4 Benefits of Experiencing Grief and Loss

And what it can mean for eventually living a better life.


Life, at its core, is about death. There’s no escaping from its eventuality. We’ve all been through a year of prominent loss, and some of us even losing loved ones before their time. The pandemic has thrown death into the forefront and caused it to often be experienced behind closed doors.

As it has become such a main feature, it serves as a daily reminder of how we are such futile beings. We never know when the next day could be our last or how much time we have got left. That’s part of the wonder, uncertainty and joy of being human and having the privilege of being alive.

This is not going to be some forcefully positive story about how death and grief is always a wonderful and enlightening experience — because it’s not all of the time. Additionally, everybody is different. No person grieves in the same way, and it takes some longer than others to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But in this year of prominent loss, I wanted to add in some light. As nobody can escape a life without loss, we all have to eventually come to terms with it.

Doing so can cause a re-appreciation for life or even a fundamental reshaping of how we see the world. Under its layers of darkness, there are glimmers of light. Here’s how to seek them out and eventually start leading a more fulfilling life when you’re ready.


1. You learn heaps about yourself

Many of us probably go about our day to day lives, not entirely feeling in tune with ourselves. Maybe we are people pleasers who often say yes to invitations and requests at the detriment of our own well being. Maybe we are trying to fit in with a friendship group we shouldn’t be a part of. Or maybe we have strained, unfixable relationships with our family that we continue to persist with despite the strain on our mental health.

Whatever it is — there will be times in our lives where we push our needs to one side to accommodate others — there is a time and place for being selfless. But experiencing grief and loss is one point in our lives where we should be unashamedly selfish.

When I lost my older brother last year, just before lockdown happened for the first time, I had no idea how to process the grief and wealth of emotions that came with it. Apart from losing a few family pets and distant family members in the past, I had never dealt with grief on such a personal level. I had no idea what to do with those emotions. It was a year-long process of working out how best I could cope with it, and it was pretty unconventional.

I requested family and friends to leave me alone.

Despite the thoughtful messages and barrage of ‘how are you?’ constantly, I just wanted to be left to it. I needed to be undisturbed to process these emotions in the best way for me.

Everybody will have a different coping mechanism, but silent solitude was the way I got through it. Not replying to anyone, not talking and processing these emotions through journaling, mindful exercise and eventually falling in love with writing was my way out. It certainly won’t be everybody’s — but that’s what this process taught me.

Of course, nobody craves grief or wants to go through it, but it will certainly teach you a lot about yourself and how you process difficult emotions. This will undoubtedly then stay with you for life.


2. It can bring us closer together

Although this contrasts with the solitude I just expressed, it’s nonetheless an important facet of going through grief. Death is the one asset of life that everybody will share — despite other differences beyond our control.

In the deepest, rawest thaws of grief, it’s easy to forget. Believe me, I did. For me, this realisation definitely took time, and it might for you too. It might take months or even years to gain this sense of commonality, but once you do, it will make you realise just how similar we all are.

“Despite grief being individual, it is also universal.” — William Berry, LMHC., CAP

Although grief is such an individual experience, death in a wider sense is universal. Once you are out of the darkest side, it can be a great comfort to know that everybody around us — whether stranger or friend — will at some point go through a similar range of emotions. After all, death is such an integral part of our lives. It’s what makes us human.

In a year where death has featured so heavily across the world with the pandemic, knowing that all of us will never be able to escape it is strangely comforting.

In the depths of isolation and pain, sometimes this realisation can help, but it will definitely become an advantage once you are through the other side. Realising our universality, rather than difference, encourages us to be more empathetic and understanding towards each other.


3. It teaches us to be better listeners

I’ve never been the best listener, and I think it’s because my mind likes to whirl at one hundred miles an hour. But I’m working on it. For me, solitude was an essential part of processing grief for the first year after I lost my brother.

But when I started to feel comfortable with opening up and talking about it all, I realised how important it was that the other person was a good listener. It can be easy to smother the grieving person in positive sentiments, affirmations of love and all the rest, and forget to pause and listen.

Before I lost someone, I didn’t know how to comfort another person going through grief. It felt alien and beyond my realm. If I had known then that one of the most important things was to listen, I would have saved myself many worries.

If you’re stuck with finding the right words to say to someone, the best bet is to provide them with a space to vent and for you to listen. It can be tempting to fill the void with positive words and thoughts, but when you’re in the thick of grief and processing it all, in reality, this is meaningless. You just want to be heard.

Listening as a skill is underrated. We live in a world where we all want to be heard on some level, whether that’s through social media or in real life. Politics has become more polarised because individuals fail to listen and have a valuable conversation with each other. If in doubt, we should all be prepared to sit back and listen, as words are meaningless if used just to fill a void.


