How To Survive Grief and Loss

How To Survive Grief and Loss

From July 2009 onwards, I know I typed ‘How to Survive Grief and Loss’ into my search engine, numerous times. I had a countless number of people volunteering their answer to that question, despite the fact that I hadn’t asked it aloud.

You see my husband died of suicide that summer and part of me was desperate for a structure on how to survive my grief and loss. Like you, I turned to the internet for the answer because Google isn’t and wasn’t directly or emotionally affected by the loss I had experienced.

I wanted impartial advice.

I would have embraced a checklist of things to do and not do.

I would have loved a template or flowchart for managing expectations for that of myself, my children and everyone else in my life.

I would have taken projected timelines or duration ranges as the gospel truth, because I wanted to know that there was a finish line of some description for feeling the way it all felt.

In my searching for a how to survive grief and loss I wanted to validate that I was doing it-something-anything right and wanted to know that I was doing it-something-anything right for my girls.  If not, then how do I fix that!

Navigating grief often means trying to keep your head above water while being flooded by the impact of a major change. It often means having more questions than answers.

“Now what?”

“What do I do now?”

“What does this mean?”

“How do I do this?”

Heavy on your mind and heart

The words grief and loss are loaded with heavy emotions. Picture me moving around a party and stopping to chat with a group of people. After introductions, the next round of questions generally is, “So, what do you do?” to which I respond, “I am a Life and Grief Coach.”

You can practically hear the sound of tires screeching, metal crunching and feel people receding from you at the mention of the word grief.

Why? Because it generates discomfort without elaboration. Grief is a word that can suck the positive vibes out of a room faster than yelling “FIRE!”. The challenge of being a coach whose focus is to help someone resolve their grief, can feel and seem paradoxical. When you mention grief and loss, there is that grey area of wondering if this is “coaching” or “counselling”.

Grief Yesterday and Today

Many common attitudes in our world have shifted to opposite perspectives that only recently would have seemed or felt impossible. Our world and the people who make it up, have challenged the norms and have consciously created new normals. Yet, what has steadfastly remained the same, dated and stigmatized is our experience, perception and response to grief and loss.

We have endless teaching points on how to ‘be, do, get and have’ things, yet when we lose something the conversation is generic, limited or averted all together.

If you are grieving a loss you know, see and feel how it is affecting your life, and some ways are more evident than in others. It can be an omnipresent multi faceted experience, or it can roll into without notice, like the black clouds that gather before a summer storm. Other times it can be triggered by a comment, hearing, seeing or tasting something familiar.

Traditionally you may find yourself seeking a therapist or counsellor. The debate about coaching versus therapy is universal; when you want to make a change in your life, to feel lighter, different and feel supported in moving forward, coaching is an effective choice.

“Classic therapy is an archaeological dig that looks backward to help you understand how you got to this moment. Coaching is an architectural blueprint that looks to the future to help you create something new.” ~Jill Smolowe

Grief and loss can come from a multitude of life experiences. A common denominator is that “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern or behaviour.”

When you think of grief, most likely death is first and foremost in your mind because it is the most obvious and definitive loss experience equated to grief. Divorce may be the second life event that you think of yet, there are a multitude of other experiences that get overlooked.

Grief and Loss Events

Here is an incomplete list of experiences and events that may perpetuate grief.

  • Death of a loved one – which may include family, friend, celebrity, or any other person you have a significant connection to.
  • Death of a pet
  • Divorce – which extends beyond the couple and may include children, family and friends.
  • End of or significant change of a relationship – friendships, relationship with a colleague, business partner, family member, etc.

Pivotal moments in your life such as:

  • Marriage
  • Graduation
  • End of addictions
  • Major health changes – positive and negative
  • Career Changes – Loss of job and even becoming an entrepreneur or consultant,
  • Retirement
  • Financial changes – positive and negative
  • Legal Problems
  • Moving
  • Empty Nest

Intangibles that may cause us to grieve are:

  • Loss of normalcy
  • Loss of purpose
  • Loss of trust
  • Loss of safety
  • Loss of childhood
  • Loss of faith
  • Unfulfilled hopes, dreams, goals and expectations for your life

No one is immune to grief, and the prompts above can serve as a means to show you that grief and loss is broader and more diverse than what you may have known or considered. It is not a one time or one off experience, as there could be combinations and connections to multiple events and on more than one occasion in your life.

