Grief Fatigue - When Exhaustion Becomes a Way of Life

"I'm tired all the time. I can barely put one foot in front of the other. Bruce is the same way. Exhaustion has become a way of life," Carla said. 

Carla and Bruce's sons Blake and Barrett were practically inseparable. Two years apart, they grew up as boys will - competing, fighting, cooperating, and having great adventures together. The family lived on a large piece of land out in the country, giving the boys lots of room to roam and explore. They loved their mini-kingdom. 

One Saturday, the boys were out riding their ATVs. Inattention led to a loss of control and they collided. Barrett was killed instantly. Blake died a day later in the hospital. They were 13 and 15.

"Life is heavy now. Last night at dinner, I was so exhausted that I could barely chew. Fatigue has taken over our lives," Carla shared. 


Grief takes incredible energy

Losing a loved one is like being hit by a bus. It immobilizes us. The shock waves are immense, and roll over us again and again, relentless and debilitating. Some days, we can barely lift our heads. 

Chronic fatigue, even exhaustion, is a common and natural experience for those in heavy grief. 

We wake in the morning and it smacks us again. They’re gone. The shock stuns us. We close our eyes and sigh.

We rise and attempt to do life. We drag from room to room, place to place, task to task. There is little to no heart in what we do. How could there be? Our heart is shattered and in a million pieces.  

We put on a mask and fake it through the day. Others are aware of our pain, but don't know what to do with it. Relationships become awkward, tentative, and different.

At work, we go through the motions. Our performance isn’t what it was. We're more irritable and erratic. We wonder what others are thinking.

Perhaps we have children. They might be grieving too. We can't handle ourselves right now, so how in the world do we love them through this? Our backs are broken. The thought of shouldering any more weight - even an ounce more - is terrifying. 

Numb. Dazed. Fatigued. Exhausted. Our bodies are feeling it. Grief is terribly draining. 

"Missing you is exhausting. I'll be patient and take my time."

Some suggestions:

Grief is incredibly demanding. Fatigue is the natural result. Here are some possible action steps to help manage this:

  • Make taking care of yourself a high priority. Focus on nutrition, rest, and exercise. Let these things rise to the top of your list. 
  • Downgrade your expectations of yourself. If you're a list person, limit each day to three things, and tackle them in the order of importance, not urgency. Most of us in grief have to "do less." Pace yourself.
  • Be patient with yourself. This isn’t a common cold that will resolve itself in a few days. Recovery often feels slow. Time doesn't heal all wounds, but healing does take time - lots of it. 

You may always grieve on some level, but the grief will change. Handle today, this hour, this moment. One moment, one baby step at a time.

Adapted from the newly release bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child. You can watch the Shattered videos here: Gary, Michelle


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About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at

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