10 Ways to Set Intentions While Grieving


Perspective is everything. Perspective keeps you in check, sheds light on unseen features, and endeavors you to seek inspiration. Perspective also circumnavigates intention. But… grief has a way of robbing you of it and everything else in-between.

When grieving, perspective (and thus intention) becomes hard to maintain. It feels unwieldy, erratic, and painful. Perspective ends up transforming from being “the end in sight” to “there is no end in sight.” And because of that shift, setting intentions is no longer the thoughtful, personalized task it once was. So as I settled into a livable cadence with grief, it dawned on me that I wasn’t just grieving—I was depressed.

I’d experienced depression before and have had various diagnoses surrounding it since the age of 12. But this time around it was different. My usual tricks to evade its clutches simply didn’t work. For the first time in a long time I was stuck and that sensation alone was suffocating. So, as you can imagine, the notion of “keeping things in perspective” flew out the window. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, the experience itself and resulting impact was out of my control. I knew that I would and could eventually regain my sense of self, but in order to do that, I had to let myself linger just beyond the outskirts of what I felt to be my truest self.

I’d soon realize that was a pretty lonely task.

It took a few months of Self-Imposed Solitary Strategy for me to realize that it wasn’t working. Serendipitously, a chat with an old friend changed all of that. He and I commiserated over depression’s directionlessness and how frustrating it can feel to want to get off the couch, only to end up dissuaded or disheartened moments later. As in: I can have the best of intentions to do something, but, it might not always be rewarding at the start. From here my friend reminded me that intentions can be flexible—I simply have to get up, go, and let the wind take me a teensy bit. Even if I feel a little uneasy.

For me, it starts by sitting with that discomfort. I do my best to offset triggers and embrace the stillness, tears, and lack of motivation. And most of all I do my damndest to be kind to myself. It’s been hard to let go of expectations. I find myself asking: ”What is my “normal” now? What do I want to work toward? What feels good anymore?” I often feel overwhelmed by those questions. But I make a conscious effort to I step back, sit down, and ground myself however I can. Take a deep breath. Nothing requires an immediate answer. I don’t need fixing. I’m not broken—I’m just figuring out what grief and depression means to me relative to my sense of self.

(Reminder to self: That’s a big ole thing to figure out.)

I’ve also learned that I have to leave labels and timelines behind. I say that because labels or timelines come with expectations. And expectations for myself when grieving or depressed can further exacerbate the well I feel stuck in—because, what happens if I don’t succeed or simply don’t feel like doing it? I “fail.” Rather than set myself up for “failure” I created a list of reminders to help me keep my intentions and perspective in-line with my heart song. Note: this list may or may not work for everyone. Please be cognizant of that when reading.

  • Be kind to your mind, body, and soul—It’s easy to be your own worst enemy, but it’s harder to be your best friend. Remember to be your best friend.
  • Stay honest—With yourself and others about how you’re feeling. I found myself saying “I’m fine” a lot when I actually wasn’t. However, when I stopped saying that and told a friend how I really felt, it opened up a huge door for me.
  • Reach out—Grief and sadness are isolating. But you really, truly aren’t alone. I find myself often reaching out to friends and family to say “Hey, I just wanted to say I love you. That’s all.”
  • Know that not everyone will understand what you’re going through—I found that some folks have a hard time navigating other people’s grief. I get it, it’s tough. I had to make an effort to hear the love that people were trying to send me: not just the face value message.
  • Don’t hold time hostage—Take as much time as you need. Some people might give you a hard time about the personal quiet time you’re taking. But, trust me, time is on your side and you will still be you on the other side of all this.
  • Just try—As sage as Yoda might’ve been, he didn’t quite get it right when he said “do or do not. There is no try.” You can always try. Try running, then walking. Try talking, then being quiet. And so on. You get the point.
  • Set loosely defined intentions—You will change throughout this and your intentions will too. As you navigate loss, be sure to loosely define your expectations. Clarity can be helpful, but it can also be hurtful. Simply keep expectations to a minimum.
  • Establish boundaries—As I mentioned before, some folks won’t understand what you’re going through and they’re bound to cross some boundaries. It will take some time to understand what those boundaries are, but, you’ll know them when they pop up. And when they do be aware and make note of them for future reference.
  • Create safe spaces—Discomfort and sadness can pop up where you least expect it, so it’s important to create safe spaces at home or on the go. When I’m out and about, my car is my safe space. When I’m at home, the office or bedroom is my go-to spot.
  • Take as many breaks as you need—As you set your intentions, take as many breaks as you see fit. Whether they’re social media cleanses, time away from people, or a hiatus from alcohol consumption, take the time and space you need in order to feel like the best-ish version of yourself.
  • Remember your intentions—It’s easy to get lost in the muck and the mire. But remember why you set the intentions in the first place. From there you can decide if the intention works or doesn’t work for you anymore.

Image via Kate Pugsley


Monique Seitz-Davis is a writer, crazy plant lady, and snack aficionado based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. She runs uphill for fun and believes in magic.