Posted on

Today’s main topic looks at some ways of thinking that we may find in ourselves throughout our grief journeys. It also looks at what we might do to change or affect those thoughts and the patterns they create. 

Early in our grieving they can be fairly out of our control and we may just have to experience them as they happen for awhile. Later on, as things calm down, we may be able to learn some skills to begin to put them aside and find ways to work through them and resolve them. 


I call it looping when thoughts repeat and repeat in my mind and I can’t seem to break free of them, when I go around and around on the same idea without resolution and usually with little or no control. 

Recriminations are types of loops that we can have that are accusations, in this sense by ourselves to ourselves, for actions or thoughts or lack thereof in our past. Perhaps we might find ourselves looping real or imagined blame for something we did or didn’t do along the way.

There may be “good loops” too. (there may also be fruit Remembering a wonderful moment again and again (or a great bowl of cereal) to recapture the good feelings it brought us is something we can do as well. 

But no matter what they contain, what I call loops are just mostly out of control, repetitive thoughts and in the context of grief, they are often about the past…

Looping is something we all do from time to time, not only in our grief but throughout our lives. Loops can happen at any time during the day and in our grief, they may often come at night while we are trying to get to sleep or while we are trying to return to sleep if we wake during the night.

Loops can contain almost anything, but unfortunately, during our grief, things we feel strongly about from our past can and often do, disproportionately find their way into those loops. Especially things we may regret or wish could have gone differently, or things we wish we had said or not said or that our loved ones had said or not said, can become loops of thoughts that we replay time and time again.  

Loops may contain what if’s, they may be one sided conversations we would like to have or wish we would have or could have had. If we begin to loop them in our minds, the thoughts and conversations can repeat over and over without us being able to reach an end, or a conclusion, or a solution. 

What we loop about may actually be trying to tell us something we need to know. There may be a message to ourselves hidden or not so hidden in the loops. But somehow, if we aren’t able to find it, resolve it, or accept it if we do identify it, we continue to go around and around, again and again.

In our grief especially, since we are unable to change events in the past, when we think about them, we can find ourselves repeatedly going over the same ground and sometimes even mentally “beating ourselves up” trying to find some answer that will relieve, alter, or fix a situation in the past.

When what we loop is about something from the past however, it is important for us, when we are ready to do so, to learn to develop ways to find acceptance of what the loops contain and what they are trying to tell us.  As we can, it is important for us to learn to accept that they are not changeable or fixable and when we are ready, to learn to let them go. We may need to find ways to accept, that because they are in the past, they cannot be altered, and so we need to learn to move forward and stop trying to resolve the unresolvable. It might not be as easy as I make it sound!

So how do we do that? How do we break into the cycles? How do we stop the looping and let our minds move on to other things? Here are some ideas that people have shared that we might try. Let’s add to the list if you have other things that have worked for you that you can share.

  • Trying to understand what the loops contain.
  • If we need to, apologizing to ourselves and others for things within what we are looping. (More below)
  • If we need to, finding forgiveness for and acceptance of what the loops contain. (More below)
  • Recognizing that they are loops but realizing that we can also take control of them.
  • Doing the hard work of stopping or breaking out of them, whatever that looks like and whatever that takes. (It’s something I worked on for years!)
  • Breaking the circle by using mantras each time a loop begins. [ ie. I said what I said and I did what I did and there’s nothing I can do to change it ].
  • Perhaps turning on a book on tape or a movie and letting it take us out of the loop temporarily.
  • Talking to close friends and family who might offer suggestions on how to break into a looped thought.
  • Sharing the ideas and asking for suggestions at a Support Group meeting.
  • Being present (mindfulness) and learning to not dwell on or live in the past.
  • Understanding that the past is like a novel, it is in a book on a shelf and can’t be changed anymore, it has been captured in the book and parts of it cannot be removed or altered.
  • Hoping that with time, they will just fade away on their own…
  • Others?


In the end, we may just need to find forgiveness! For the types of loops we are talking about and the thoughts within them, it may help to learn to apologize, in our thoughts, to ourselves or to our loved ones, for what we perceive as our failings in the past. It may help to learn to believe that our loved ones can and will accept our apologies. It may help to learn to accept their apologies to us as well for things that they perhaps did or said that we can’t let go of. We may just need to say I’m sorry or let them say I’m sorry and let it be.

It may help to find ways to let our apologies and our forgiveness encompass most things in the past. It may help to learn to let go of those things we regret or wish we or they would have done or said differently. Maybe forgiveness can be a path to being able to let those things go and to allow us to break out of the loops they create.


And in response to asking for and receiving forgiveness for those things, can we change? Can we change and learn and grow so that we deserve that forgiveness? If we don’t or won’t change or even learn something about ourselves, and we keep repeating the behaviors we are asking forgiveness for, what are we really doing? Do we really deserve forgiveness? Will we truly find resolution if we don’t change?

Since we can’t change what or how we were in the past, can we learn to change ourselves now? Can we learn to become more like what our loved ones would have liked us to have been, especially in places where we were at odds, perhaps in places where we now see that they might have been right or known better that we resisted before. 

Can we change now, just because we want to and because it seems like a good thing, or the right thing to do? Can we change in the unresolved places where our loops take us and perhaps resolve things that way? Can we and will we then do the hard work to make the changes happen and actualize them?

Can we change things about ourselves now that we might regret having been in the past as a gift to our loved ones in their memory and in their honor? Can we do, or say, or be now, what we couldn’t then? Can we use our forgiveness to help us move forward, to help us to break out of the loops, and to help us build healing and wellness, as I believe our loved ones would want us to do?


  • Do you find yourself looping thoughts?
  • What do you call them when they happen to you?
  • What types of things do you get stuck thinking in circles about?
  • Do the loops create the ideas within them or do the ideas create the loops as we try to resolve them?
  • Have you found any ways to stop the loops and perhaps resolve the issues you are thinking about? 
  • Have you figured out ways to break the cycles and end the loops in your own thoughts? What have you learned that you can share?
  • How might you deal with thoughts or emotions of things that you regret from the past?
  • Have you begun to find forgiveness in your thoughts and emotions?
  • Can you find ways to forgive yourself for not being what you might have been, done or said in the past?
  • What does forgiveness look like when we have to do it for, by and to ourselves?
  • Can you become more? Can you learn ways to be better at the things you regret and loop about?
  • Are you willing to change? Are you willing to look hard at yourself and do what it takes to become a better person, especially in ways that honor your loved ones? 
  • Are you willing to use your grief to try to become more?