Skip to Main Content

Welcome to

Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

Learn More

How to Take Care of Yourself While Grieving

Man meditating with hands in prayer

Relaxation and meditation are good ways to practice self-care.

In addition to the emotional toll of losing a child, parents often experience mental, physical, and spiritual effects from grieving. Grief can make it hard to do even simple things. You may find it difficult to take care of yourself during grief. But self-care can help you get through trying days.

Mental symptoms of grief

Grief can affect your ability to think, remember, and process information. Symptoms of grief often happen right after the death of a child. Parents say that they are in a “mental fog” in the early days and weeks of grief.

Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Short attention span
  • Confusion
  • Inability to process facts and details
  • Forgetfulness and problems with memory

You may want to avoid making major life decisions like selling property or changing careers during this time. Take care when driving a car, operating heavy machinery, or doing other dangerous tasks that require concentration.

Help for mental symptoms

  • Use lists and reminders to help your memory.
  • Break up tasks into smaller steps to make it easier to focus.
  • Ask for help from friends and family.
  • Work with a counselor or other mental health services.

Physical symptoms of grief

While grieving, it is common to have a variety of physical symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Illness and infections
  • Muscle tension
  • Pain such as headaches and backaches

Help for physical symptoms

These tips can help with physical symptoms of grief:

  • Eat balanced meals.
  • Avoid junk food.
  • Be physically active.
  • Limit intake of alcohol.
  • Practice regular hygiene.
  • Get enough rest.

Spiritual symptoms of grief

During grief, it is common to have spiritual challenges including:

  • Anger that your child was allowed to die
  • Questioning religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Struggling to understand the meaning behind the loss
  • Adjusting to the idea of life without your child

Help for spiritual symptoms

Parents can address spiritual concerns in many ways: 

  • Seek religious or spiritual counsel from a spiritual leader or mentor. 
  • Write in a journal.
  • Experience prayer, meditation, music, and art.
  • Read books on grief that incorporate faith.

More self-care tips

Finding ways to take care of yourself provides hope and healing. Here are some ideas for self-care that parents have found helpful:

  • Take a warm bath. This can be soothing and can help with physical symptoms of grief and stress.
  • Find a regular afternoon or evening to do an activity or spend time with a friend.
  • Do something creative or something that allows you to use your talents and provides a sense of self.
  • Wrap up in a warm blanket with a favorite tea or warm drink.
  • Take a walk and spend time in nature.
  • Join a support group.
  • Give yourself permission to feel anything without judgment.

Support system

No one should go through grief alone. Time helps many of the symptoms of grief, but the support of another person provides extra strength.

It can help to talk with a trusted family member or friend about the symptoms of grief and ways to manage them. Mental health professionals are also available to listen and provide resources.

Key points about taking care of yourself during grief

  • Grief can affect your thinking and memory. Parents say that they are in a “mental fog” in the early days and weeks of grief.
  • It is important to take care of yourself. It will help you get through difficult days.
  • You can help remember things by making lists and breaking down projects into small tasks. Working with a counselor can help.
  • Physical symptoms of grief include feeling tired, having trouble sleeping, and changes in appetite. Try to eat healthy foods, be physically active, and rest.
  • You may have spiritual questions and struggles. Talk to a counselor, write in a journal, or read books.

Reviewed: October 2023