When we talk about grief, we often focus on how losing someone can affect us emotionally. Everyone knows the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We often neglect one of the biggest effects that grief – how it can drain our motivation and make it difficult to function on the day-to-day level. We don’t often discuss what grief does to our drives, our sense of purpose, and our motivation.
There is no simple way to heal from the wounds that grief leaves upon us. How do you move forward when it’s difficult to get out of bed in the morning or make it through a day of work? How do you find the strength to do things that were once an easy part of your daily routine? Sometimes, you must find new ways to work through that grief and regain your purpose and sense of self in the process. In this guide, we hope to give you tips and offer ways to move through your grief, rediscover your motivation, and find the strength to push forward.
“And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief. Except at my job - where the machine seems to run on much as usual - I loathe the slightest effort.”- C.S.Lewis
Losing a loved one changes us in profound, impossible-to-predict ways. It affects the way we act, react, and even think about our lives. What’s more, it has a physical effect on us that many people don’t talk about. Grief is exhausting. It creeps in on us and takes our energy and focus. You don’t only feel pain or loneliness after the death of a loved one. You also experience a total lack of energy to do anything at all. Grief has many side effects and those contribute to that lack of motivation.
You may struggle to sleep and find yourself facing insomnia, leading to further exhaustion and difficulty staying on task. Lack of sleep can lead to a lack of energy which contributes to that loss of concentration and productivity.
Insomnia can be caused by any number of things, including the fact that often our brains can fixate on a single thing – like memory or emotion – and we constantly circle back to it. This can cause anxiety or distress, keeping us from finding any rest. Your grief can easily do this to you, leaving you with sleepless nights and no energy to face the day.
When you are feeling unmotivated, it can be difficult to focus on anything not directly associated with your own grief and associated emotions. You may find yourself unable to concentrate on your work, friends, and family obligations, or even the things you usually enjoy doing. You are preoccupied with thoughts of your loved one, memories of the past, and fears of the future.
Losing someone you love is heartbreaking. Sometimes sadness doesn’t seem adequate for the emotion that springs from it. However, the depth of this emotion makes it difficult to feel anything else. Sadness easily turns into depression, which might make you think there’s nothing worth doing.
You may struggle to see the purpose in getting out of bed or visiting your friends and family. Sadness is a heavy emotion that drags you down with it. When nothing matters, the rest of the world feels very far away. You may isolate yourself from everyone in your life – often unknowingly – and shut down your other emotions.
It can be easy to attribute these feelings to laziness, especially when someone is looking at the situation from the outside. But what you're feeling isn't quite so simple to describe. You are, quite simply, exhausted.
You are exhausted by your own emotions, by the absence in your life, and by the expectations of other people to continue on as if nothing has changed. Grief takes your energy, your time, and your ability to be interested in anything beyond those feelings.
It’s no wonder that you don’t feel motivated to do anything. You’re combating these forces – inward and outward – constantly. Some days may feel like you’re doing the best you can just to get out of bed.
You don’t want to do anything and don’t see the point in pretending to care. It affects your job, your health, and all relationship in your life.
Grief doesn't have to rule your life indefinitely. It is important to give yourself time to grieve and to acknowledge that grief isn't quick or easily swept away. However, it's equally important to move beyond these feelings of apathy and lack of interest in the world around you. Human beings need some form of motivation in their lives, however small or large it is.
Finding motivation after we lose someone is no small task. It is also a crucial part of regaining our lives and, more importantly, ourselves. Healing from a loss takes time and requires us to want to do it. Finding motivation allows us to move forward. It helps us heal. Motivation is crucial to our mental health and our physical health.
However, grief can be a surprising motivator as well. While it can take away our will to do things, it can also give us a path forward if we know how to harness it.
As the saying goes, “no man is an island.” You shouldn’t expect to do everything on your own, especially when you are grieving. Isolation is a common feeling for everyone suffering from a loss. You may retreat from social situations and those around you.
You may not want to bring them down with your sadness or cause any strife. It’s easy to feel like a burden to others when we are not at our best but that’s not true. Everyone needs someone to lean on.
