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Overcoming Inertia

Inertia is a term I use to talk about a grief fatigue, of mostly being unable to find the physical and/or mental/emotional energy or strength to do things. 

Inertia: An object at rest tends to remain at rest!

Overcoming the inertia:It rarely or only slowly just happens on its own, we usually have to work at it to get to see significant change…

waves of grief

Structure to help us return to functionality: 

Routines and Rituals: Establishing structure with linear patterns.  

A routine is something you do the same way, usually in the same order, time after time, to accomplish the same outcome. If you need to, it’s a way to build your life back to functionality one task at a time, one routine at a time, until you are able to function, mostly without inertia stopping you, through the entire day.

A ritual is the mental/emotional/spiritual equivalent of a routine. It’s the thoughts and feelings you repeat in the same way each day or every time the same situation occurs.

Routines and rituals are useful ways to find our way through the fog and disorientation of our grief, especially in the early part of our journeys.

Once you make a routine or ritual happen, you can use the same thoughts, actions and energy on each thing that comes up. Eventually, if you need to, you can establish routines and rituals to guide you through every part of your days. You can replace your inertia and the old patterns of your life with new patterns; the routines and rituals that you create and that become your way of getting through each day and each task that comes before you.

At some point later in your journey, (different for each of us) you probably won’t have to so carefully and completely lay out every detail of the path first. You can be more “improvisational” about your life if you want to be once you know you won’t slip back into inertia and debilitating grief.

Can you think of some examples of routines or rituals?

Using guide words or phrases to help build routines or rituals:

Using guide words, making lists and/or putting tasks on a calendar are good ways to began to create routines and rituals. Using specific words or phrases that you can repeat over and over like a mantra can help you to focus on things you want to accomplish and to build habit patterns of routines and rituals in your mind and your actions. All of these can also be done as “I am” types of statements like, I am hope and healing!

Some simple example of guide words are: I will…, I won’t…, ie. I will be kind, I will make breakfast, I will clean the house. I won’t sit on the couch all day and eat junk food. I won’t get angry at things people say. I won’t have just one more drink. I will go out to dinner alone! I will learn how to go to the grocery store without crying. I won’t hid from my grief. Some others I thought or heard about: I’m ok. Fake it ‘till you make it. I will learn to surrender to my grief. I will learn to stand, be strong and live again. The grief is the healing. The path to healing leads through my grief. I am not my grief, I am grieving.

Can you think of some more examples?

Getting out and doing stuff:

Another way to work through the inertia is to actually get out and do things, alone if you feel comfortable with that or in small groups of friends or family or people from this support group. When you feel able to, spending time actively engaged in life, even if its only for a few hours each day or even each week, is a strong and effective way to begin the process of moving forward and stepping outside your grief. It’s a time when you are not actively grieving and when you are giving yourself a break from the intensity and inertia that constantly grieving can bring. 

This is not the same as the idea of “hiding from your grief”. This is an active attempt to begin the process of living again while still acknowledging your grief. In that way, it can definitely be a positive part of the reconstruction process.

Journaling: Chronicling our thoughts and our days, writing letters to our loved ones; things we still want to say or new things we want to tell them now!

Journals can be a private place to explore your thoughts and feelings. They allow you to express things you don’t want to share with anyone else but that you need to work on and find your way through as you navigate your grief journey. They can be a way to get thoughts out of your mind when you no longer have someone physically there with you to share them with. They can also help you establish and build routines and rituals.

Journals can be hand written in a book or as a computer file, or whatever you are comfortable with. Since no one will see what you wrote, they don’t have to be edited either. You can just write as it comes to you and not worry about grammar or punctuation! It’s just another way to share your journey.

Journaling at the end of the day can be a very healing tool.  It allows you to write about and perhaps tell your loved ones about your day, about your feelings, about things you learned and thought and is always a place to express memories. It can help you to remember things and help you get thoughts outside of your mind. If mornings are a better time for you, that’s fine too.

Writing has the potential to help validate those thoughts but also to release them from building up inside and clogging your mind and emotions with the often very heavy and ponderous thoughts and feelings that grief brings us each day.