4. You learn to find joy in the simplest of things

Being at your worst mentally can cause you to see the beauty in the every day, as often it’s the only way through the struggle. Whether it’s finding appreciation in an indulgent cup of coffee in the morning, harnessing a new appreciation for nature or devoting time to doing one thing that you love every day, grief reminds us of these snippets of joy.

As it’s a time to be unashamedly selfish and putting ourselves first, it also involves a process of discovering what makes you feel your best and what can brighten a dark day. Importantly, doing so isn’t implying all the pain will go away but offering a sense of respite.

Nancy Berns, PhD, writing in Psychology Today, talks about the process of learning how to ‘wade through’ and fight against the tide during grief.

Imperative to this is learning how to find the positives even in moments of great pain and loss. This, in turn, will put us on the path to acceptance but importantly, this doesn’t mean those feelings of grief will go away. Part of accepting it is knowing that it may always be there, gently simmering in the background.

“Wade into the pain (like getting use to the cold) until you feel some warmth. Face the pain long enough to be able to look around and see that joy and life remain. You can learn to float while immersed in grief.” — Nancy Berns Ph.D

Finding pleasure and happiness in the smallest things can help you through grief and is an ideal way to approach life. It encourages us to be grateful, resourceful, and live a far more sustainable life than constantly craving excess, which will not further our overall happiness or state of mind.


Going through grief can expose the importance of learning about ourselves, bringing people closer together in their shared struggle, knowing when to listen rather than talk and find joy even in the darkest of times. Nobody wants to experience grief, but it is inevitable for us all and a part of life.

Although grief is a universal emotion, the way we process it can be different. However, like many things in life, there are positives you can take away from the experience if only you know where to look.

Originally published in Mind Cafe on Medium.com


Further reading:

5 Mindfulness Strategies You Can Adopt to Help with Grief and Loss

Dear Ryan


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On the Simplicity of Just Being

As an overthinker, it can be easy to get distracted from the present moment. Too often I find myself paralysed with fear about the next few years, or even weeks, which detracts me from just being. It’s hard to overcome, but of late I’ve been more successful.

Tuning in with myself every morning by writing a few pages in my journal has allowed the worries I may feel to slip to one side. It doesn’t cure them, nor eradicate them, but it means that I can have a day where all my energy isn’t solely dissipated on that.

But it is in these very moments of stillness – that have become even more abundant in the second lockdown we are now living through – that I have experienced joy, a sense of peace and calamity. I’ve never been one for mass excitement, big gatherings or celebrations, as I’d much rather be with just a few people or even curled up by myself with a good book. However, during this pandemic, I have gained so much from just being.

Whether that be sitting still and listening to the sounds around me – the cry of the birds, the hum of gentle traffic – or slowly making my way through a book at my own pace. Or even, sitting in silence in the same room as my partner as we both do our own thing. Just being in the moment, recognising it and making peace with it without worrying about the future, has been, and continues to be, a great comfort for me.

Maybe I sound like an old lady way beyond my time. But maybe I don’t. During an age of mass excess, at least, the pandemic appears to have made our lives simpler. The allocation of more time spent at home has allowed some of us to spend more time with ourselves, figure out what we love and strip things back down to the basics. And isn’t this what life is really about? If we don’t know what the simple things we love in life are, then what are we striving for? In the same vein – overcomplication can often lead to apprehension and depreciation.

Taking time to be at peace and appreciate the moment instead of worrying about the future, is something I’ve learnt to recognise and started to practice this year. It’s helped me to become more present, mindful and at peace with myself.

I’m still not sure what my future holds, or where I’ll end up, but for once, I’m okay with that. I’m not having sleepless nights panicking about what kind of grand career I haven’t planned out for myself, but am, for now, content with the beauty of being. And just surviving in this thing called life. This doesn’t mean I’ve stagnated – in fact, I have a myriad of ideas. Ideas I would never have dreamed up if it wasn’t for lockdown.

I’m not sure what this post was meant to be, or quite where I was going with it. I just came on here to say hello and that I’m still here on this blog, from time to time. But I knew that I wanted to write about what I felt in this moment – which was a deep sense of inner peace, from just being.

If you’re reading this, I hope you take a moment to just be. Soak it all in, and try not to worry about tomorrow or the next day. As now is all we have.

Sending love and best wishes to everyone.

Check out my latest posts on Medium here.


“Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today. I’ll always remember it.”

Emma Morley, One Day (David Nicholls)

Surviving Another Year Around the Sun

I’m never one for making a big deal out of birthdays. The more I have of them, the more I want to ignore them. I know I’m only young, but I’ve always feared getting old.

