A Self-Evaluation Guide For People In Grief

"Inconsolable Grief" by Крамской Иван Николаевич
"Inconsolable Grief" by Крамской Иван Николаевич | Source

Losing someone by death can be compared to having our homes victimized by burglars. First, we express outrage, then we struggle through our tears and put the house back in order, but the real hurt begins when we start to miss the items that were stolen.

Just so, it takes days, months and years to discover the many reasons that we miss our loved ones. For example, not until our birthday comes around again, do we miss the bond with the deceased who celebrated with us every year.

This article suggests a self-help guide for the grieving, to help them journal their progress in dealing with the occasional, surprise flashbacks. They cannot stop the memories, but they can stop the tail-spin that comes with the memories.

Personal evaluation is recommended in the survival stages of grief, and should be approached not as a required chore, but rather as a self-help motivational tool, when the bereaved is ready. The GriefShare program, nationally recognized for its group support of the grieving recommends journaling with charts similar to the one below.

Personal Evaluation Chart

Really Bad
Slightly Improved


Each person travels through the stages of grief at his or her own pace. Consequently, each person is the best authority on the level of his or emotional pain.

Suppose that six weeks after the funeral, someone sends a postcard with a footnote that reads, “I will never forget the wonderful time I had with you and (the name of the deceased) at your Thanksgiving dinner two years ago.”

Possible immediate reactions are:

  • fear —that there are no more happy dinners to anticipate
  • helplessness —because the bereaved always relied on the assistance of the deceased
  • sadness —because the griever imagines the empty chair at the table
  • panic —because Thanksgiving is only three weeks away

The grieving person will benefit by observing and admitting that that all the above emotions are negative, and will chart them under the appropriate column, “really bad,” or “okay” depending on the intensity of the emotion. Jotting down the adjustments to be made, and maintaining healthy thoughts should result in positive emotions like contentment , serenity and courage.

It may be a while before the “great” column receives a notation, but “slightly improved” positive emotions show remarkable progress.

Keep track of sleep time outside bedtime. Photo by Ed Yourdon'
Keep track of sleep time outside bedtime. Photo by Ed Yourdon' | Source
Encourage some form of physical exercise. Photo by Luucii6
Encourage some form of physical exercise. Photo by Luucii6 | Source


Decline of physical activity in the grieving period, indicates normal grief. Rushing about as usual would be considered abnormal grief behavior.

Slow, deliberate steps are advisable. Charting the daily activities will show improvement in the number of regular chores and the duration of time spent. Include some physical exercise, when possible. It will heighten the sense of well-being.

The grief victim also shows temporary physical symptoms like:

  • headaches,
  • muscle tension,
  • heart palpitations,
  • chest pains,
  • loss of motor skills,
  • exhaustion,
  • lack of appetite,
  • insomnia.

List the ailment under the category which describes its intensity, to keep track of the condition if it improves or worsens.

Observe personal sleep and eating habits and seek medical help, if necessary. The journal record will also help the doctor determine the appropriate treatment.


Sometimes the grieving person does not feel like speaking, and relatives or close friends are not sure what to do. They wonder:

  • Are we being intentionally ignored?
  • Are we expected to break the silence?
  • Should we just smile and leave?

The bereaved is not obligated to express his or her feelings, but it might help for the helpers to ask:

  • Do you want some time alone?
  • Can we call you later?
  • Would you prefer that we leave, or do you want us to stay and just not engage you in conversation?

Not that the grieving person is responsible for maintaining the relationships, but the level of involvement with other people is an indication of improvement or delay in the grief recovery process. It is wise for the bereaved to be as honest as possible in answering these questions and in charting their feelings.

Even one promise at a time.   Photo by Petr Kratochvil
Even one promise at a time. Photo by Petr Kratochvil | Source


For many, grief feels like a super-dark enclosure without windows. Light has to come in from a source outside the darkness. In the Christian tradition, we propose that God is the Source of that light.

Simple lists of Bible Promises will come in handy, even if the griever reads one at a time. Many types of Promise Books are available.

  • He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows] (Psalm 147:3 (Amplified).
  • The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace (Psalm 29:11).
  • The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8).
  • He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelations 21:4 NIV)

Choose one or more of hundred of promises. There will soon be reason to check the “Improved and “Great” columns. Add music and dancing to lift the spirits.