All of the above are either relationships to someone or to something. I don’t have to tell you that when your relationship to someone or to something changes dramatically or ends, grief is a normal and natural response, because the world as you knew it is no longer the same.

So how do you survive grief and loss?

Phone a Friend

I attribute my maintaining a semblance of sanity that July because my friend came and gave me the greatest gift of all – a safe place for me to: express my feelings, express my thoughts, to say nothing at all and to blurt everything out all at the same time.

Not everything that you are thinking or feeling is safe for public consumption. Not everything thing you are thinking or feeling makes sense. I’m not advocating hiding your feelings, but I am inviting you to advocate for yourself to be able to speak and feel without fear of judgment or retribution from others.

Connect to your breath

Grief and loss has a way of making one feel disjointed, disconnected or like everything is going too fast or even too slow. Focusing on your breath, even for a minute, can help reduce stress, lower your heart rate, clear your head and bring you back to the present.

Deeply inhale to the count of three or five feeling your lungs inflate and chest expand, pause for a beat, then steadily exhale to the count of three or greater, feeling the air flow. Repeat the process as often as you need to reconnect to yourself and feel more grounded.

All is Well

I completely get that right now nothing could be further from the truth, however adopting a mantra can have similar effects as the breath work, and may even be used in conjunction. All is well, is one that even though in this moment may feels far fetched, can feel soothing, prayer-like and help to alleviate heavy energy.

Choose a phrase, quote, or prayer, either your own or another’s, that resonates with you. Repeat it in your head which allows you to shift focus, which will help you interrupt the tidal wave of thoughts and feelings you may currently have going through your mind. 

All will be well

I will be well

I am loved

Ask for help

There is an old adage about ‘keeping busy’ and it’s true that may serve as a distraction temporarily but the antidote to busy-ness is asking for help from others. More than likely there are those around you who are eager to do something, to be helpful and take on tasks or errands that will alleviate your stressors. Allowing others to manage tasks that you do not have the energy for or possibly the present cognition that these things need doing means not adding more to your potentially overwhelmed mind.

Gracious Gratitude

Depending on the loss you are experiencing and who comes to support you, some may feel compelled to volunteer their advice and opinions, in addition to their love and support, (both in person and on social media.) You are going through a life experience that others may have experienced in their life, however not everything that people share with you will be applicable to you nor helpful.

It can be yet another challenge to be able to consume all that is being shared with you, so rather than adding even more for you to process, I invite you to simply say “Thank You”.

Thanking someone acknowledges that you heard them and if what they said strikes a wrong chord rather than debate the merits of their opinion you can let it go.

At a time where you may feel overwhelmed I urge you to remember that not everything that is offered to you is something you have to keep.

Grief is normal and natural

There are countless ways that we can learn or are taught about how to acquire things, but very little time is spent teaching how to lose something. Whatever your loss is please know that grief is a normal and natural response to loss, even if as you read this it couldn’t feel anymore abnormal and unnatural. It doesn’t matter what your loss is, grief is normal.

Your world is no longer the same as it was, and in today’s world we may have imposed (by yourself or others) expectations to flow through the experience without a blip. Surviving grief and loss is as personal and individual as you are; as is the unique and significant relationship to whomever or whatever you have lost.

Going Forward

Grief is an extension of all the other feelings you have ever had. Right now it may be dominating all of the others, but it won’t always be like that. It is possible to move beyond your grief.

It is possible.

I know that to be true.

Sherry Trentini is a Life and Grief Coach, who is committed to helping you answer your question, “How to survive grief and loss.” Schedule your free discovery call.

When there is a Will, they will know the way.

When there is a Will, they will know the way.

Let’s start with the easy part.

Initial these six pages, then sign here.


Then initial here, here and here.  Sign there.

Last one.  Two initials and a signature.

The signing of one of the most valuable documents you can ever create.

Your Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney and Health Directive.

But its getting to the signing part that is challenging. Why [ & frankly I doubt I have to answer that], but who wants to make plans about their life when the purpose of the document is centered around the fact that there is no more living to do?

