Grief can feel painful, confusing, and exhausting at times. And you may find yourself with a lot more questions about grief than answers.
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While each person's grief journey is different, many of the questions are the same. Self-reflection questions can help you bring emotions and thoughts to the surface so you can cope more easily, and these same questions for a grieving loved one can help you give better support. Look through this guide and ponder what these questions mean to you.
Self-Reflection Questions About Grief
Self-reflection can help you move forward through your grief. Ask yourself some questions to help you understand your grief process and emotional needs.
1. “Did I feel like I needed to hide my grief, or could I grieve honestly?”
Grieving with honesty can be hard. It's tempting to hide your feelings to avoid embarrassing yourself or making others uncomfortable.
Find someone who is death positive, meaning that they are open to conversation about death and loss. A grief support group can be helpful if you aren't sure where to start.
2. “What feelings am I most uncomfortable with right now?”
There's no doubt grief is a painful experience. But your feelings may seem tangled together, making it tough to understand your emotions. This is normal, but it can be overwhelming at first.
Find ways to express yourself with a trusted friend or in a journal. Just briefly acknowledging a deeper, more uncomfortable emotion can help you let it go more easily.
3. “What would I say to my loved one that I didn’t while they were alive?”
Sometimes when a person dies, your regrets and missed opportunities come to the surface. This could be especially tough if your loved one passed away suddenly.
Putting those thoughts into real words can help you release your emotion and find peace. Do this in a journal, with a friend, or as a form of prayer or spiritual offering.
4. “Who can I count on to help me through my grief?”
Grief can feel like a lonely journey, even if friends and family are going through it at the same time.
Be thoughtful about who you lean on emotionally. You may find it easier to connect with someone who is not as close to your loss, who can be steady and compassionate when you need them most.
5. “How will other people grieve when I die?”
The death of a loved one may trigger thoughts of your own mortality. Without trying, your mind may wander between coping with someone else's death and wondering about your own.
You may imagine what could happen when you die, what others would feel, and how they'd eventually move on. Wondering about your death is natural and can bring meaning to each day.
6. “What will my life look like now that XXX has died?”
When someone you care about dies, the future can look like a blank page. It takes a lot of energy to adjust to a significant death. So if you feel mentally exhausted, it's for a good reason.
It's normal to fight through denial for a while. Every day that passes will help you get used to the change.
7. “Will I ever get over my grief?”
You may never get 100 percent over your grief, and that's OK. When you lose an important person in your life, it hurts for a reason. Your pain stems from your strong and meaningful connection. But in time, your grief will sting much less and won't be the center of your life anymore.
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8. “Have I allowed myself to enjoy life now and then?”
Grief hurts, and it's easy to get swallowed up in pain. When you miss someone terribly and you struggle to move forward, your grief can become all-consuming. Your pain may seem like a tribute, the only real and tangible reminder of how much they meant to you.
It may feel strange at first, but embracing happiness is a part of the grief process.
9. Have I embraced the pain so I could let it go more easily?”
Instead of being engulfed by pain, you may struggle to embrace it at first. It's normal to push the pain away for as long as possible. But the grief process is about weaving together your experiences before and after your loss. Part of this process is learning to face your emotions and cope with them.
If you're having trouble, talk to a friend or family member, or maybe a grief counselor. You'll find healthy ways to manage your emotions without avoiding or pushing them away.
Questions to Ask a Loved One Who’s Grieving
Consider ways to be more death positive for your loved one. Even if they aren’t as comfortable talking or expressing themselves, show compassion and acceptance when you are around them, And asking direct questions are more helpful than open-ended ones, especially in the beginning when everything is a blur.
1. “How can I help when you feel overwhelmed?”
Sometimes grief can feel like a heavy cloud, covering up everything familiar. When your loved one is having a better day, ask about a few things you can do to help. Be specific and give only two or three options, such as getting dinner or doing laundry. Offer to coordinate these efforts with a few other people to share the load.
2. “What’s a favorite memory about your loved one?”
When your loved one seems more open, this question can help you start a supportive conversation. Part of healthy grief is learning to redefine life without the deceased person.
Recalling fond memories brings more positivity to the surface, helping the grieving person feel joy and love.
3. “How well have you been eating and sleeping?”
Grief can fill every empty space in a person's life, especially right after a loss. Losing a significant person is disorienting, so it's easy to see how sleeping, eating, and tracking time can get off track.
Check on your loved one and make sure they're doing at least basic self-care activities. If they seem stuck, encourage them to speak to their doctor or a counselor.
4. “What gives you comfort right now?”
When someone grieves, everything they miss about the other person seems more noticeable. This question can help you understand how someone copes and encourage them to talk more openly.
And this question has a more positive aim since you're asking about what helps them feel better. Be aware of any mention of substance use, as that can cover up emotions and prolong a person's grief.
5. “What has helped you get through other tough times in your life?”
When emotional pain takes center stage, a person's viewpoint can be clouded with negativity. If your loved one is struggling, consider gently asking some version of this question.
Acknowledge the difficulty of their loss and the weight of their pain. Then help them think about taking one step at a time, assuring them that they can get through this grief with you beside them.
6. “Would you like to join me for lunch or for coffee today?”
The pain of grief can make a person want to shut themselves away for a while. Alone time is good, but social time can help as well.
You can't force someone to get together if they refuse. But let them know that too much isolation isn't good either. Hopefully, they'll take your invitation as a sign of love and join you.
7. “I’m here to help with some chores. Do you need more help in the garage or the back yard?”
A grieving person may be in a state of shock and numbness for a while, so thinking about chores may not be on their radar. You can't ignore certain household tasks, especially for weeks at a time. So ask them where you should start and check a few essential items off their list.
8. “Is there anything I could say or do right now to help you feel better?”
Asking your loved one this question doesn't mean that you have the perfect answer. When grief weighs you down, it may seem like pain is around every corner.
However, it may be a way to encourage them to talk about how they're dealing with things. Your conversation could give much-needed support or stir up helpful ideas.
9. “Do you want to talk?”
Sometimes all it takes is an invitation. Your loved one's answer may be "no," but just asking will make them think about it. They may not be ready when you ask, so don't be discouraged. At some point, your loved one may want to share their feelings or tell a story.
Just asking this question lets your loved one know that you're willing to listen whenever the time is right for them.
Questions to Help You Through Grief
Life is full of unanswered questions, and many come to mind when a person dies. It's normal to have questions about grief, and it's OK to try to find some answers. Conversation and emotional support can help you and others through your season of grief.
- Hale, Lily. “Death Positive: An Analysis of an Authenticity Movement.” Texas State University, December 2018, digital.library.txstate.edu/handle/10877/7813
- Wellman, Jodie. “Memento Mori: Reflecting on Mortality to Inspire Vitality and Meaning in Life.” University of Pennsylvania Scholarly Commons, July 2020, repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1184&context=mapp_capstone