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If only grief had a road map: March "Mental Health Memo"

About the Author: Whitney Schroeder is the Adolescent Occupational Therapist at HSC. Providing individual OT services group programing including grief group.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could tell Siri to pull up the quickest route out of grief? Avoiding all major roadblocks, intersections, and traffic. To be able to have a smooth ride and hear her soothing voice say, “you have arrived.” Unfortunately, Siri isn’t equipped for this. Sometimes I think we feel the same way, unequipped for the journey that is grief. There are times we don’t even realize the ways grief affects areas of our daily life.


As an occupational therapist being able to provide insight into areas of living that have been affected by grief, both emotionally and physically. Often individuals find their sleep patterns, eating habits, temperament, and interests have changed. 


A common question that is asked is “Will I always feel this way?” The answer to that question is not simple. Grief was once explained to me like this. If you were to draw a square, then draw a circle inside that square, the circle is your grief and the square represents your everyday life, your feelings, and your pain. At first the circle is big, and it feels like it is always touching the square. Over time the circle begins to become smaller but can still roll its way to the edge of the square knocking us off the course we thought we had found.


We have a picture of our grief - a road that is not clearly laid out. But how do we keep living while simultaneously trying to navigate it? The key is to start by acknowledging your grief little by little. It can feel like an impossible road to travel. If there could be any good news with grief, it is that you are not alone. Although each grief journey is unique, crossing paths with another person that is trying to navigate the journey often gives those who grieve hope.


No, Siri is not equipped to pull up the direct route through grief. But you are. Will the journey have peaks and valleys? Of course. I encourage you to reflect on your grief and see how it has affected your daily life. Take the steps to start your grief journey. You are the designer of this journey. Small consistent steps equate to big changes, don’t be overwhelmed; just start.


  • Some practical daily ideas to start designing your grief road map include taking inventory of your daily routine. Have you had major changes in your sleeping and eating patterns?
  • Do you need to consult professional help? Due to the complexity that comes with grief, getting professional help is a great place to start. Other options include joining a grief group and engaging in activities that provide you healthy ways to cope.
  • When the journey allows, remember the way your loved one lived their life. Write down memories, cook recipes that remind you of them, look at pictures, or tell stories about them to others.

By starting the journey down the road called grief, you are taking steps towards healing and possibly providing encouragement and hope for others.

For information about available resource options, visit dss.sd.gov and click on the Behavioral Health tab. You can also visit 605Strong.com or dial 211 to reach the 211 Helpline Center.