When you feel alone or depressed, you should reach out to those around you. They can often lend emotional support and keep you grounded when you feel the most lost. This is the point you need to spend time with your friends and family the most. They want to help you and be there for you. Don’t let your grief keep you from reaching out.
Nothing good ever comes from bottling up your emotions. That may be easier said than done, but it’s an important part of letting yourself heal from grief. When we repress or avoid our emotions, it only makes them more extreme when the feelings finally slip out. Unfortunately, we cannot wish our negative feelings away despite how much we might wish we could.
Let yourself cry. Be angry that they are gone. Discovering how to express your grief and pain healthily can help you move beyond being paralyzed by those emotions. By expressing emotions, you can identify them and process them.
If your grief is making it hard to stay motivated, it may be time to step away from “the real world” and take time for yourself. You may want to take a break for a few days and spend some time with a close friend/family member or even alone.
It’s not selfish to need time away after a loss, especially if you are struggling to get through your daily life. Consider taking a vacation or booking yourself at a retreat for a long weekend. There are many grief retreats hosted by mental health providers who can give you practical or spiritual guidance to help you through this difficult time.
Even if your vacation is as simple as booking a hotel or Air BnB nearby, it could do you some good to get out of the house and into a new environment. You can take a day trip – maybe to somewhere outdoors – just to clear your head. You may find it easier to think, get some rest, and come back to your daily life refreshed and better prepared to navigate your grief.
If you feel your energy flagging or just overwhelmed by work, school, family obligations, or social interactions, make sure you have an escape plan. Specifically, you should make sure you have a place to step away from whatever is overwhelming you to take a moment for yourself. This can be any private spot: your car, a bathroom stall, a specific room in your home, or anywhere you can take a moment to breathe and gather your thoughts.
You may want to speak to your family (if you don’t live alone) or your employer to let them know your plan in advance. That way they can be prepared to support you if you need to step away.
One of the best things you can do if you find yourself overwhelmed with your thoughts – or memories – of your loved one is to talk about it. Spend time with other people who loved them and share your stories. You may find that sharing helps connect you to their memory and to others in your life. It can help you appreciate all the time you spent together.
Some of us aren’t the type to share our feelings out loud. If that’s the case, you may want to try writing them down instead. Journaling isn’t for everyone, but it can be a powerful tool to help you process your grief and work through your isolation and discouragement. You can use writing to let out your feelings, plan how to get you through the day, or even write a letter to your lost loved one.
If motivating yourself is a struggle, you may find that making a to-do list helps you stay on track throughout your day, week, or month. You can write down the things you want to accomplish, even if it’s as simple as taking out the trash or taking a shower. Checking them off may make it easier to tackle those bigger tasks that need to be completed.
One way to find motivation is to focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for. While you may lean upon something as simple as “I am happy to be alive”, that may not feel like truth when you’re still in the earliest stages of grief. You should consider what you can do with your life that will make it worth living for you. Gratitude helps you determine what is most important to you. It helps you discover what you may want to do moving forward.
By choosing gratitude, you can find yourself willing to live for the person you lost. You may find that you want to do things for them, whether those are things they weren’t able to do or things they loved to do. Even if you can’t do those things for yourself (yet), you may find yourself motivated to do things on their behalf.
Grief changes us, as does losing people in our lives. There’s no shame in those things. You can’t be expected to remain static in life indefinitely. In fact, it’s expected for everyone to become new versions of themselves as we move through life. You may feel like you've betrayed your loved one or feel guilty for changing.
You may feel like you are letting down other people in your life. That's not something you should feel guilt over at all. Let yourself grow from your experiences and don't hold yourself to the person you were in the past. You may find that it will help you regain some motivation when you don't feel beholden to your past.
If the things you did before don't bring your joy, it's time to try something new. As we said above, you do not have to stay the same person. It may be time to try new things, pick up new hobbies, and perhaps even go to new places.
You're never too old to do something out of your comfort zone, even if it isn't anything extreme. Pick up hiking, knitting, or even SCUBA. Take a weekend trip to a new city and explore its most popular restaurants. Do something new. Even if you don't stick with it, it might inspire you.