23 feels like the beginning of getting older, or of life getting more serious. I thought I’d write a sort of self reflection post, but I don’t really know where I’m going with it. This might be one that ends up being deleted.

I was thinking the other day that I haven’t done much in a year. Sure, I finished university and graduated but since last September I haven’t really achieved much. I started a job I loved, finished that one, started another job and then furlough happened and I’m back to square one.

I haven’t got that ‘proper’ job that everyone speaks of and I still don’t know when I will. I guess my younger self always thought I would have it together by this age and be a proper adult. But what does a proper adult even mean?

Time is a strange thing and it means different things to everyone. Some people want to get married in their twenties and have children straight away, whereas others want to wait. I’m not in a rush, but I do wish my life had a bit more momentum and I was somewhat closer to being where I want to.

But I can’t blame myself for that, Covid happened out of the blue and was never something I could control. And I have been making steps and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and that’s what matters, right?

The next few years are going to be a hard one to try and start a career in and it feels like our generation has faced obstacle after obstacle (nearly two global recessions now, come on) so this year I’m not going to be too hard on myself and I’m going to celebrate every small achievement.

I may be 23, but that doesn’t mean I have to have my whole life together – it just feels that way due to societal pressures and expectations.

Bu I do have things to be proud of.

I’ve been brave enough to put myself all over the internet in the form of blog posts, articles and writing on Medium. First year university me would never have been this bold, maybe not even third year university me. I’ve gained a certain amount of confidence with my writing but I’m nowhere near there yet – but it’s a journey, right?

I feel like I am managing my anxiety better than I used to. At university I used to let it just take hold of me. But now I make the effort and I’m learning about what’s best for me. Having a slower pace to life since the pandemic has definitely helped, and so has rediscovering journaling.

I think in a way I have channeled myself more this year, as I’ve been able to do things I lost track of at university. Like reading, writing and just being. I haven’t found myself fully yet, but apparently that happens more as you go into your 20s…

I’m by no means perfect or where I want to be yet – but that’s okay. I survived another year – and that’s enough to celebrate in itself.

It’s also Hugh Grant’s birthday today, so happy birthday to him (he’s 60!)

10 things that make me happy

I’ve had a bit of a down few weeks, so I thought I would share with you a list of ten things that make me happy, or help to improve my mood. Maybe these will also help you too! If you have other things that make you happy, please comment them below!

1. Spending time outdoors

Throughout lockdown I have gone through ebbs and flows of spending time outdoors and then locking myself away – this happened at the earlier stage of the pandemic, and I am a lot more comfortable being outside now. But living in a flat with no garden has made me realise how important it is that I spend some time outdoors every day, regardless of how long I am out there for. This morning I took myself for a walk first thing and it really helped to improve my mood.

2. Morning coffee

For me, a morning is not complete without a coffee. After waking up, I make sure to drink a glass of water first but then head straight to make myself a coffee. I like to drink this slowly whilst reading the news or my book, and then I will have breakfast after this. I drink my coffee strong and with oat milk – if you’re interested!

Image: Violet Daniels

3. Podcasts and listening to the radio

I often do either of these things when I’m doing something mindless – like brushing my teeth, doing my skincare or washing up. I’ll often stick a podcast on or listen to BBC Radio 4. Sometimes I also listen to something before I go to bed, as I find it quite calming. I did a whole post about podcasts a while ago, but I have also been enjoying Michelle Obama’s podcast more recently and a podcast called Writer’s Routine.

4. Journalling

I do bouts of different kinds of journaling depending on what I feel like. Sometimes I spend more time doing long form, stream of consciousness writing, butother times I just simply write my thoughts and what’s happening in the world. I find putting pen to paper as a physical act very cathartic and it makes me happy to see I have nearly filled an entire Moleskine just throughout lockdown!

5. Some form of routine

I don’t have a strict routine I make stick to everyday or a particular routine I have at night or in the mornings, but I do make myself a to-do list each day, just so I have something to stick to. I might write small things down like ‘wash my hair’ but also things like what writing I want to work on that day, or more mundane tasks. I don’t always stick to it, but having some kind of routine, and idea of what to be doing makes it easier to fill the days.

Image: Violet Daniels

6. Writing

A very obvious one, but nonetheless one of the main things that makes me happy. Writing this blog and other articles has kept me sane for the past hundred days or so of lockdown. Having been off work for nearly five months, I had to start writing so that I had something to do with my days and something to wake up for. More than anything, I think this period has made me realise how much I love it and that seeing my work online gives me such a sense of achievement and happiness.

7. Reading (shock, horror!)

This is in the same vein but very much the source of most of my happiness. For as long as I can remember I have preferred to escape into other worlds and other people’s minds, rather than delve into my own, and this has been confirmed again during lockdown. There’s nothing more comforting than curling up with a book. Reading regularly is now one of my firm priorities and I never feel guilty about it.

