Creating a Grief Recovery Bucket List

Bucket list — a list of things you want to do before you die — has recently become part of American vernacular. The words have become part of American life as well. Writing prompts for bucket lists are posted on the Internet. Several websites are devoted to personal lists and many postings focus on travel.

After losing four loved ones in 2007, I had lots of grief work to do, and did it. But there is more to do, and I decided to make a grief recovery bucket list. I knew my loved ones wouldn’t want me to get stuck in grief, so my list focuses on recovery, staying on the recovery path, and my new life. What is on my list?

1. Keep writing. Family members, dear friends, and church support helped me to survive multiple losses. But my occupation as a professional writer helped me most. Writing Internet and print articles about grief helped me see my grief journey more clearly. In fact, writing helped me create a new life. I’m a seasoned citizen and want to write one more book before my life circle is complete.

2. Appreciate family. I have always appreciated the love and support of my family, and coping with multiple losses made me appreciate it more. My extended family, including nieces, nephews, and their children, rallied to support my husband and me. Six months after our daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash, my husband and I celebrated our 50th anniversary. We made it a celebration of family and, though we were still in the throes of grief, enjoyed this celebration.

3. Give to recover. Early in the grief process I realized that giving made me feel better. I do lots of free writing, give free talks, and give away lots of books. Before 2007, I volunteered for a variety of organizations and still volunteer. My husband and I donate money to many groups and, while our donations are small compared to some, every donation counts.

4. Celebrate life. I celebrate waking up each morning beside my husband, sitting across from him at the breakfast table, and talking about our plans for the day. Nature also gives me many things to celebrate — a cardinal perched in the birch tree, seeing a female deer and her fawn, and wild turkeys scampering into the woods. Large or small, each day I find something to celebrate.

5. Make life count. When my life circle is complete, I don’t want people to think I wasted my life. Hopefully, they will say I used my talents and tried to help others. In other words, I want my life to count. This is another reason I made a grief recovery bucket list. It is, in only five points, a plan for the future.

The list helped me put my life in perspective and it can do the same for you. Making a list doesn’t mean it is cast in stone. When you have completed a point or have different thoughts about it, cross it off your list and add others. You may respond to your list as I did: Thank goodness I’m alive!

Copyright 2010 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • Neil Chethik says:

    I agree that you should keep on writing, Harriet! You are helping so many people by showing enormous courage and resilience in the face of so much loss. Your grandchildren are lucky to have you!