The ‘O’ Word that Hits Grievers—and What to Do about It

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This one should be pretty easy to figure out.  The ‘O’ word that hits grievers is a common reaction to grief. 

Think back to your experience with profound grief, if you have been there.  Grief consumes you like a tornado.  It overtakes you, and you feel utterly and completely overwhelmed.  That’s the word we’re looking for – ‘overwhelmed.’  When grief lands on you with such force and sweeping effect, how do you handle it?  Is there anything you can do?

When you’re overwhelmed with anything, particularly grief, it’s natural to think you are powerless and lack realistic options.  But let’s look at this more closely.

What Causes You to Feel Overwhelmed – and What You Can Do:

  • One of the reasons for feeling overwhelmed is that you think you have to decide everything at once. When you experience a deep loss, changes occur – some immediately, and some as time goes on.  Yes, you have decisions to make.  But don’t go overboard.  Make only the absolutely necessary decisions (with some help from people you trust).  Let go of the rest for later.
  • Another closely related reason for feeling overwhelmed is that you take on too much responsibility. This is a time to allow others to help you, to take on some of the obligations and duties that must be done.  Treat yourself gently and with care.  Release the things that are not critical.  Concentrate on only what is truly necessary. 
  • Don’t look too far into the future, trying to figure things out that, at this point, are impossible to figure out – because doing so will overwhelm you.  Stop!  Don’t borrow trouble. 
  • When fear wraps itself around you – you feel overwhelmed. Grief brings lots of unknowns into your mind.  You don’t know how you’re going to get through the grief; you don’t know how long it’s going to last; you may not know how you’re going to survive financially; you may not feel confident that you can fulfill the new roles you now have; you may feel inadequate; you may wonder how your life is going to change over time; and on and on.  Don’t let your imagination run wild.  When those fears rise up – take control and stop mulling over everything that can go wrong, everything that ‘could’ happen.  Redirect your thoughts to something positive.  Don’t let fear grab you and swing you around!
  • Ask for help when you are overwhelmed! Recognizing you need help and asking for it does not show weakness, but strength.  Never feel bad about reaching out for help when you need it.  
  • Release your emotions if you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to let yourself cry when you need to, or talk to someone you trust, or write in your journal, or if you’re at home—scream and punch your fist into a pillow!  (I’ve done all of those things.)  Find a safe place and let those emotions out.  You’ll feel less overwhelmed when you don’t try to keep all of your emotions bottled up inside – and you’ll be helping yourself heal at the same time. 
  • Just take one step at a time when you are overwhelmed. Grief is a process, a step at a time process.  Don’t get in a rush to be through it.  Don’t pressure yourself.  Take one step at a time.  Try to relax in the process.  This is surely not a time to place added stress on yourself about the way you’re handling your grief.  Rest assured – there is no specific right or wrong way to go through the grieving process.  Give yourself grace to go through grief ‘your way.’

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed at times during grief.  But that’s not the end of the story.

You are not a victim to your grief and the loss you face unless you allow yourself to be one.  You have options.  We’ve talked about some things you can do.  I’m sure you can come up with some ideas, too.

Stop.  Breathe.  Take a step back – and think about what you can do to relieve some of the stress that contributes to your being overwhelmed. 

Your choices about how you face the grief in your life do make a difference.  They make a difference between merely surviving and thriving again after loss.

Someone told me about this quote, and I just love it! I wish I knew where it actually came from so I could give the proper credit:  “People who experience trauma don’t just bounce back – that would be resilience – they bounce higher than they ever did before.”

With an attitude like that, you will thrive again after loss!  

© 2016 Judy Brizendine

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Related reading:

Emotional Overwhelm article – from

Grief and Stress article – by Chris Woolston, M.A.

10 Tips to Help Yourself in Times of Grief article– by Angela Morrow, R.N.



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