Promoting Grief Recovery with Pep Talks

Though grief is a universal experience, each person’s grief is unique. You have to find your own way through grief. This path will lead you to grief work and things that you tell yourself. Four of my family members died in 2007. “You will get through this,” a relative assured me. Her confidence in me boosted my confidence in me.

Still, I had to give myself one-sentence pep talks. For example, I told myself I had experienced grief before and this experience could work for me. I also knew I had good coping skills. Some days, however, when life was unbearably bleak, I lied to myself and said, “You’re always strong.”

I am a strong person, but coping with four deaths was the greatest challenge of my life. In truth, I feared I might not survive it. Author Cheryl Strayed wasn’t sure she would survive a life-changing hike. She describes the challenges she faced along the way in her book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail.

When I ordered her book online I thought it was about hiking. It is about hiking, but it’s more of a book about the grief recovery process. Lost and despondent after the death of her mother, Strayed decided to hike the Pacific Coast Trail in hopes of finding herself. The trip was lonely, grueling, and dangerous for a woman alone. “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves,” she writes, “so I told myself a different story from the one women are told.”

Strayed told herself she was safe. She told herself she was strong. And she told herself she was brave. In short, she refused to let herself become afraid.

After I read this passage I thought of my grief recovery journey. My husband and I were guardians of our 15-year-old twin grandchildren and we didn’t have time to be afraid or worry about ourselves. Yes, we mourned our daughter and the other family members who died, but we spent our energy on our grandkids. We kept them safe and encouraged them and loved them.

As days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became years, I gave myself many pep talks. Some examples:

My child development training is helping me.

I can still laugh though I’m grieving.

Each day, I will savor the time I spend with my grandkids.

Gentle guidance is my caregiving approach.

When the twins get angry, I will remember that it is grief that is talking.

I will enjoy all of the gymnastics meets, choir, and band concerts.

Fixing the twin’s favorite meals brings me joy.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

“When a Loved One Dies,” an article published on the Cigna Behavioral Health website, contains a section about mending the heart. To mend a grief-stricken heart the article suggests setting “small realistic” goals, contacting supportive people, and taking care of yourself. “Celebrate your good memories of the person who died,” the article advises.

That is what I have done. I have also made new memories with my grandkids and the husband who loves me so. Pep talks helped me create the new and happy life I’m living today. You may benefit from one-sentence pep talks, starting with “I will be happy again.”

Copyright 2013 by Harriet Hodgson



Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson, BS, MA has been an independent journalist for more than 35+ years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the MN Coalition for Death Education and Support. Hodgson writes for and has earned top status. A prolific author, she is the author of hundreds of articles and 31 books. All of her writing comes from experience and heer recent books focus on grief recovery: * Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss * The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul * 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope * Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life * Writing to Recover Journal (with 100 writing prompts) * Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, co-author In 2007, after her daughter's death and former son-in-law's death, she became a GRG, grandparent raising grandchildren. Her latest book, Help! I'm Raising My Grandkids: Grandparents Adapting to Life's Surprise, came from this experience. In addition to writing books, Hodgson is a columnist for "Caregiving in America" magazine and Assistant Editor of ADEC Connects, the electronic newsletter of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. A popular speaker, Hodgson has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer's, hospice, and grief conferences. She has appeared on more than 160 talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations/programs, including CNN. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors and other directories. She lives in Rochester, MN with her husband and twin grandchildren. Please visit for more information about this busy author and grandmother. Books by Harriet Hodgson The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul, available from Centering Corporation, and Amazon, 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope, available from Amazon, Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life, available from Centering Corporation, and Amazon, Writing to Recover Journal, available from Centering Corporation, and Amazon. Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, Co-Author, available from Amazon,

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