February 23, 2024

Why It’s Important to Grieve and How a Body Map Can Help

To be human means that sooner or later, you will experience loss. There’s no way around it - when you love someone or something, whether that’s a partner, a pet, or a house that supported you through transformative years, eventually you will experience an ending and will need to figure out how to move forward after the loss.

If you have lost someone or something and are unsure how to process your grief, you’re not alone. Grief is complex, confusing, natural, painful, and even beautiful. All can be true. Despite the pain, it's important to navigate through your grief to avoid the lingering effects of unprocessed emotions on your mental and physical health.

Grief isn't reserved solely for the death of a loved one. It can also stem from the loss of a job, a former version of yourself, or your independence, among other things.

The Essence of Grieving

The purpose of grieving is to feel what you need to feel, not to get over your loss or forget about someone. By grieving, you are helping yourself accept what you have lost and create a new sense of self.

Losing a partner means finding who you are without them. Losing a home means integrating the memories of that place into the fabric of a new living space. Losing independence, perhaps due to illness or a significant life change, requires embracing a new way of living. To grieve is to honor the natural course of life. 

Although the passing of time may make things more manageable, time alone doesn’t heal all wounds. Active, intentional steps are necessary to work through grief on an emotional, mental, and physical level.

The Consequences of Unaddressed Grief

If there are previous losses that you haven’t addressed, then a recent loss can bring up unresolved feelings from these losses. This can feel overwhelming and even confusing.

Unaddressed grief can even lead to physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia. In fact, research with widows and widowers shows that the deep emotional pain from unresolved grief can lead to higher levels of inflammation in the body. So if you’re in pain because of your grief, please know that it’s not all in your head.

A loss causes unimaginable heartache, but there is hope. The key is to allow yourself to express your emotions and receive support from others and yourself. Remember, although grief is painful at times, it can also be beautiful, because it shows how much someone or something means to you.

Use a Body Map to Begin Grieving

Everyone’s grieving process is different. There is no correct method or timeframe for grieving.

If you have been struggling to unleash your emotions tied to your loss, but aren’t sure how to begin, the following Body Map activity is a good place to start. You will need access to a private room where you feel comfortable, an item that reminds you of the person or thing that you have lost, a journal, and a pen.

  1. Take three deep breaths to still your mind.
  2. Notice how your body feels right now.
  3. Connect with the item that reminds you what you’ve lost. For example, you might look at a photo of a pet who has passed, hold a bracelet that your departed loved one made you, or read a letter that a previous partner wrote to you.
  4. Continue connecting with the item until you feel sensations in your body, such as chills, heaviness in your chest, changes in breathing or temperature, nausea, tears, smile or frown, or any other sensations.
  5. Notice where you feel the grief in your body and try to stay present with it.
  6. Once you’ve located the grief, give it permission to grow. You might say something like, “It is safe for me to grieve.”
  7. Give yourself a gentle and loving hug.
  8. Ask the sensations, “What are you here to teach me?”
  9. When you feel ready to wrap up this activity, thank your body for taking care of you by processing and holding onto your grief.
  10. Take three more deep breaths while placing your hands over your heart.
  11. Write in your journal any insights that you want to remember from this activity.

Good for you for taking the brave and necessary step of grieving your loss. It’s natural to feel heavy after sitting with your grief. Any emotions you’re feeling may come and go, as this is a process.


Try mapping your grief again in a few days to see how things have shifted. If you weren’t able to feel any sensations, you likely have been avoiding your grief and it may take a few more tries to bring your grief to the surface. Be patient.

If you need additional support after that experience, do something that makes you feel safe, such as calling or hugging a trusted friend, going for a walk, or listening to calming music.

Finally, remember that your grief means that you have loved, and that is a beautiful thing.

Want More Help?

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