It may be difficult to look at your loved one’s belongings or photos after they pass. However, you may find that you want to keep their presence close to you as a reminder of how much you love them. You could create a set space for that. Perhaps you keep a drawer of their belongings or a shelf to hold their photos and any important keepsakes. You may want to put any items that remind you of the on display there. If your loved one was cremated, you may want to consider putting their urn near those items like a shirt, hat, or favorite jewelry item.
You should consider getting a small container to hold some of these keepsakes as well. From a personal perspective, having a place to put your keepsakes in one central location – and perhaps putting it on display – allows you to be able to find them if you’d like to look through them. You might consider getting something like this personalized Memorial Keepsake Box that can be customized with your loved one's photo, name, and even a quote. The inscriptions are etched in metal, making them lasting keepsakes themselves.
When someone we love dies, we may feel as if we owe them our grief. We can feel guilty for doing simple things like smiling or laughing after they are gone. We might feel that we aren't giving them enough of our time or energy. Don't let yourself be trapped in that cycle. It's hard to feel motivated to do anything when you don't feel as if you don't deserve to enjoy it.
It’s okay to let yourself feel happiness again. It’s okay to feel joy. Your loved one wouldn’t want you to feel like you aren’t allowed to be happy now that they are gone. If anything, you owe them to try to live your life fully even if they are no longer there with you.
If you can’t find motivation for yourself, sometimes you can look to others as a source of inspiration. Sometimes, we just can’t find the will to do things for ourselves. However, we may look at the other people in our life – maybe some of which who depend on us - as a source of inspiration and motivation to get things done.
What was important to your loved one? What goals did they have? Everyone has goals in life; some of them are easily achieved and others may take some work. If your loved one had something (or many things) they wanted to do or see in their life that they couldn’t accomplish, it’s not always too late. You may find yourself motivated to do something they loved on their behalf.
It could be a shared dream that you tackle on your own (or with help!) or something that may take time and dedication to achieve. Doing something for someone else – even after they are gone – can often keep you motivated and give you purpose. It also helps you keep their memory alive long after they are gone.
One of the ways you can hold onto the memory of a deceased loved one and keep them close to remind you of their presence may be easier than you think – through the creation of a personalized, beautiful piece of jewelry.
Cremation Jewelry: As cremation becomes more popular in the western world, so too do keepsakes created from the cremation ashes of a loved one. Cremation jewelry – typically pendants, rings, and bracelets – can be a good token to help you through the worst moments.
These cremation keepsakes can be filled with a small amount of cremains and sealed to keep them contained. For a full guide to the types of cremation jewelry available, we have created The Ultimate Guide to Buying Cremation Jewelry.
Memorial Coins: Memorial coins can be kept in your pocket or tucked out of sight. They are designed as a memorial keepsake for a deceased loved one. An image of the deceased is engraved on one side through a photo-engraving process. On the other side, biographical information, quotes, or other information can be engraved. You can easily carry one of these with you as a reminder that you are always moving forward for them and in their memory.
Losing someone hurts. Grief affects every aspect of your life, including the will to do the most basic things for yourself. However, it's very important to look after yourself during this time, despite how hard it might be at the moment. Taking the steps to sleep, eat properly, and get some daily exercise or movement can make a huge difference in your overall health and well-being.
If you physically feel better, then you may find that you feel better mentally as well. That’s not to say it’s easy to do these things when you are grieving. It's difficult to eat when you don't feel hungry or to get out of bed when you don't have the energy. But sometimes when nothing seems to matter, that is when taking care of you matters the most.
When we can’t find motivation for ourselves, sometimes we find fulfillment through taking care of others. It may help you to focus on the needs of someone else (while not neglecting your own!). You could find your own energy levels increasing. Maybe there is a friend that needs help with a project, an older family member who needs a hand, or a child to look after.
If you have pets, it may help to focus on their care. Animals can be sensitive to their owner’s moods and may need some extra attention (just like you) at this time. You may even want to consider a houseplant. It’s scientifically proven that keeping green plants or flowers around your home can improve concentration, productivity, and make you feel better – not to mention they enrich your environment.
As much as you should embrace change and try new things, you can also take comfort in the things you love. Finding a sanctuary in a beloved pastime or hobby can give you clarity. You may find your passion again by revisiting the things you love.
