7 Ways to Face Your Grief and Move Forward

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Jared has done everything he can think of to make himself feel better since his father unexpectedly passed away two years ago. But he still feels blah and numb much of the time.

Sandra keeps choosing the same kind of guy over and over; alcoholic, angry, and afraid of commitment.

Claudia is irritable and bitter after her painful divorce. She can’t seem to get back to her old self.

All three of these people are stuck in some way. Each is suffering, each is confused. “Why can’t I get out of this?” they all wonder.

Fortunately for Jared, Sandra and Claudia, there is an answer, and it is the same for each of them. It’s a simple answer, yet it requires them to do something they dread.


Grief gets a bad rap, and in some ways, it should. After all, when does it enter our lives? When we’ve lost someone, or something, important. Grief only appears at times of pain and loss. But grief itself is not pain or loss. Instead, it’s a phase of processing pain and loss.

It’s a very natural human tendency to want to avoid pain. And it takes time to process a loss. This is what makes grieving so universally difficult. The three people described above are all stuck because they are avoiding their grief.

Jared is working hard, but to some extent on the wrong things. He’s trying to make himself feel better. But unfortunately, no amount of sporting events, dates, or successful work projects will help him process his loss and pain. He can only really move past his grief phase by going through it, not around it. This means he must accept his loss and sadness. Jared must allow himself to grieve.

Sandra wants to have the kind of healthy relationship that she sees others enjoy. So she keeps trying, over and over and over. Why does she keep repeating the same pattern? Because she has never grieved the father who left when she was 8 years old. “I don’t care about that jerk,” she’s said all of her life. Sandra is protecting herself with anger, because she doesn’t want to face, or feel, the pain of being abandoned by the man who was supposed to love her the most. Because Sandra isn’t allowing herself to feel, process, and work through her loss, she keeps recreating it. She keeps choosing men who will not really be there for her, and who will eventually abandon her.

Claudia was deeply hurt by her divorce from the man she was married to for 12 years, the father of her children. She was shocked and bereft when he signed those divorce papers. To cope, she has placed her focus on her children and making sure they have a life as close to normal as possible. Surely no one could fault her for this. But what keeps Claudia stuck in her bitterness and anger is not her focus on her children; it’s her failure to focus on herself. She needs to accept, feel, and work through her shock and pain and loss. She needs to grieve.

With all this talk of grief, here’s the good news. If you, like Jared, Sandra or Claudia, feel stuck, you may not actually be. You’re not facing a brick wall after all. You may, instead, be facing a phase. A phase that you can work through, and come out the other side. Yes, you know the solution. You need to grieve.

Seven Tips For Healthy Grieving

  1. Make an effort to think about who, or what, you’ve lost. This is a way to give yourself a chance to deal with your loss. Choosing to think about your loss is a way to prevent your brain from processing the loss at times when you are not wanting to do so.
  2. Let yourself feel the pain. The only way to make it go away is to feel it, process it, and go through it.
  3. Take control of your grief by scheduling it. For example, every day at 5:30 p.m. you will sit in a room alone, think about what you’ve lost, and let yourself feel it. Then you will distract yourself out of it. Force yourself to think about something else, and engage in an activity that will put it back into the background. Go on with your day.
  4. As you feel the feelings, put them into words. Here are some examples to start with:

I feel sad

I feel hurt

I feel bereft

I feel disappointed

I feel empty

I feel lost

I feel alone

I feel let down

I feel angry

I am mourning

    5. Choose a trusted person and share your feelings. Talking with someone about what you’re going through is incredibly helpful.

    6. Remind yourself that grief is a process, and it’s not permanent. It’s simply a phase of adjustment that is healthy and necessary.

    7. Don’t put a time limit on your grief. Everyone’s grief is different, and you can’t rush recovery. It will take as long as it takes. Period.

If you’re an emotional avoider or have a tendency to avoid your feelings in general, you’re at a higher risk of avoiding your grief and getting stuck. A tendency toward emotional avoidance is a sign that you grew up in an emotionally neglectful family. Childhood Emotional Neglect is often invisible and unmemorable so it can be difficult to know if you have it. To find out Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire

To learn much more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it happens to the child and how to stop avoiding your feelings see the book, Running on Empty.

A version of this article was originally posted on Psychcentral. It has been republished here with the permission of psychcentral.


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JESSICA - December 7, 2019 Reply

I have never completely grieved my great-grandparents, grandparents, and 2 dogs. I didn’t know how at the time. I grew up learning you don’t cry. Never cry. Never be vulnerable. I just lost my husband of 16 years. But that last one is perplexing. He is alive, but I just divorced him after learning he is a pedophile and has been living a horrid double life the entire time. He is now in jail–as of today, actually–and I shall never see him again. I don’t want to see him, ever. The person I learned about after his arrest is not at all the person I thought I was married to. How do you mourn the loss of a person who is alive in body, but who ceases to exist as a concept? I don’t know if that makes sense, but I’m trying to process it all. We have a child, and I have to keep myself together for her. And our child is not talking about him at all, so I don’t know how to help her, because I don’t even know what she needs. I don’t want to pass on CEN to her, since it goes back as many generations in my family as we have family stories and journals of.

