How to Fall Apart

In my post The Right to Fall Apart, I wrote about the Griever’s right to express emotions when needed. The trouble with falling apart is that we have to attend to our lives at the same time. We have jobs, school, and/or families to deal with. Real Life intrudes on our need to crumble; therefore, we need to remember two things:

  1. As strange as it sounds, falling apart should be a productive experience, one that helps move you forward in your healing each time.
  2. You have to develop ways to fall apart gracefully while engaging in daily life.

Grief doesn’t wait for your workday to be over and Real Life doesn’t pause so you can deal with an emotional swell. The two, Grief and Real Life, coexist such that we are living Grief IN Real Life.



If you are falling apart, use this centering thought to focus your experience:

I release my emotions so that I may shed negative feelings and gather strength to move my healing forward.



  1. Take a bathroom break, especially if you need to cry (not howl cry, but just cry). Don’t go to the closest bathroom to you; go to one farther away if you can. Let the extra walk be part of the journey: it will give you time to compose yourself afterward. Moreover, you may be less likely to run into someone you work directly with, as these people may want to stop and chat when you really just want to be alone for a few minutes. As gross as it sounds, shutting yourself in a stall where you can let the tears fall may be the closest thing you get to being alone during your workday.
  2. Block 15 minutes out of your schedule: make sure you are completely unavailable for calls, appointments, and people stopping by. Shut your office door and cry or just let yourself feel sadness. If you have an office with interior windows and blinds, pull them shut. Don’t answer your door or your phone. Don’t use this time to check email or text message. This is purely time for you to sit and let things out.
  3. If you don’t have an office (or blinds for your office) block at least 15 minutes out of your schedule and take a walk. Ideally, if you can walk outside where you are less likely to run into someone, walk in your parking lot or around your building. Try not to do this on a lunch break when there might be more people around.
  4. Use your lunch break thoughtfully. Take a long walk away from your building and let yourself be sad or cry, or take lunch in a secluded place where you can sit by yourself and let the feelings come. Wear sunglasses so that if you do pass people, you can achieve a small sense of privacy. It sounds silly, but that barrier can be helpful.

AT SCHOOL: If you are in high school or college, you may have very little time to yourself, but here are some thoughts for you to find a way to fall apart.

  1. Find an empty classroom or room that you know goes unused for part of the day. Sit for 15 minutes and either cry or just let yourself be sad. Maybe write in a journal. Don’t use the time to play on social media sites: this distracts from the purpose of the alone time. The library may provide helpful nooks and crannies where you can seclude yourself away for a brief time. If you are in high school, ask a trusted teacher if you use her/his classroom between classes. In both high school and college, auditoriums can be good spaces: they are relatively large and are not in use regularly.
  2. Take a long walk during lunch and/or have your lunch in a room or space that not many people frequent at that time of day. Wear sunglasses to help shield your private moment from public view, especially if you are feeling teary.
  3. If you are in college (or boarding school), I highly suggest you vacate your dorm room so that you get yourself moving and do not make your bedroom a sadness center. It may then become more difficult to leave the room (or your bed) if you limit your sad times to that one space.


  1. Ask a close friend (at work or at school) or family member for a hug. When you are falling apart, it helps to have a feeling of love. Human contact is important when you are upset and hugs, while seemingly basic, pack a huge emotional punch. Don’t be afraid to ask for one. You aren’t the only one who will benefit from a hug. You don’t have to tell your friend/family why you want a hug; just ask. If you feel awkward about asking, just initiate the hug yourself, no reason given.
  2. Be honest with your Grief Supporters, especially if you are surrounded by people all day. Tell them you are having a bad/quiet/whatever day and therefore need more space.
  3. Distance yourself from Grief Supporters who create more stress for you on bad days. You can (mostly) avoid people for one day without explanation, and rejoin them the next. Just tell them you were busy with work/school/post-funeral stuff/kids/etc. if you feel they may judge you for having a bad day.
  4. Journal your sadness or use another medium to express your sadness creatively: paint, draw, write bad poetry, whatever. The purpose is not to create a masterpiece, but to channel your feelings into a positive direction.
  5. Watch a sad movie or TV show. You know there are guaranteed tearjerkers out there. Maybe you even have a favorite in your collection that you can use. Throw one on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc. and have a good cry. You can invite a friend if you’d like. If other people are around, you can cry without having to explain that you’re having a bad day. Blame it on the film.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful. If you have others that have worked in your experience, share them in the comments or send them to me so I can share them with others.



Published by ancarroll

Alexandra N. Carroll is an author, grief advocate, crafter, mother, and partner. She writes on grief and self-care from her home in Vermont. Her forthcoming book concerns how to untangle life-after-loss through the creation of a strong self-care plan.

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