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The Relearning Blog

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the exposed therapist
navigating change
emotional stuff
the self

I decided to write on this particular topic as I have recently experienced the greatest loss of my life. I am grieving the loss of my sister. My person. She transitioned in December 2022. She fought Leukemia (AML) and lung GVHD (graft vs host disease she developed in her lungs from her stem cell transplant). If I were to write she lost her battle to cancer, I’m pretty sure she would deliver me a cosmic pinch on my arm.

As a mental health practitioner and may I remind myself and you, a human first, we are so often challenged with having (yes, the “I should” because I am a therapist) to practice “healthy” coping, implementing self care techniques and “doing the work” as I often share with my clients. However, as a human, when you are faced with these human challenges, all this shit often goes out the window.  Sometimes in order to merely survive we dive headfirst into isolation, numbing and avoidance, anything to prevent feeling the unsurmountable pain, both physical and emotional. 

Here are some of the ways I am experiencing and navigating with my grief and loss. Some of these reminders and choices may also help you navigate yours. Is it possible to cope and continue to live with and through your grief & loss. 

Some of the things you may experience after the loss of your loved one:


Overwhelm with all the “feels” 

Grief fog  

Loss of appetite or increase in appetite.

Inability to be around people (those you love, maybe?)

Difficulty sleeping


Depression (extreme sadness)

Isolating yourself

Consuming yourself with your lost loved one 

This is not an exhaustive list of the symptoms you may experience. All the symptoms you experience are normal after losing someone you love. 

When you are ready to heal and take steps forward in healing, these are some tips that may help you:  No one knows the best way to heal but you!

Grieve in your own way. That is the only way.

I talk to my sister and hear her what her response would be and feel her presence. I incorporate her into my life in any which way I can (yesterday I made Shepards pie. It’s not my favorite but it is hers). And it’s ok. However, it feels isolating and most days I feel a little, a lot crazy.

I am learning to accept that no two people will grieve the same way. Sometimes it’s easy to feel guilty, angry and isolated when you don’t grieve in a certain way or the way people around you, or the world wants you to grieve. Let go of the guilt when you are ready, it will not help you heal and allow yourself permission to grieve exactly the way you need to in the moment. It’s ok.

Self care. Even when you’d rather not.

Grief engulfs every aspect of your life, it is a full body and mind experience and can be entirely debilitating and so confusing. The last thing I wanted (want to do some days) is get out of bed, exercise, at times I did not want to allow myself any opportunity to experience joy and moments of happiness. Guilt can be very loud sometimes, and you wonder why and what’s the point of taking care of myself? And you do it anyway.  Only you know what your capacity is, what you can and can not handle.

Here are some of the ways that I have been able to take care of myself. You may be able to resonate with some and try:

Spending lots of time in nature

Going to the lake at my sister’s (your loved ones) favorite spot (if possible, of course)

Exercising (this means movement of body)

Nourishing my body with healthy meals and drinking lots of water

Breathwork, Somatic exercises (this may not feel safe for everyone) Meditation.

Painting, cross stitch



Working less (saying ‘No’)

Zoning out, into my grief binge watching television (yes this is ok)

Practicing non-judgment and self compassion when I turn to alcohol or substances to numb the pain.

Reaching out for support from those who know what’s up. 

The exact dates and time frame is unclear however not long after my sister transitioned, I joined the Princess Margaret Hospital support group for bereaved family members at Wellspring. It was the start of feeling less isolated and enabled me to understand and fully accept that not everyone grieves the same. There were family members with unresolved anger towards their loved ones, denial (I was in this group) and still with courage and vulnerability we were able to share, feel seen and heard in the most difficult time.  Along with the support group I continued with my individual therapy sessions with my therapist (yes, every therapist should have a therapist!) and have had many conversations and continue to do so with those that have also lost loved ones. There is a comfort and ease when you know they get it. You don’t have to say much at all, and this means everything.

Surround yourself with people you love and love you. When you want to.

It’s not always easy to do. Most often being around people you love and creating new memories is a bittersweet and sometimes a painful experience, a reminder that your loved one is not here anymore. So, surround yourself with people you love when you want to because although your loved one is not here in physical form, there are others around who do love you and love for you to be around in any emotional state you’re in. Just as you are. Shifting your mind to what you still have and to want to create for your life and future is necessary in your healing journey.

Keeping memories alive and celebrating the life of your loved one

I think I’ve made it somewhat of a mission of mine to ensure that my sister is remembered and celebrated. We had a weeklong celebration for her where we released her ashes on her birthday in Jamaica as per her wishes. We are fortunate that we were able to grant her this wish. I have built strong connections with some of her dearest friends, and they share their memories of my sister. Together we are keeping her memory alive through the tears and the laughter.  There are photos of her in my home, some of her belongings that are the dearest to me and my family. Her clothes are still in her closet at my parents home. Periodically we step in and smell her clothes. Talk to her in her childhood bedroom and feel maybe a little closer to her. Beautiful paintings that she painted during her last two years on earth are placed all over the home. She is remembered, missed, loved and celebrated every day. 

You can keep memories of your loved ones alive. Creating an album, memory journal, recordings of your thoughts are some other ways you can do this for yourself and share with family and friends if it feels right for you.

Leaning into your faith and spiritual beliefs

I am a Buddhist by practice and what I mean by that is I chant/pray and create clear determinations daily for my life, the one I wish to create for myself. It is also the time (well one of many times throughout the day) in which I connect and feel closer to my loved ones that have transitioned. It is when I have conversations with my sister and wish her love and light in her continued journey. It’s what allows me to have hope in my healing journey and connectivity to all things within me and around me. It is my grounding. My anchor.

If you have religious or spiritual belief lean into this part of you for support and guidance through your grief and your healing.

Trust in time

My clients hear me say this, A LOT. Trust in timing or to be more accurate, “I trust in timing”. Time does heal. Maybe not entirely heal but what I am experiencing is that there are moments when the grief feels lighter and a little more manageable. I haven’t experienced this consistently though. Grief is not linear, sometimes we feel like we are doing quite well and managing and then the next moment, day or week we are feeling the intense loss and fall into the depths of our sadness all over again. I wake up some days with the thought of, “is this true?”, “Oh no she’s really not here”. With time however, these periods in between feel more spread out. 

Take time to heal, do not rush your process and be kind and gentle with yourself. You can do this and you are not alone. Your brain is trying to make sense of a new reality without your loved one in it the way they used to be. You are relearning to live essentially with loss, building a new life around your grief, hence time is an essential component in your process.

Try to take good care of yourself (when you can) & Breathe.

This blog is dedicated to my sister & soulmate Janki Patel. Her last words in her eulogy she left for us… 

You are strong. You are brave. You are loved. And you are enough just the way you are. All is well. Until we meet again.

Authored: Kavita Patel Co-founder of Relearning Human

For support, connect with our Relearning Human therapists.

Grief: Navigating Loss When Your Mind Feels Fucked

The Exposed Therapist