tools in the tool box of grief survival. Anti-depressant medications for a season, seeking professional counseling services, allowing the support system of your state government to assist you with providing materially and financially for your family if you are in need are tremendous blessings that can make a huge difference. Losing your spouse is ranked as the number one most stressful life event. Give yourself permission to receive these supports if they are a help to you.

6) Find Places to Put Your Mind- I have heard it described as changing the channel in your mind. I was advised to have several “channels” ready that I know are good places to try to redirect my mind in those times when my thoughts are incredibly negative, or my mind feels stuck on fears of the future. I often try to redirect to a song, a bible verse, or something funny or beautiful in nature. Another thing that helps an anxious mind is choosing to do something that engages the logical part of your mind, like counting. My Mom copes with life’s anxieties with her knitting. Counting the many stitches helps distract her mind and provides a little relief.

7) Talk To As Many Trusted People As Possible In my journey reaching outside myself to those I trust has required courage, but has proved to be very helpful. Pastors, former widows who are now remarried, current young widows, elderly widows, friends, neighbors, ministries, bloggers, radio broadcasts, podcasts, church members, co-workers. Each time I’ve talked with others about my story and their own, I have gained another piece of knowledge or wisdom that has become a part of my healing.

8) Force Quiet Into Your Day– Quiet used to terrify me in the early days of grief. The quiet almost felt as if it was grabbing me with a choke hold. After the initial months, the full weight of the solo parenting responsibility of two busy boys (currently ages 6 and 2) became so very exhausting to carry. I quickly crash into “burn out mode” if I can’t carve out a small measure of “me time” on a regular basis. Even a few minutes of quiet in the day helps….. If I can stay awake long enough to have it.

9) Appreciate the Value of Even The Smallest Comforts- On the hardest of days, I was surprised how much I needed small things, like snuggling a soft fleece blanket, or leaving certain household lights on all night. In fact, I have slept with the lights on every single night since my Sweetheart died.

10) Keep Your Hands Busy– Busy hands have served as an escape route for some of the swirling mess inside. I find myself thinking “Oh boy, here I go again, down into the messy dark places of pain that I’m tired of revisiting” Another dip in grief’s roller coaster. So then I try to think “How can I keep my hands busy?” folding laundry, watering houseplants, organizing. There is therapy for me in these simple things.

11) Find Ways To Help Others- Beyond helping in my own household, finding people or organizations to help, encouraging others, getting involved in a non-profit or church ministry helps redirect my focus away from the intensity of my pain and struggle. Thinking of how I can make a difference gives occasional breaks from thinking about my personal mess. Doing these things helps reminds me there is a reason why God has chosen that I am still here on this earth.

12) Keep Talking to God– Oh my, what a struggle I have had in this area. Early on I was drowning in the sea of self-blame and God-blame. I felt as if God betrayed my trust. I felt wounded by & cheated by God. I felt he hadn’t rescued my husband as I’d prayed and I felt such an intense anger. I learned that God wants to talk to us, even when we are furious with Him. I knew through Christ we can have a relationship with Him, the hope of heaven and the comfort of His love for us that will not stop; yet I couldn’t stop feeling like my Heavenly father had just broken His little girl’s heart. He knows everything I am feeling anyway, so pretending I am not mad and broken before Him really does no good in my healing process.

13) Write/ Journal— Writing engages your hands and allows a vent of sorts for what is stuck cycling in your mind. I also found that writing down memories of my husband helps with the anxiety of carrying fragmented memories of him in my mind and worrying “what if I forget?” that part of him or our relationship.

14) Let People Help You- Sometimes I am just awful at this. I am much more comfortable and accustomed to being in the role of helper, social worker, volunteer, leader, mother, the friend who other friends go to for encouragement and advice. Being willing to admit I needed such help and having my private life wide open to the observation, opinion, and participation of others was super foreign to me and quite uncomfortable. I remember saying “I want to raise my children with my husband, not with 10 people who aren’t my husband.”

*** Also noteworthy is you have every right to control how people help you. You do not have to let people storm into your personal space, make changes, throw special items away, move your stuff, and take control. That is the opposite of helpful.

15) Make Changes To Your Home Without Guilt (but only when YOU are ready)

This is a very delicate area for so many widows. 1 ½ years into this journey and the bed in my bedroom my sweetheart and I shared has morphed into a crazy storage area/earthquake. I haven’t slept in that bed since he died. As God has given strength, on the days that aren’t so intense, I have had the courage to re-paint and change flooring in a few of the common areas of the home. The blend of cherished keepsakes with my sweetie mixed with fresh paint and decor seems to be making it a bit more bearable and calming to continue living here. These household updates have helped me continue taking courageous steps forward.

16) Plan Ahead For The Hardest Days- Our wedding anniversary in June and the anniversary of his death in October have hereby been declared annual family vacation times for the boys and I and the occasional extended family member whom is brave enough to tag along. It helped last year to have specific fun activities and adventures outside of our normal routine to consume our attention during those hardest times.

17) Do Something Random, Zany or New for You- New things outside of your former life or former comfort zone add a bit of spice to this widowed life. Plus, doing something new isn’t as tainted with the sting of trying to repeat a former activity that my husband and I loved enjoying together with me trying to flounder through tears to endure that same activity alone. Eating new foods, feeding a sting ray, & petting sharks, have sprinkled some spice into my journey.

18) Do ONLY What You Are Ready To Do Without Guilt, It is ok to say “NO Thanks”-

I remind myself that I no longer need to guilt myself (like I used to) about attending certain events or group activities. I decided that as much as I can control, the days of “Oh, I have to go to (insert name’s) wedding or Aunt so and so will be offended,” are done. If I can’t handle an event, place, celebration, etc. I should not feel badly. I am recovering for life altering trauma and a tremendous loss, and so are you, my fellow hope sisters.

What helps you survive your grief journey?

Please feel free to share in the comments.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Mark your calendars! Hope For Widows Foundation’s annual virtual Widows of Hope 5K event has returned on Friday, May 12 through Sunday, May 14, 2023. Anyone can join! Whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support or walking in the loss of another family member, everyone is welcome to participate. The proceeds will directly support widows through the annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program. Do you have or know a business that would like to sponsor? That’s an option too! To register and frequently asked questions- please go here:

Also, mark your calendars, on National Widows Day, May 3, 2023, the Restoring Hope and Peace Grant application process will open up. Please go here for criteria and details:


Dorothy lost her beloved husband Oct 2021 to a very unexpected bacterial pneumonia that quickly became septic shock. Her other half and best friend was born with a serious congenital heart defect. Because of that, she had always feared the possibility of being a widow, but she thought it more likely to be due to his heart, and more likely when her husband was in his 50s after the children were grown. Instead, he graduated to heaven just one week before turning 34. Dorothy was 36 with young sons ages 5 and 16 months who adored their Daddy. In less than 48 hours, the life Dorothy and her beloved husband so carefully built together shattered. They were blessed to share just over 8 wonderful, joyous and fun years of marriage. While her heart is so thankful to God for having had their journey together, she has struggled since his death with feeling hurt and let down by God. She has felt so devastated that their love story was short and ended so abruptly. Join her as she shares her unfolding journey of grasping to faith in Christ as she journeys through love, loss, single parenthood, honoring her husband's legacy and guiding her sons through their grief and life without Daddy.