Grief Independence

                                                           Grief Independence


You’ve recently lost your loved one and have embarked on a grief journey. The funeral is complete and, while it was a beautiful ceremony/celebration of life and gave you great stepping stones within your grief journey, you can’t help but wonder “What is life going to look like without him/her/them here?” As time goes on, you continue to feel stuck despite all the growth you’ve made. You’re finding your interactions with others look different and leave you feeling as though they only see you as someone who is grieving. You find this makes it difficult to rediscover who you are outside of your grief.


Imagine if you felt as though you were independent from your grief. Picture a life where you’re able to speak about your grief separate from who you are as an individual; recognizing grief as not who you are but rather an element of what has shaped you into the person you are today. What if I told you there is a tool you can begin to implement to work towards achieving grief independence? It’s true! It’s a tool called externalization. 


Externalization is a common narrative therapy approach that is used to help with a wide range of mental health battles, including grief. Externalization is the idea of making the symptom/disorder its own entity; removing it from the individual and making it its own thing. In doing this, it helps you separate yourself from the grief, changes how you talk about it and encourages others to view the relationship between you and the grief differently. It also allows you to develop a relationship with grief opposed to feel controlled or consumed by it. Are you wondering how you can begin to externalize your grief? We start by describing it: from its mannerisms, its sound, its appearance, etc. So, let’s dive into an exercise. 


To begin externalizing your grief, I’d like to invite you to explore the following question.  When you think of how you experience grief, how would you describe it?

  1. How does it look? What are its mannerisms? Does it have a sound?
  • For example, some clients have described a large cloud that hovers all the time; at times it’s lighter and other times it’s storming and they can’t see a few inches in front of them. Or maybe it shows up as a creature of some sort?
  1. When it’s present, how does it interact with you? Does it just hang out by your side all day like a shadow? Or is it more interactive?
  2. How do you respond when it’s present? 


Once you’ve explored these questions and have a clear image of what your grief looks like, you can begin to interact with it as you would any other person or thing separate from you; allowing you to reclaim your independence from the grief. 


If you’re wishing to go deeper into grief independence and/or the externalization exercise, give me a call (612-564-3852) or send me an email ( and we’ll chat about what the next best steps might be for you.


Here’s to living a better life as your best self. 

Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT

Grief Counselor 

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