8. Baths

Recently I have been indulging in long, leisurely soaks in the bath whilst I have more time on my hands. It has been so therapeutic during the long evenings and especially after a run as it can help to ease the soreness of my muscles. I use this time to listen to podcasts and read, but also to take care of myself. I have realised as well that taking the time out for me is never something I should feel guilty about it.

9. Going offline

Like many people, I have become even more addicted to my phone than ever before in recent months. However, I have been trying to schedule in afternoons, evenings or even days where I don’t go on social media or spend time on my phone, unless I have to reply to a message. As someone who is naturally quite insecure and can feel quite negative about themselves after spending time on Instagram or even Twitter, it has been really important for me to take time off.

Image: Violet Daniels

10. Taking care of myself

This may seem a bit strange but I do find it easy to forget to take care of myself. By this I mean forgetting to wash my face and take care of my skin, treat my hair to a mask, or do a face mask. I haven’t worn make up in months but instead of spending time doing that, I’m actually taking the time to moisturize my body and stick to a regular skin care routine. Although my skin is still problematic and I haven’t gotten to the route of the problem – forming the habit of taking care of myself makes me happy.

This was a bit different to my usual posts, but I hope this may have been beneficial and that you enjoyed reading it! The book reviews will be returning soon.

Hope you are all keeping safe and well,

Violet xxx

Book review: If I Could Say Goodbye

As always, many thanks to Net Galley and Hachette UK for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If I Could Say Goodbye is available for pre order via Waterstones and Amazon.

Synopsis from Goodreads

A heart-warming and uplifting story about love, loss and finding the strength to say goodbye, from the author of The First Time I Saw You.

Jennifer Jones’ life began when her little sister, Kerry, was born. So when her sister dies in a tragic accident, nothing seems to make sense any more.

Despite the support of her husband, Ed, and their wonderful children, Jen can’t comprehend why she is still here, while bright, spirited Kerry is not.

When Jen starts to lose herself in her memories of Kerry, she doesn’t realise that the closer she feels to Kerry, the further she gets from her family.

Jen was never able to say goodbye to her sister. But what if she could?

Would you risk everything if you had the chance to say goodbye?

Publication date: September 17, 2020

Genres: Fiction, modern/contemporary

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Jennifer Jones was always a faithful, older sister to Kerry. However, when Kerry dies in a sudden accident, her whole world turns upside down. Despite having the support of her devoted husband, Edward, and her two children, Jennifer struggles to come to terms with the sudden loss of her sister. She turns her grief inwards, blaming herself for Kerry’s death and wishing the accident had taken her life, instead of her sister’s.

If I Could Say Goodbye, is an honest portrayal of the many facets of grief and it’s reverberating impact on one family. It explores grief openly and honestly, and for that alone it deserves praise. Jennifer becomes so consumed by the memories of her sister, that her mind convinces her she is still there. Kerry is reborn in her imagination and experience of grief as she loses herself in memories of the past.

Grief is something we all experience at some points in our lives, but obviously in many different ways. Emma Cooper manages to explore how Kerry’s death takes a drastic toll on Jennifer’s mental health, from her feelings of guilt, responsibility and regret that follow in the wake of Kerry’s death. Jen finds herself talking to her sister more than her own family. This experience of Kerry being somewhat alive in her imagination, serves as a comfort to Jen in some ways, but ultimately, she realises the need to say goodbye is what will set her free.

“I turn my back on the sea and the cliff, on the grief and guilt that I’ve been drowning in, and break into a run: my life is about to begin again.”

This is a refreshing and realistic portrayal of grief told through Jennifer and her husband, Edward. In having this alternative perspective, Cooper conveys how grief can have a snowballing affect on the ones we love. Ed has to pick up the pieces of their life together, as he struggles to maintain their relationship and family. Jennifer’s family and her children become more distant as her experience of grief consumes her in more ways than one. Intertwined within this exploration of grief is a tale of love, friendship, relationships and family.

Although I thought this was an excellent representation of experiencing the loss of a loved one, I found the book itself hard to read. There was no real structure, which I guess could be part of the point, in being like grief itself, however, it made the reading experience more difficult than it needed to be. Although I engaged with the leading characters, Jen and Ed, I felt it didn’t have a ‘hook’ to keep me reading.

The writing is beautiful and very well structured, which allows for the impact of grief to be explored through many angles, however, the lack of structure and plot is what let it down for me.

For someone who has recently gone through the death of a loved one, this book was harrowing and hard to read in places, but nonetheless essential for its honest depiction of grief and loss. It was comforting in this respect and something I would recommend to others.

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