You may also find an avenue for which to be productive. Perhaps your passion for children helps you volunteer at an educational nonprofit. If you love books, maybe you volunteer to help organize events of readings at a public library. You can use your love of these things to motivate you into stepping away from the loneliness of grief.
Your support system can only take you so far, despite their best intentions. Sometimes, it just isn’t enough. There are some issues that you can’t fully express to the people in your life, even if you know they love you. For those, it’s always good to reach out to a licensed therapist.
Trained grief counselors offer support, advice, and (most importantly) a sounding board for your emotions and feelings. With their help, you are better prepared to process your grief and move forward from it. To search for therapists in your area, try GoodTherapy.Org.
If you are struggling with most things in your life, it can help to sit down and take a moment to prioritize the things you want to do and the things you don’t want to do. When you really like doing something, it is something that that becomes easy to do.
Focus on those things instead of the tasks that you dread or otherwise make you unhappy. By prioritizing those things, you will find it easier to get up and get it done.
Sometimes we really do have to fake it until we make it. The saying might feel cliché, but the sentiment is anything but that. Nothing is more unpredictable than life itself. Despite any planning we do, we always face the possibility that change will take place and leave us looking for a new option.
Despite how those things affect us, it’s important to keep moving forward. We must find meaning in our lives. To do so, we have to push for progress even when it is the last thing on our minds. If you keep moving, eventually your motivation will catch up.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their grief following the death of a loved one, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can call 1-800-273-TALK(8255) toll-free anywhere in the United States to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Although we’ve discussed this before, it’s important to know when to reach out for help. Licensed therapists and grief counselors can help you through feeling helpless and unmotivated.
There are many sources online available to anyone who is grieving. If you don’t feel comfortable meeting strangers in person, you may find an online community better suited to your personal demographics and identity. You may want to look at groups dedicated to such things on social media platforms or by searching for “grief support groups” online in your area.
If talking to a grief counselor isn’t something you feel comfortable with, you may want to look into other resources for grief. One modern approach to grief comes in the form of podcasts. You may find comfort in listening to people going through what you've gone through – without the expectation of you interacting with them. Here are some highly recommended podcasts for working through grief:
If you know someone who has lost a loved one, it can be difficult to know what to do or say in the situation. It can be even harder to navigate their ongoing journey through grief and lack of motivation.
Be Supportive and Encouraging. When someone is grieving, it helps to know that there is someone else there who cares. You can make sure your friend knows you are there for them by sending them texts, calling regularly, and just checking in with them. Instead of asking “Can I Help?” try more direct questions like “What do you need me to do?” Don’t be afraid to ask more than once, either.
Let Them Talk. We often find ourselves trying to offer advice or platitudes on how life will get better or things aren't that bad. Unfortunately, that isn't always helpful when someone is hurting. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply be there for your friend or loved one. Listen to them and let them dictate the flow of the conversation. Sometimes they may need to let out their emotions while other times they need a distraction from their feelings.
Take Them Out. If you know the person needs a break (or a distraction), plan an outing of some kind with them. Spend the day getting away from all those troubles and burdens! Plan a trip to go hiking, spend a weekend out of town, or just go out for a quiet dinner where they can focus on something else that isn’t their grief. It may help more than you think!
Sometimes, the easiest way to turn grief into motivation is simply by channeling it into something bigger than yourself. You can take those emotions and turn them towards making a difference or working for a cause you care about. If your loved one died from an illness, perhaps you can advocate for research into treatment for that disease or help an organization search for a cure. Perhaps your loved one had a cause they were passionate about. Maybe you can donate your time and effort to helping that.
Additionally, you can focus on gratitude when things are difficult. There are always things in your life to be grateful for – including your life itself. It may not always feel that way but if you can focus on those things you are grateful for now, it can help you move forward and focus on the things that are important to you.
One of the best things you can do after the death of a loved one is to give yourself the time and space to breathe. Time is the best cure for grief, though it isn’t an easy one. You can’t always rush those feelings away but you can do things to help you in your journey.
