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

Another manifestation of inertia, habits of grieving or habits of thought or action:

In our grief and the inertia it contains, there are patterns of thinking and behavior that can easily repeat themselves day after day. As with anything repetitive, they can become habits of grief, action, 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.

They may become ingrained in us over time until we may forget that they are products of our grief. We may also become locked in those patterns, feel like we are stuck and not progressing, and the inertia they contain can keep us from learning or growing. 

Examples of actions that may become grief habits, watching movies for hours each day, day after day, because we can’t find the energy to do anything more active, or not doing something, like finding reasons for not cooking dinner night after night, or finding reasons not to clean the house over and over, might be how this manifests in our physical lives. Repeating the same “I can’t” or “I won’t” types thoughts every day or many times a day is an example of a mental/emotional grief habit. 

I think it’s important, as our journey progresses, to periodically examine our actions and thoughts when 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, it would be good to try and make an effort to 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.

Finding ways to first identify the patterns and then finding ways to break them and substitute new and healing patterns is not easy but it’s something I think is worth figuring out and learning how to do.

Structure to help us break mental, emotional and physical patterns from our life with our loved ones if we want to and to break patterns we create during our grief through inertia, that we need to: 

Routines and Rituals: Establishing structure to create pathways to guide us forward or to replace old structures that are no longer effective or useful parts of our lives.

A routine is something you do the same way, usually in the same order, time after time, to accomplish the same outcome. It’s a positive pattern that you build into your life. It’s a way to restructure your life one task at a time, one routine at a time, until you are able to function with more focus and purpose. Creating routines can also be ways to begin to substitute new and healing patterns into your life if you need to. 

A ritual is the mental/emotional/spiritual equivalent of a routine. It’s the thoughts, emotions and feelings you repeat in the same way each day.

Once you create a routine or ritual, you can try to use the same thoughts, actions and energy each time you need to create another routine or ritual to help you through another situation. Eventually, if you need to, you can establish routines and rituals to guide you through every part of your day. 

You can use routines and rituals to help you overcome and move through your inertia. You can also use them to help you replace old patterns from your life with your loved ones, if you want to or need to, with new patterns that can become your way of approaching each day and each task that comes before you as you build the next part of your life.

Using guide words and phrases or intent statements to help build routines or rituals: 

Using guide words and phrases, making lists and/or putting tasks on a calendar are good ways to began to create routines and rituals. They are tools to help you to make sure you get everything that needs to be done accomplished each day. 

Using intent statements as part of the process is also a powerful way to make changes in our lives. Using specific guide words or phrases, (like an intent statement) that you can repeat over and over as a mantra, can help you to focus on things you want to accomplish or change. They can help you to build new patterns to guide and (re)structure your mind and your actions. If you want, you can use your intent statement to not only guide you but to also bring energy and focus to your changes and your life.

Some simple example 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 will fake it ‘till I make it. I will get out and walk every day, pay attention to your hands, I am not my grief I am grieving, your intent statement, or you can create whatever you want to use that helps you focus on the changes you wish to make.

Getting out and doing stuff:

Another way to work through the inertia is to get out and do things, alone if you feel comfortable with that or in small groups of friends or family. Walking, alone or with others is a great way to begin this process. Talking to your loved ones on the walk is also an interesting thing to try. (If you wear ear buds, no one will look at you funny as you talk. lol) 

When you feel able to, spending time actively engaged in life is a very positive thing to do. Even if its only for a few hours each day, it 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 a proactive attempt to begin the process of living again while still taking the time to acknowledge your grief. Used that way, it can be a positive part of the reconstruction process. 

As we talked about last time, its important to find an equilibrium between doing stuff all the time which may end up being more about hiding from your grief and the opposite, an almost reclusive, inactive period which is very strongly filled with inertia. 

I think that we are best served in our healing journeys by spending as much time working on our grief and experiencing it as we can, but we also need to find ways to build a healthy engagement with life into our journeys as well. 

The path to healing and wellness lies through our grief whether we like it or not and it is not an easy nor comfortable path to travel, but it’s one we have to take none-the-less, no matter how long it lasts. 

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 often painful. Maybe grief and grieving are even healthy in a sense.

Some ideas about how to overcome inertia to consider:

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

An important thing about journals is that they 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. Journals can be hand-written in a book or as a computer file, or what ever you are comfortable with. 

Since no one will see what you wrote, they don’t have to be edited. You can just write as it comes to you and not worry about grammar! Think about Zen journaling; you just let it happen without a lot of conscious control about what you write, you just let it come out and onto the page. 

You don’t have to read it either if you don’t want to, the important part is the writing, of getting the thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto the page. That’s how and when the healing happens. 

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

You can use your journal to help you work through your inertia as well. It is a good place to explore what you think is holding you in place and then to work on strategies to overcome that. I found it much easier and much more clear when I worked on it by writing about it then by keeping it all in my head. Especially in the early days when there was so much fog, I often couldn’t process or remember what I was thinking about for very long and so writing about it helped me stay much more focused and engaged in what I was trying to do.

Another positive aspect of journaling is that it 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 or finding things to do to overcome inertia and to occupy our minds, bodies and time: 

Re-engaging in old hobbies, doing things you always wanted to do but never had a chance to do, taking a class, learning a language, finding a sport, walking, hiking, going to the gym, yoga and meditation, mindfulness, Tai Chi, starting a collection, volunteering, learning to cook or to cook new things, gardening, taking on a project, the internet comfortably, learning to use your computer and teaching something you know or know how to do, learning to play an instrument and/or sing, others?

Moving forward:

By eventually breaking into our grief habits, by building routines and rituals that are outside of those habits and perhaps outside of our grief, by beginning to engage in life again, and by changing our mental dialog, we can begin to break out of our grief habits and the inertia they contain, into more healing thoughts and actions.

In time, moving forward, growing and not grieving all the time can also 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!

Gradually, we can come to see, experience and embrace our grief and then let it transform into healing and wellness. By traveling through our grief, by overcoming the inertia it contains, we can open the door to the next part of our life beyond the grief and the pain. We can embrace our memories and our love. We can honor what we are that is derived from the time we spent with our loved ones, and we can also 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 that inertia if you are feeling it?
  • Have you done anything specific to fight the inertia?
  • 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? 
  • Would you be willing to try to establish a routine to see how it works?
  • 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.
  • Do you think you need to be “proactive” in approaching the building of your “new” 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?