I’ve said and written many times before that in order to deliberately create what you want in your life; Ask, Believe & Receive.  When it comes to doing your will its freaky, because to apply those three steps is the absolute LAST thing you want to conjure up in your mind.  And if it does flash in front of your eyes, you want to do everything in your power to erase it from your mind.

Here is the flip side.

In this moment of living and the many many many countless moments to come in the future, you get to choose where you invest your thought energy and live the life of your design.  Creating your life that ticks all the boxes on how you feel, who you are with, where you are, what you are doing.  The fastest way to bringing that ideal life starts by being clear about what you want.


You may not have to think very hard about the things you do not want in your life.  You may in fact feel tentative or stumped when answering the question what do you want in your life?

This is the question on which the foundation of your last will and testament is created.

What do you want? 

What do you want to do or have done with your investments, your house, your stuff, your money, your assets, your ….everything?

There is no room for a grey area when doing your will.  It is the most specific and clear document outlining what YOU want.  Because only YOU know.

I repeat Only YOU know.

Some may assume that if they are not on the Forbes list of wealthiest people that their personal estate isn’t that complicated and writing up the directive is a waste of time.  However, this document is about all of whatever you have amassed in your life and the people who are grieving you are then left to make assumptions and speculate on what you would want to have happen.

In addition to the grief they are experiencing, without a clarity of knowing your wishes, grief can be compounded by all the details of managing what they now are tasked with figuring out.  The very doing of documenting your wants alleviates a substantial weight off of the shoulders of those who are left.


In order to believe that your will be acted upon and all those crossed t’s and dotted i’s will be taken care of, choosing the executor(s) is another decision you must make.  Your belief in the people who you have chosen to manage your affairs and carry out your wishes.

Go back to step one and ask.  Ask them for permission to task them with the very intimate job of overseeing your estate, and your wishes.

The biggest step is outlining the specifics of what you want and need done after you are gone.  The believing part comes in by choosing specifically who is tasked with seeing this through.


There isn’t any stuff you are going to receive in this process.  However what you will receive is relief and you will give others relief in knowing that you have outlined with clarity your wishes and desires.

Relief in knowing that you have clearly stated what you want to happen, that you have provided the information for those actions to be handled by the person or people most perfect for the job.

Relief in knowing that those left to grieve your loss, can do so without the added weight of wondering, second guessing, possibly quarreling about what you want.

Relief in the fact that what you want is being taken care of and your wishes are being honored.

Feel it:

So how does relief feel to you?

How do you think relief would look and feel for those left to manage your estate, knowing they have the direction specifically from you?

Is it possible that focusing on the relief and being grateful to feel it and knowing you that others are feeling it because of your forethought to do up your last will & testament?  Is it possible that focusing on that feeling, not the end result of your passing, can help support you in doing the work?

Sometimes reverse engineering the process can help to lighten the energy around the task at hand.

So start with the easy part…

Initial these six pages, then sign here.


Then initial here, here and here.  Sign there.

Last one.  Two initials and a signature.

Focus on the relief of getting the task done.  Focus on how it feels to know you have done what needs to be done.  Focus on what it feels like that you have provided the information necessary for others to act on your behalf.  Focus on what relief feels like for you knowing that you have this done.  Focus on what relief will feel like for those left to mourn your loss knowing that the details are all laid out.

Focus on the relief when you get tangled up in the ick factor of having to answer the question “What do You want?”, when detailing your will; when you are no longer here to execute and create on your own behalf.

Focusing on the end result of creating relief can help unwind the cluster of resistance to going through the process and will help you take the steps necessary to getting this very valuable document created.

Help yourself and others by focusing on the relief and downsizing this from a monumental task to manageable.

Choose relief for you and your loved ones in your life.


[Please seek qualified legal advise in compiling all documents in regards to your estate, My intention is to invite and encourage you to release the energy around doing so]






Grief is Not Only About Death

On this day, November 9, 2016 the world is creatively considering what the future looks like based on the choices made and actions taken. There are those who see and feel how things will be possible; and there are those who see and feel how things will be impossible.  Some are stating that this day will be forever remembered in history, as they step into their future.

On this day, twenty years ago, November 9, 1996 I too was creatively considering what the future looked like, based on the choices made and actions taken.  I too, was seeing and feeling how all things were possible and there was nothing impossible about that.

