To compartmentalize is to separate something into smaller sections or categories in order to make it more manageable. When grieving, compartmentalizing can be a helpful tool to create space between your primary loss, (your loved one), and the innumerable and insurmountable secondary losses, (the loss of who that person was to you in your daily life and in the context of how you saw yourself: your parent, partner, friend, child…the person who oversaw the finances, the logistics of daily life, your emotional and/or financial security, the vision of your future dreams….). Loss can be overwhelming, complex, disorienting and at times paralyzing. There are so many intense emotions, thoughts, fears and tasks, still, to be taken care of. IT IS A LOT. Grieving is hard work. It consumes you, mind, body, and spirit…leaving you exhausted, depleted, and overwhelmed. There is little left over for the “have to’s”, yet, the “have to’s” remain.


To Compartmentalize:

Self Care: Just getting through the day feels like an accomplishment, and it is.

  • Give yourself the time and space to grieve, to feel, to be.
  • There is no timeline, no one way, no right way. Grieve as you must.
  • Say yes to what, and to whom, brings comfort.
  • Say no to what, and to whom, does not bring comfort.
  • Nurture yourself. Be patient, kind, and compassionate in your self-talk and in your grief narrative.
  • Engage your 5 senses in self care


Delegate: Give yourself permission to ask for and receive help, (not that knowing what you need in grief is always so clear or identifiable).

Friends and family:

  • Ask for/say yes to: help with carpools and activities for your children.
  • Ask for/say yes to: groceries and/or meals.
  • Ask for/say yes to: help with yardwork, pets, household chores and upkeep.
  • Ask for/say yes to: trusted people to serve as gatekeepers and point people for concerned family, friends, co workers.
  • Ask for/say yes to: trusted family and friends who can offer informed guidance through the tasks of grief, (legal, financial, etc.).
  • Ask for/say yes to: referrals to professionals who can help support you and your family in grief.


  • Seek emotional support and connection through a support group, therapist, or clergy.
  • Seek legal counsel from a trusts and estates attorney.
  • Seek counsel from a tax accountant to help with any issues involving inherited assets, (property, retirement accounts, inheritance…).

*Judy Martel wrote a helpful article on, 7 Tips for the Executor of an Estate,

When grieving compartmentalizing can be a helpful tool. There is so much, too much, all at once. Ask for, and say yes to, offers from trusted friends, family, and professionals to help support and guide you through the overwhelming and disorienting fog that is grief.