How to Handle the EXHAUSTION of Grief

Wayne lived out in the country. Walking into his house was like entering a cave. The curtains were drawn, the lights off.

Wayne sat in his recliner, staring at the wall. Neither of us said anything for several minutes.

Finally, Wayne began to shake. His face contorted as if in pain. His eyes were red from lack of sleep.

“I miss her so much,” he stammered.

Mary, Wayne’s wife of 45 years, passed of a sudden illness a few weeks prior. It hit him like a lightning bolt. He felt lost.

We took a walk. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and the fragrance of flowers was everywhere. Wayne talked about his childhood. He reminisced about meeting Mary and their courtship.

He smiled, laughed, and cried. He sat on a bench and looked up at the tree above his head, commenting on the new growth on the branches. Before long, he was snoring, out cold.

Loss can be swift and devastating, like a chasm opening beneath our feet. No warning. No way to prepare. Lives can change forever in an instant.

This leaves us stunned and like we’re partially paralyzed. Grief affects our whole being:

  • Grief is intense. Emotion surges forth, and our feelings are all over the place. It’s exhausting.
  • Grief isn’t smooth. It’s more like a roller-coaster, and that’s exhausting.
  • Grief isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon, and that’s exhausting.
  • Grief smacks us cognitively. Our mental capacity takes a hit. We forget and misplace things. That’s frustrating, and exhausting.  
  • Grief drastically impacts our decision-making. We don’t see things clearly right now. This can lead to further regrets, and that’s exhausting.  
  • Grief puts us on edge. We get easily irritated, and sometimes angry. Anger is draining and exhausting.  
  • Grief makes every little thing huge. Each task takes a terrific amount of energy. It’s exhausting.
  • Grief causes us to question things. This further upsets our world. That’s scary, and exhausting.
  • Grief forces us to remake the future. What we planned is no more. This requires a massive amount of energy. It’s exhausting.

Sorry for the repetition, but I’ve found that most of us don’t take grief seriously enough. It takes a huge toll of us. Grief is body-slamming, mind-numbing, heart-breaking, and soul-rattling. It’s exhausting.

It feels like we’re helpless and just along for the ride on this relentless, exhausting roller-coaster. There are a few things, however, we can do:

  • Breathe. Breathe deeply. Seriously. Stop. Take a moment, and breathe. Do this often, many times a day.
  • Be patient with yourself. This is exhausting. It should be.
  • Release the usual expectations of yourself. Everything has changed. To expect yourself to do the “usual” right now is grossly unrealistic. Pare back. Get more margin. Put more space into your routine.
  • Be very nice to yourself. You’ve taken a huge hit. Take care of you. Eat well, rest, and exercise.
  • Get around people who know grief. They can give you the perspective you need for this unwelcome journey.

Contrary to what you may feel, you’re not alone. We’re in this together. You’re not crazy, but grief can be. You’re going to make it, but it’s a bumpy road.

Worn out? How could you not be? This is exhausting.

Grief requires us to be patient with ourselves and others. Check out Gary's new book, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving. You can watch a brief video about it here. 

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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

I'm Grieving, Now What?