Twenty years ago, the sun was shining, the temperature was balmy for November and well over 300 people gathered to celebrate a wedding. Believing, as they did, that on this day, as we stepped into our future this date will be forever remembered in history.

Wherever you live on this planet Earth.   One thing is for certain, grief is not only about death.

“Grief is the conflicting group of human emotions caused by an end to or change in a familiar pattern or behavior.  Thus, any changes in relationships to people, places or events can cause the conflicting feelings we call grief.”

–The Grief Recovery Handbook

An experience of loss is not stand alone, it can have multiple facets.

When a spouse dies in addition to losing a loved one and ending of a relationship; it may or may not include:

  • loss of normalcy
  • loss of self
  • loss of confidence
  • loss of unrealized hopes
  • loss of unrealized dreams
  • loss of trust
  • end of other relationships [family, friends]
  • financial changes
  • job or career changes
  • moving
  • legal problems
  • loss of expectations for your children

And I stress “may or may not include” those losses because everyone’s relationship is unique.  There may be more to add to that list or for some less.

Its not an effort to quantify the loss, because everyone’s relationship to what has been lost is unique.

Using the results of the recent election; some may be feeling grief over the results and other losses such as:

  • loss of confidence
  • loss of direction
  • loss of purpose
  • loss of normalcy
  • loss of faith
  • loss of relationships
  • loss or change of health of a nation
  • loss or change of money
  • loss of trust
  • loss of safety
  • loss of hopes
  • loss of dreams
  • loss of expectations of the future

The common denominator in either example being unresolved feelings of: wanting something more, better or different.

And the same can be said for those outside of the direct experience.  People can feel grief for those same experiences because a common connection to the whole.

It is normal and natural to feel grief after a loss of any kind, I repeat after loss of any kind.

So on this day, as you step into your future I invite you to…

Be Gentle with yourself and others.

Everyone’s experience is unique.

Choose not to compare your feelings of loss, because feelings are valid.  You feel what you are feeling and others are feeling their feelings.

Listen and share from the heart not the head.

Create a safe place to listen and to be heard.









Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos)

Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos)

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States. It is acknowledged internationally in many other cultures. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

Source:  Wikipedia

Day of the Dead is not a celebration common to where I live.  I have come to learn that the essence of this occasion is a day to consciously honor and remember those who have passed.  Gathering in the company of family and friends; to share food, fond memories & funny anecdotes.


To everyone this and every day, I send you good vibes as you reflect and remember those you have lost.



Practicing what I post.

Living abroad we can find ourselves at times missing certain comforts from home, such as food.  These things can be appeased by either requesting a care package or being creative in the kitchen, our feeling of missing can be satisfied for the time being.
When we miss family or friends, that too can be handled quite easily with an email, skype call or any number of online options.  However, no matter how far technology has come when we miss that special person that is beyond this world, there is a palpable void.
Special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and other calendar dates bring up those feelings and in some ways we can be some what prepared for those times, since we know they are coming up.  Its the times, when no matter where in the world you are, that on a Thursday, for no accountable reason, you feel as though you have been swallowed up and the feelings of loss have enveloped you.
As an adult I can and do practise what I posted in the Rock Star or Roadie blog and through that can navigate my way through the funk.  As a Mom, my instincts want me to just tuck my girls away, hug them, hold them and fix things.  
But I can’t.
No amount of hugs from me can replace the arms that they wish to hold them.
Listening to me can not replace the voice that they wish to hear.
A Mom can do and be many things for their children; but a Mom can never be their Dad.
I can only love them, hug them, help them as a Mom.
I can be a “go to” person for them.
I can breathe deeply & evenly, and encourage the same.
I can listen and through that feel the heaviness of the funk lighten.
We can talk and acknowledge that these heavy feelings are temporary and know that they aren’t always this strong.
We can sort through some choices and auxiliary experiences, created during this time, that may have best been put on pause, but learn from them all the same.
I can and do remind them of their Rock Stardom; we can smile, laugh, and feel even more heaviness dissipate.
Reaching out to someone when you need a “go to” can seem like the most difficult step; 
Reaching in to someone when they need a “go to” can seem equally so. 
To keep connected during these times takes willingness and faith on both parts.
The email, phone call or invitation for a walk may be the opening up to helping yourself or another feel lighter and better able to make their way back on stage.