Taking a Break From Grief

Grief is likely to be one of the most difficult experiences that a person lives through. Losing someone you love can leave you feeling empty and uncertain of how to go on. Grief doesn't end, it changes, and the length of time it takes for the pain to lessen varies in each individual. Working through grief can be emotionally and physically exhausting. As you work through the suffering of losing a loved one, it is important to take time out for yourself and take a break from your grief.

Why should I take a break from my grief?

You may initially feel that this is a betrayal of your loved one to feel happy or find enjoyment while mourning, or you may believe that it sounds absurd to even be able to take a break. Remember, the loss of a loved one is not something you just get over in a set amount of time; however, it is unhealthy to have an intense focus on your grief without a reprieve, preventing you from living life. Though you cannot simply turn your grief on and off, in time, you should allow yourself a diversion for a short while. Remind yourself that though guilt is a natural reaction, taking breaks is simply a healthy way to maintain balance in your life as you grieve.

How do I take a break from my grief?

Your break from grief can be as short or long as you are comfortable with and can be simple or require some planning. Soon after your loss, finding a distraction that absorbs you for more than a few moments may be difficult, but as time passes, it may become easier. Below are some ideas to help you step away from your grief and slowly reintroduce some balance into your life. Start small, and remember to try different things to discover what feels right for you.

  • Escape into a story. Reading a book, watching a favorite show or movie, or attending a play can give you a short break by offering a storyline to focus on.
  • Find a way to relax. Perhaps a bubble bath, manicure, pedicure or massage would improve your mental and physical outlook for a bit.
  • Socialize with friends. Share a meal with a friend or go for ice cream or coffee if you think a meal would last longer than you are comfortable with.
  • Find a new hobby. Focusing on learning something new can be a wonderful temporary diversion, and one that you can return to over and over as you feel ready.
  • Plan a trip. When you are ready, perhaps a change of scenery would lift your spirits. Exploring a new destination, whether for a day or a week, can help you recharge and refresh.

No matter what you decide, use your break to do something meaningful to you that puts you at ease. Regular breaks from grief are a healthy, natural part of the grieving process.

How do I help my child take a break from grief?

We all need moments or experiences that help us step away and recharge for the days ahead. Most young children do this naturally. When faced with the loss of a loved one, they often cry and show sadness in short intervals, and then appear to become absorbed in their play as usual. After a while, they think about the loss and may cry/be sad, then be ready to play again as if all is OK following this cycle. When grieving this way, they give themselves breaks in between the pain.

Maintaining balance for you and your family is important and continuing with as much normalcy as possible can help. Sticking to the previous household schedule can provide comfort and security, especially to children who have lost a loved one. You may need to adjust your schedule initially, but as time passes, returning to previous extracurricular activities, family meals and regular bed times can help children feel safe and at ease.

Additionally, going on a family trip or doing other fun things as a family can help children feel less isolated by their grief. Spending a day at the beach or going to an amusement park gives them stories to share with their peers, alleviating some of the isolation that grief often brings. It is important to continue to find ways to enjoy life as a family and give your children time to escape and have fun, building new memories that they will come to treasure one day.

Resources and support

No one has to struggle alone. Sharing your grief with family and friends and reaching out to clergy or counselors or support groups can be productive and therapeutic. Keep in mind that though friends and family can provide an enormous amount of support, you may find that you wish to talk with a counselor or a professional therapist or someone who has experienced or is experiencing the same thing instead. The death of a loved one can be a significant and deeply challenging loss, but there are a number of resources available to you throughout your grief process:

  • Military OneSource can provide you with further resources and can help you connect with a counselor. Call 800-342-9647 or visit the MilitaryOneSource website for information on no cost face-to-face, online and phone counseling sessions.
  • Other non-medical counseling is available through the Military and Family Life Counselor program. These non-medical counseling services can be arranged through your installation's military and family support center.
  • To learn about grief support, visit the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a national organization that offers a broad range of support, mentoring and other services to those grieving the loss of a loved one whose death occurred while serving in the military.
  • The VA Office of Readjustment Counseling Service offers bereavement counseling to families of service members who die on active duty. These services are available to you through offices at the community-based Vet Centers throughout the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. For more information call 720-874-1031 or email. You can also visit the VA Office of Readjustment Counseling Service's website for more information.
  • Gold Star Mothers is a congressionally charted non-profit organization. This is an organization of mothers who lost a son or daughter in the service of our country. They can be reached by phone at 202-265-0991 or via the Gold Star Mothers website.
  • Gold Star Wives is a congressionally chartered nonprofit service organization. This group provides services to active duty and service-connected military widows and widowers. They can be reached by phone at 888-751-6350 or via the Gold Star Wives website.


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