Journaling also allows us to write not only for and to ourselves, it’s a place and a way to express thoughts and feelings we might want to share with our loved ones. We can write as if we are “talking” to them and as if they can “hear” what we write. We can also write them as a letter to our loved ones. However we chose to do it, it can be helpful and healing to let these thoughts and feelings move outside of our minds and take on the tangible reality of being readable on paper or a computer screen.

Some other ideas for learning new things to do and occupy and engage our minds and our time: 

Taking a class, finding a sport, starting a collection, volunteering, learning to cook or to cook new things, gardening, taking on a project, learning to play an instrument and/or sing, learn a craft or art technique, dancing, investigating yoga and meditation, re-engaging with old hobbies from our past, traveling…. Can you think of others?

Habits of grieving:

Grieving isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but over time, we can actually fall into habits of grieving as we do with any other repetitive task or way of thinking. 

In our grief and the inertia it brings, there are patterns of thinking and behavior that can easily repeat themselves day after day. As with anything repetitive, they can become habits of action (or inaction), thought or feeling that can take on a life of their own and keep us locked into those patterns so that changing becomes ever more difficult. 

In many ways it is easier to see (and break) the material habits we build. It is often (much) more difficult to even recognize the mental and emotional habits we fall into, often without realizing it. Breaking those emotional habits can become ever more difficult the longer we go before we address them.

By eventually breaking into those habits, by building routines and rituals that are outside of our grief or by beginning to engage in life again, we can learn to break out of our grief habits into more healing thoughts and ways of spending at least parts of our days and nights.

As an example of grief habits, watching movies for hours each day, day after day, because we can’t find the energy to do anything more active might be a simple example of how this might manifest in our physical lives, especially if it goes on for a long time to the exclusion of much else. Repeating “I can’t” types of thoughts every day or many times a day, or repeating thoughts like “I hate my life” or “I didn’t want this”, are examples of mental/emotional grief habits. 

I think that it’s important, as our journey progresses, to periodically examine our actions and thoughts if we can. If they appear habitual and repetitive and fairly non-productive or even destructive and they are beyond healthy routines, if they go on and on and resist our efforts to change them, it would be good to try and make a greater effort to recognize and break out of them. It might be good now and again to pull the wheels of our lives out of those well-worn tracks and into new pathways of healing and growing and moving forward. 

In time, moving forward, growing, being positive and active, and not grieving all the time can become (good) habits that we can take with us into how we create and live the next part of our lives. In time, it can become the other part of inertia: an object in motion tends to remain in motion!

Since grief arises out of love, and since love is normal, maybe so is grief. Maybe grief is something we need to go through, something we need to acknowledge and embrace even though it’s painful. Maybe grief is even healthy in a sense. Maybe “the grief is the healing!” (Eleanor Haley, Litsa Williams:

  • Have you done anything specific to fight the inertia?

Gradually, we can come to see and experience our grief transform into healing and wellness and through our grief we can open the door to the next part of our lives and to functionality beyond the pain. We can embrace our memories and our love and still allow ourselves to go forward. 

People have been doing this for all of human history, so we can too!


  • Can you think of ways to overcome the inertia if you are feeling it?
  • What might you do going forward to keep the inertia from stopping your healing and growth?
  • Would establishing routines help to overcome the inertia?
  • Would or does making lists and writing on calendars help?
  • Do you think that establishing a routine would (or does) help you to move forward?
  • How can you establish a routine? 
  • Can you think of any words or phrases that might help you to build routines?
  • Can rituals help us keep a connection with our loved ones and perhaps some continuity in our lives?
  • If you have created them, what are some examples of routines or rituals in your life that you have established to help you?
  • What parts of your journey might be helped by creating a routine or ritual?
  • Do you think you need to be “proactive” in approaching the building of the next part of your life? How might you do that?
  • Do you keep a journal? Why or why not?
  • Have you begun any new activities and things to occupy yourself?
  • What would it take to break out of your inertia and begin to do new things?
  • What have you always wanted to do that you may not have had time to do in the past? 
  • Could you find a way to do that now?
  • Do you feel you have established any habits of grieving in your life? 
  • How might you work to break them?
  • What might you replace them with?