Grief First Aid Kit

When my girls were little, whenever we traveled, we made sure we donned a first aid kit on our body.  This consisted of colorful band aids of their cartoon de jour, Neosporin, and Tylenol.  We learned to NEVER underestimate the power of a soothing voice paired with a lovingly placed band aid (and to NEVER leave home without them).  It made small, medium, and large boo-boos more tolerable.  These items didn’t make the pain go away, but it helped them tolerate the pain until it healed and gave them some relief.

This made me think of how to use these magical properties with our grief journey.  The function of a first aid kit is to administer care at home first.  If we can’t manage the wound or pain at home, only then do we seek medical care.  Most grievers move through their grief naturally without the need for any outside care.  But I think many of us grit our teeth and try to bare the pain.  What if there was a better way other than to just grin and bare it? What if we could find ways to experience soothing during the difficult parts of grief? What if we could titrate the pain in doses so as not to get so flooded with grief? What if we could use our bodies, everyday items, we have in our home to help tolerate the bumps, bruises, cuts, and burns associated with grief?

I invite you to use your creativity, your personality, your culture, your values, your beliefs, your wisdom, your practice, your relationships into this process.  Make it as individualized as your fingerprint.

By now in your grief journey, I am going to guess you have had those moments of getting triggered and experienced a sudden, sometimes un-anticipated searing emotional pain that sends a flash flood of hormones throughout your body, I call this a grief seizure.  We can literally feel our bodies move into fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode. 

What’s happening in that moment is our sympathetic nervous system is perceiving the grief seizure as real danger (“How can this be happening to me? Is she really gone? How do I go on with my life?”), our heart starts pounding, we may hold our breath, and we begin to clench our muscles (jaw, shoulders, fists, pelvic floor).

This is when our Grief First Aid Kit will come into play, as both a vitamin and as medicine.  The more you use your kit like a daily vitamin your body will begin to get cued on ways to feel calm(er) and safe(er).  It’s like anything, the more and more you practice, the more of a body memory it becomes.

Begin by asking yourself, what soothes me, comforts me, helps me feel regulated and calm(er)?

We’re going to use our 6 senses to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us get out of fight, flight, freeze, fawn mode and into a state of regulation.


  • Use your eyes to notice the colors, textures, shadows, etc.
  • What can your eyes deliberately focus on that ignites beauty, soothing, or conversely a lack of stimulation (i.e., closing your eyes)?
  • Does taking a break from screen time feel soothing?
  • Is there an outside landscape that brings you a sense of joy? Is there a place in nature you could access to let your eyes wander as far as they’d like?
  • Does the meditative quality of fire (lighting a candle or bonfire) or water appeal to you?
  • Is there pleasure in watching your children or pets play? Getting lost in watching ants create an anthill, or squirrels getting busy for the upcoming winter.
  • Art galleries, coloring, or painting (which also includes the tactile sense).


  • What sounds invite in a sense of calm and peace?
  • Sounds of nature (waves on the ocean, wind in the trees, chirping of birds, rainstorm), music (instrumental, jazz, harmonizing, singing or the sound of a cacophony of music that matches the intensity you feel inside), chanting, humming, prayers, church service.
  • Sometimes the use of distraction works too (as a great short-term solution), public radio, audio books, podcasts.
  • Silence, noise canceling headphones, going under water.


  • Deep hugs (after 20 seconds of a hug oxytocin gets released, which is the feel good, bonding chemical we feel holding a sleeping baby for instance), weighted blanket or wrapped up tightly in a blanket.
  • Cozy robe, slippers, most comfy outfit, hot bath/shower, sauna, steam bath.
  • Hot yoga class, stretching.
  •  Rubbing lotion or oil on your skin.
  • Holding on to something cold if you need some grounding.
  • Petting your beloved pet.
  •  Exercise-walking/running creates bilateral stimulation which helps us process, dancing, jumping, shaking (anything that releases the stress response cycle).
  • Humming, rocking, singing, chanting.


  • Nutritious food is a must-grief zaps a lot out of us, so ensure you are feeding your body well during this time.
  • Depending on what sounds good, maybe it’s bland food, soup, smoothies, ensure, tea.
  • Maybe you need something spicey to help you feel more present.
  • Drink lots of water!
  • Chewing gum-peppermint, cinnamon, or fruit flavored.


  • What scents conjure up a sense of calm and peace? Or of power and energy?
  • Lavender, cinnamon.
  • Tea, hot coco, coffee.
  • Scented candle, oil diffuser.
  • Loved one’s perfume or cologne.
  • Delicious family recipe.
  • Scents of nature: cut grass, smell after the rain.


6th sense

  • Spiritual practices, religious services.
  • Going to a psychic or medium.
  • Tarot Cards.
  • Listening to our knowing and feeling our loved one’s presence.


Additional tools

  • Deep, rhythmic, belly breathing. When we are activated it’s normal to shallow breathe, we’re again getting prepared to fight, flight, freeze or fawn.  We need to practice deep breathing every day so it can become a muscle memory.  My favorite one is called “5 and 7.”  Take a deep belly breath, inhaling for the count of five, hold for the word and, exhale for the count of 7.  Breathe from your abdomen, not your chest.  Repeat, this time close your eyes while breathing/counting and then repeat for the last time while you imagine where your happy place is.  A happy place is a place where you may have been before, it could be a place you long to go, it could be in nature, or it could be in a cozy, beloved home.  One thing, have it somewhere you are alone, you may want your beloved to be there with you and even though they have represented happiness in the past, your grief may spill into the happy place, and we want to reserve it solely for you and you alone.  Practice 5 and 7 at least 3x a day (so a total of 9 deep breathes per day).
  • Carry an object that can act as an anchor. This may be an artifact from your beloved, or it could be something unrelated to them, that when in your hand, or in your pocket you can always get a sense of grounded-ness and strength.
  • Produce a mantra, for example “I am safe, I am ok, it’s ok to be sad it means that I deeply love _______, I can do hard things, I am getting through this, I deserve love and care.” Pay attention to your thoughts.  Grief seizures typically get triggered suddenly, but they get more intense based on our thoughts.  When you find yourself catastrophizing or future jumping (“I’ll never get over this, I can’t go on with my life”), that’s your cue to lovingly bring yourself back to the present moment and use one of your above mantras.
  • If you feel ungrounded name out loud 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

Many of life’s bumps and bruises can be attended to at home.  Cut finger? Band aid.  Sunburn? Aloe.  Headache? Tylenol.  Sprained ankle? Ace bandage.

So can your grief.  Broken heart? Place both hands on your heart as you slowly and rhythmically breathe reciting one of the above mantras.  Nauseous from the thought of never seeing your loved one again on earth? Drink some peppermint tea and let the warmth of the cup melt into your hands and tummy.  Think that life is just so damn ugly? Go immerse yourself into something beautiful. 

Write down your 6 senses and under each category create ways you can bring relief, regulation, and calm into your body.  The best part about this, you can't leave home without your body, it is partnering with you to grieve well and is literally rooting for you.  Our bodies were designed to heal, they are nothing short of incredible.

My hope is you get a moment of relief, even if it's just one tiny moment, I’ll take it.  We’ll begin to collect these moments like fireflies in a jar.  When gathered together, they burn bright and help guide us on our way.


Learn how to GRIEVE & LOVE WELL!

Watch this 15-minute video where I teach you how.

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