Talk About Your Loved One. Bottling up your emotions never helps. It can actually prolong your grief, sadness, and loneliness after someone dies. When you talk about your loved one, you are letting your emotions free and you are keeping that loved one’s memory alive.
Lean on Your Support System. Everyone needs help sometimes. There’s no shame in leaning on the people who love you when things get hard. Reach out to them when you feel low. Talk to them about your struggles. The people who love you want to help you. The best thing you can do is to let them in.
Be Gentle with Yourself. Don’t be angry or upset with yourself for how you feel – even if those emotions are negative. Give yourself the same care and consideration you would give anyone else in your life under the same circumstances. You deserve kindness from yourself, too.
Many grieving people struggle to sleep. It is one of the most common symptoms of grief. You may worry about the future now that your loved one is gone, replay memories of your past together, or wonder if there was anything you could have done differently. These can all cause you to toss and turn without rest. Here are some tips for finally getting a good night’s rest:
Establish a Nighttime Routine. Sleep hygiene makes all the difference in a good night’s sleep. Having a routine can keep you relaxed well before you sleep. Make a plan for your evenings that starts before bedtime. It should include when you eat dinner or possibly have a snack, finding an activity to do before bed that won't keep you up (reading a book or watching a comforting film or TV program for example), and changing into comfortable clothing well before it's time to sleep. You may want to play quiet and relaxing music during this time. Dimming your lights can also help to get you in a relaxed mood before bed.
Breathing Exercises. Still can’t sleep? You may want to try breathing exercises once you are settled in bed. Introducing yoga or meditative practices can help you relax your body and focus your mind on something soothing. There are several techniques to help:
The 4-7-8 Breathing Method
Buteyko Breathing Technique
Reach Out for Help. One of the most important ways to combat grief is simply to know when to ask for help. While you should be leaning on your support system, you may find that you need more help. We recommend speaking to your doctor or a therapist if you continue having sleep issues. They may be able to prescribe medication to help your anxiety or insomnia. A good therapist can also help you work through the fears keeping you away at night.
The same rules apply. You don’t experience grief any less fully because you lost a beloved pet. Grief isn’t bound by whether you have lost a human being or not. You may still experience a loss of motivation or feel hopeless. Our article - Is it Time for a New Pet? – outlines how to process your grief over a lost pet.
There are many good types of gifts for someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Some of them will depend on the person and your relationship with them to determine whether it is appropriate.
Flowers & Plants. Never underestimate the power of a house plant. Brightly colored flowers and plants can bring a much-needed pop of color to a grieving person's home. They can offer some cheer. It can also help to have something to take care of around the house that may take their mind off their own negative feelings.
Food. If you are close with the grieving person – or live nearby – sometimes it is traditional to bring food to their home after a funeral. Grief can make it difficult to find the motivation to cook or even order food. They may not even realize they are hungry until the food is in front of them. Traditional food includes easy-to-prepare and reheatable meals like casseroles, bread, or soup.
Personalized Keepsakes. Getting someone a personalized gift often shows you care. It’s also a great way to memorialize a deceased person. You may consider purchasing a Memorial Keepsake Box to give them a place to store meaningful mementos, photographs, or important items from their loved ones.
Make a Donation in Their Name. Sometimes, the best gift you can give helps someone else. Many people do not want gifts or flowers after death. Families often request donations instead. You could donate to a specific charity or to the funeral fund (if one exists).
For more gift ideas, you can check out our guide - TOP 25 GRIEVING GIFTS.
First, you must take care of yourself. That means giving yourself time to process your emotions and the grief holding you back. Take the time you need and don’t set an arbitrary deadline for your recovery. You deserve that time for yourself. More than that, you should work towards getting a good night’s sleep, eating properly, and being active in even small ways. Plan ahead by creating a daily routine that you can stick with, even if it’s simple at first. You can always grow your routine later as you begin to feel more confident and motivated.
While we all know that losing a loved one is hard, we often don’t address the effects of grief on us. It’s exhausting, isolating, and drains us of the ability to feel most emotions. Picking yourself back up from that utter lack of motivation is daunting. It can seem impossible. However, we hope that you can use this article as a guide to help you regain your motivation after losing someone you love.
November 8, 2022 by Frances Kay