My Grief Care

Foundations Of Grief

14 Episodes

Episode 13 : Permissions for Grievers


Episode Notes The Griever's Permission List

Permissions for Grievers

Preconceived notions about how we should behave when we are grieving can sometimes get in the way of the healing process. If we feel one thing and then react in a way that doesn’t match up with our feelings, we are, in a way, denying the truth of the situation. We’re pretending. And that’s a problem. Because authentically dealing with our grief is the only way to get through grieving. Denying what we know is the truth will always work against us – not for us.

Have you noticed that people often say, “I’m sorry,” when they begin to cry in another person’s presence? They’re sorry because they’d prefer to keep their tears to themselves. And they know that other people are sometimes very uncomfortable with someone else’s tears because most people don’t know what to do or say in response to crying. But what happens when a crying person is permitted to cry? They will generally let the tears flow. They will often visibly relax after receiving permission to cry because their thoughts, feelings and behaviors are now synchronized.

Some of us have been around long enough to remember the 1963 hit song, It’s My Party, sung by Leslie Gore. The song’s key lyrics are “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” and  “You would cry too if it happened to you.” The story being told within the song is about a young woman throwing a party, and the man she is in love with shows up with another woman on his arm. The song is essentially about a woman giving herself permission to be authentic in the face of embarrassment and heartbreak.  This woman’s self-esteem is strong enough to say – “to heck with tradition – I can cry at my party if I want to!” She’s defending her behavior and permitting herself to be real.

We’d like YOU to consider giving yourself “permission” to behave in a way that matches the difficult emotions you are experiencing as you mourn your loved one. If your feelings bring tears – then don’t try so hard to hold back those tears. If you push yourself to attend a social event, but after you arrive, you find yourself overcome with sadness, allow yourself to leave.

Why is this important? Because holding emotions inside, pretending to be OK when we aren’t OK, suffering through situations wearing a fake smile as we pretend to enjoy ourselves works against the grieving process. Grief delayed means healing delayed.

So, we’ve put together an exercise for you. The idea is to look at our list of possible “permissions” you can give yourself in advance of real-life situations. That way, you can be prepared to free yourself from false societal expectations and enhance your ability to heal. We’d like to read the list for you right now. Then you can print out the exercise and walk through it yourself.

We call it My Grief Permission List. It starts with:

“I give myself permission to say, do or think any and all of the following as I seek to understand grief, to heal from my deep loss, and to eventually embrace living a new chapter in my life story:”

  1. Cry wherever and whenever the tears decide to come and not say, “I’m sorry.”
  2. Politely decline invitations to social events/activities if I decide that I am not yet ready.
  3. Spend more time alone, if that is what feels best to me at the moment.
  4. Be honest about my emotions, even if others might be uncomfortable.
  5. Allow myself to rest more than usual.
  6. Spend time doing nothing when that feels right and necessary.
  7. Cancel plans when I just need to sit with my thoughts and feelings.
  8. Accept and ask for help from others and not let pride get in my way.
  9. Keep my loved one’s possessions as long as I want.
  10. Not act as though I am strong when I feel weak.
  11. Politely decline unrequested advice and awkward, hurtful statements.
  12. Give myself a lot of grace when I can’t meet my own performance standards 
  13. Allow myself to laugh and be lighthearted when those thoughts and feelings come.
  14. Say or write whatever comes to mind regarding my lost loved one and not question myself.
  15. Invite others to talk about my lost loved one (or the opposite), depending on how I feel.
  16. Feel angry or disillusioned and question my faith or beliefs.
  17. Adjust to, and heal from, my loss at my own pace. 
  18. Take personal breaks from my mourning if and when I sense a need for normalcy.

We just shared 18 possible permissions to give yourself the freedom to grieve in a more authentic “true to yourself” way. We encourage you to spend time with these and decide which of the permissions are right for you. The full list is available to print on our downloads section directly below this video and it even has a place for you to check off the ones you need to give yourself permission for and sign and date it.  We think you should consider hanging it on your fridge or somewhere where you can see it.


  1. As you mourn your loss, you may feel pressured directly and indirectly to behave or speak in ways that are at odds with your emotions and thoughts at those times.
  2. When your sense of socially acceptable behaviors is at odds with your true thoughts and feelings – the conflict creates stress and may form the bad habit of stuffing your emotions.
  3. To align your feelings, thoughts and behaviors in a healthy way – you must permit yourself to tend to your needs appropriately in advance.


Please print out the “Permissions” Exercise for today and carefully follow the instructions. After you go through the permission list, be sure to thoughtfully answer the questions that follow.


“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Brene Brown