Imagine that someone asks, “How are you?” Based on the answer, the bereaved can check or short description in each of the five rows. If all of the columns are not checked that is all right. One area of improvement is progress.

Some days the moods will run the whole range from “really bad” to great.” That will not necessarily be abnormal. Other days “slightly Improved” will last all day. Congratulations are in order whenever the day is “great.” Here, patience is a virtue and if smiles and tears begin to mix on the following day, so let it be.

The deceased would have wanted the mourners to be at peace with his or her passing. they should keep looking in the direction where the want the recovery to take them.

A Journal Alternative

An alternative to the check chart is free form journaling, allowing the person to write whatever he or she feels, and in no particular order. It is advisable to write at least one sentence about each of the five areas listed above. The following tips will help:

  • Journal whenever you feel like it—every day, if possible.
  • Write to encourage, not discourage yourself. Example: for your general comment, “I feel worse today than I did yesterday,” can be edited to read, “Yesterday was better, but I still have time today to improve.”
  • If you remember something beautiful about the deceased, or about something you shared together, include that.
  • Write what you have liked to say, but did not have the opportunity.
  • Can you imagine what it will be like when you meet again? Journal your hope and as the smile begins to take shape, let it spread. It might even end in a audible laughter.

© 2012 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 17 comments

mom4autism profile image

mom4autism 4 years ago from Northeast U.S.

Great hub. I remember taking a class in the 5 stages of grief by Kubler-Ross and being thankful that I was not the only person who felt that way - that it was actually common! Thank you for outlining grief so positively.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank mom for your comment. Everyone around us is either grieving or has grieved for one reason or another. It is more common than we think. Hope you're getting along well.

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

I remember hearing at a conference that everyone is hurting. Your reply that "everyone around us is either grieving or has grieved for one reason or another" brings to mind that grief is not just about losing loved ones, but losing jobs, abilities, and even possessions. Anytime we have to readjust our lives we grieve to a certain extent. Your journal and charting suggestions are very helpful.

BobMonger profile image

BobMonger 4 years ago from Carlin, Nevada USA

My sister lost her only grandson to SIDS several years ago and she has been having a hard time dealing with the aftermath. Thankfully she has changed her life enough to start dealing with all the grief that has built up. Your hub gives me a better grasp on how to deal with her as she heals. Great hub, thanks!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Denise, I also learned the true meaning of grief after my divorce, thanks to Dr. Linda Schupp whose work gave me permission to grieve. Thanks for your affirmation.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Bob, I'm very glad that you found my hub helpful. You might also like "Eight Practical Ways To Help The Bereaved." My sincere best to your sister and the entire family.

DDE profile image

DDE 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Grieving is a heartfelt one, it depends on the individual, you have mentioned optimistic ways Voted up!!!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, DDE. This article tries to help individuals to help themselves by self-evaluation. Counseling can only do so much.

ironicstar profile image

ironicstar 4 years ago from Evanston, Nova Scotia

Or we could just bury our grief the natural unhealthy way. My choice every time.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Ironic! Isn't there something strange about natural and unhealthy showing up together? Just asking. Thanks for reading and sharing.

ironicstar profile image

ironicstar 4 years ago from Evanston, Nova Scotia

It's a perfectly natural response for a person to avoid their feelings based on tragedy. I do love irony.

Jack Hagan profile image

Jack Hagan 19 months ago from New York

This information is marvelous. The family of the deceased can learn a lot of things from this to control their emotions and feelings for their loved one. The spiritual way is the best according to my point of view for the family members.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 19 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jack, thank you so much for your affirmation on this one. I agree with you that we cannot afford to leave out the spiritual aspect.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 7 months ago from Home Sweet Home

great tips, if this hub was published when I was ten years old, it would had helped me to overcome grief of my grandma passing. Thanks

Boomer Music Man profile image

Boomer Music Man 7 months ago

your article tells people what they know when grief comes. Everyone will have to experience grief. Grieving is part of life. Thank you very much for sharing this information.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 7 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Peach, I hope that you received some type of grief care. Please take the opportunity to point others to articles like this one. Grief is never completely over. Best to you, going forward.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 7 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Boomer, thanks for your feedback. Yes, grief is a common occurrence in all or lives, and hopefully we can help each other.

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