The Grief Journey

6 Episodes

Episode 3 : Why Do I Feel Like I Am Just Existing in My Grief?


Episode Notes

The Grief Journey: Existing

You may think you are doing a bit better than surviving and you might feel like you are existing now.  It’s better than surviving but it is also a tough place to be on this grieving journey.

What might this phase or time look like?  Let’s see if you can relate to any of these: 

  • You might be “just getting by”
  • The severity of the symptoms in the surviving phase are diminished but can still be very troubling
  • You may have a varying (but increasing) level of acceptance of your loved one’s death, though you still may wonder how you are going to live life without them
  • You may be transitioning back and forth between surviving and existing phases.  Remember we said it is normal to go between the phases.  There is no clear pattern so please don’t be discouraged if you have times of back in the surviving phase.
  • Reminders of the lost person can stop us in our tracks for a while
  • You can have grief ambushes where it just hits you out of nowhere and hard
  • You may be returning to the most basic parts of living – eating, basic hygiene, some socialization
  • You probably practice some level of avoidance, numbing the pain, keeping busy, pretending, distracting self, etc.
  • You may sense that the life you knew is over, maybe sensing not worth living it without your loved one or it could never be a good life without them and you may not be able to enjoy some of the good things that may be in your life – like other family members or people that important to you
  • Your loss can become your identity. You may find that being a grieving person is your identity vs being a person who is grieving ·      
  • You may have low energy
  • You may feel guilty about laughing, and enjoying yourself – feeling people will think you aren’t really missing your loved one or maybe you are dishonoring them
  • You may make some attempts to experience socialization or you may feel you aren’t ready to engage as it is too tiring or you don’t want to pretend you’re okay when you’re not
  • Sometimes you might feel strongly that life can never be meaningful, enjoyable, satisfying, or significant again.
  • You might be willing to be part of a low-commitment grief support group
  • You see that people seem to be living normal lives while yours has been forever changed and that is hard to handle sometimes
  • You may go back to a lot of your routines  – work, church, groups, activities but might feel that you are often just going through the motions.  They aren’t bad but they aren’t good – or you could have moments of doing really well and then it gets tough
  • You may allow yourself some “grief breaks” where you do have moments of enjoyment
  • You may wear grief as a badge of honor to your loved one
  • You may get through the day pretty well but find yourself crying at night.
  • You wonder if it will ever get better.

As we have said before, you may or may not be experiencing some of these.  Everyone is different.  

I  spent a lot of time in this existing place while I was also going to the seeking phase, which is next – so they overlapped for me as they may for you.  See how this isn’t a simple progression. We aren’t sharing this with you to give you defined stages but to give you an understanding of where you might be and where you can go – when you’re ready. 

First, let me remind you that there is no specific time that one should be in this phase.  It really depends on the person.  The important thing is that you allow yourself to feel it so you can grow and be ready for what comes next.  There’s no way around the “yuck”.  Yep – there is no way around the “yuck”.

And most of us have no idea how to grieve so we don’t have the proper information, tools or support.  And that can make a real difference to progressing through these phases.  That’s why we created this program.  To give you those things. 

Please don’t be alarmed if it’s been a while and you are still in the existing phase or feel you are going in and out of it.  That would be normal.  You can still enjoy parts of life when you are in this phase, but it is limited. And the first step to moving to the next phase is to want more.  And we will cover that in the next episode. 

But what we see is that people often get stuck here after a much longer time than they should because they don’t have the tools to know what to do or they are afraid that taking steps to seek healing will dishonor their loved one.  So let’s make sure you don’t do this alone.  Support is really important and can be a tremendous help so please check out our resource page and our how to build your support team series.

Then, when you are ready – if you want to see where you can go from here, watch the next episode on the seeking phase.


Can you relate to any of the things we listed that you might be experiencing?

Would you describe yourself as “existing”? If not, how would you describe where you are at?


Gutting it out, just getting by, and going forward are three responses to circumstances. When we are just getting by, going forward seems miles away. In reality, going forward is just around the corner. The question is – when will you decide to look around the corner? When you are ready to look, you’ll know whether or not you are ready to turn the corner.