Cheryl - November 5, 2019 Reply

I wanted to respond to this article because of how many years it took me to live fully after the loss of my first child. She was born on Christmas Eve and died on Christmas Day and it took me years into the lives of my two children, born 3 and 6 years later, to stop collapsing my life in October and getting up in February. For years, the sunshine hurt my eyes and I couldn’t stand bright clothing. I know it is true that the only way out of such grief is THROUGH. When I stopped delaying, avoiding and pretending I was over the loss, and finally grieved through, it was as if not a day had passed. Then when I did grieve and get help, I healed. Your article is right on, except I still don’t know how one can “schedule” grieving. I just let it be and now I have processed and can live and feel the sunshine again.

    Jonice - November 5, 2019 Reply

    Dear Cheryl, what an inspiring story you have shared. You did what you needed to do, and it worked. Clearly you didn’t need to schedule your grief! It’s only a suggestion for folks who are avoiding it and running from it. It forces you to sit down and let yourself feel it for a brief time.

Inge - November 4, 2019 Reply

I was wondering if having autistic traits and/ or ad(h)d can make the process of grieving more difficult? I lost my much beloved grandparents in ’10 and ’14, but I haven’t cried, grieved or come to terms with them being gone. It’s like they are on an insanely long holidaytrip – (in my head). They were very loving and better caregivers than my parents, but at the same time they also gave me the feeling of having to do very good in studies and get a great job. Which is all well and good, but it left me with the feeling of never being good enough, even when they praised me. Today, life is far from what they (or I) had hoped. And I blame myself. I have been dealing with depression for 10 years or so. I realise that autism and adhd is not your main area. Sorry if my question is inapropriate. Female, 29yo
Btw I love recieving your newsletters!

    Jonice - November 5, 2019 Reply

    Dear Inge, your question is fine! Perhaps your stumbling block is not autism or grief, but your ability to believe that you’re good enough. Maybe you can start there. Please do see a therapist for help too if you need it.

Kelly Hodges - November 4, 2019 Reply

Reading your article touched my soul deeply. I struggle everyday to control grief. The busier I am I can avoid dealing with the loss of my mother. She was the “glue” that kept me apart of our family. There’s deep pain with my dad and I. And I no longer have a connection with my family since she passed. I enjoy reading your articles about CEN. It gives me hope. I’m one of them.

    Jonice - November 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Kelly, it’s good that you understand the problem. You sound like someone who will take the steps necessary to heal.

Meesha - November 4, 2019 Reply

My sister died just after birth, when I was a little kid. I don’t think I ever truly grieved her death because my parents avoided talking about her afterwards. I tried to talk about it with them, but I saw how much it hurt them, so over time, I quit trying, even though I had so many questions. I’ve grown up thinking I had grieved her death, but lately, I’ve realized that I really haven’t. I don’t really know how to start that conversation with anyone.

    Jonice - November 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Meesha, grief happens at different levels and at different times. It’s OK to grieve your sister some more now. I’m very sorry you were so alone with your loss as a child. Please call a therapist on the Find A CEN Therapist List to talk about this.

Ishtar - November 3, 2019 Reply

Hi all, we share a deep issue that Dr.J talks about–CEN. The article on grief made me cry like the world was ending. I’ve been using “avoidance” all of my life and it hurts…
I’m alone at 61. I have newly diagnosed cancer and THAT I struggle with and no partner to get support from. The wrong man always seems to walk into my life. It’s like I’m reliving the same abuses over and over from childhood…Now I stay friends with men but no relationship. I’m terminally ill and people are avoiding me. I KNOW that feeling very well…
I care deeply for people like us who have unresolved grief. I wish everybody here love, peace of mind, and that you find your way to being OK with who you are…

    Jonice - November 3, 2019 Reply

    Ishtar, perhaps people are not actually avoiding you. There is help and support but your heart must be open to people. I hope you will try your best.

      Oset Ellen - November 4, 2019 Reply

      Open my heart…how to do that when struggling so much? Possible to do on my one without years in therapy? Can you briefly tell how in two-three sentences? Really wondering. Have read your book. 🙂

        Jonice - November 4, 2019 Reply

        Dear Oset, you don’t necessarily need years at all. Chances are high that opening your heart is scary because it does make you vulnerable. Please watch Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability. It’s on YouTube.

          Ellen - November 4, 2019 Reply

          Yesss! 🙂 Thank you – seen it, but good reminder – I’ll watch it again! ❤️❤️

    Kimball - November 4, 2019 Reply

    Wow, Ishtar. Thank you for sharing your current journey and a little of where you’ve been. Such courage is difficult. As Dr. Webb said, you are not alone. There are many who would love to support you and be with you in this current challenge. Try to take each day one day at a time. What can you do right now to acknowledge your feelings, to validate how you feel, to share it with someone, to show yourself compassion for the pain of your journey so far? You are braver than you think, and you have a Father that loves you as his dear and precious child. You can learn still to accept and process your grief, but you must work and connect with someone around you. It can be very difficult, but see if you can find a grief ritual around where you live. These can bring huge breakthroughs emotionally and spiritually. My prayers are with you. Namaste.

Catherine - November 3, 2019 Reply

This is so helpful, thank you! My dad died when I was a teenager and everyone just ignored my feelings, rushed me through it, told me to get over it, got angry etc. and no one listened. As a result, I sank into depression and had a breakdown ten years later, the result of long suppressed grief and other feelings, leading to terrible life problems. I am lucky to be alive tbh.

    Jonice - November 3, 2019 Reply

    I’m so sorry, Catherine. That is a true example of CEN. I hope you will honor your long-suppressed grief and other feelings. That will be a big, healthy step for you.

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