What are some healthy ways to deal with grief?

Grief, an intensely personal and natural response to loss, is a journey that many of us will navigate at some point in our lives. Whether it's the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or any significant life change, the grieving process can be a difficult time filled with a myriad of emotions. Understanding healthy ways to cope with grief is crucial in not only honoring the person who died or what was lost but also in nurturing our own mental well-being.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Dec 15, 2023
3 min read
Grief and the LGBTQ+ Community: Unique Challenges and Support

Recognizing the Symptoms of Grief

Grief can manifest in various ways, with symptoms of grief ranging from sadness and anger to guilt and disbelief. Whether you’re grieving the death of a loved one or grappling with the anticipatory grief of an impending loss, recognizing these feelings as part of the stages of grief can help in validating your experience.

The stages of grief 

The stages of grief, as conceptualized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, form a framework that helps us understand the rollercoaster of emotions and reactions people often experience in the face of significant loss. Here’s a deeper look at each stage:

  • Denial: In this initial stage, denial acts as a temporary defense mechanism. The reality of the loss feels overwhelming, and denial helps cushion the immediate shock. It’s common for individuals to think, “This can’t be happening.” This stage is characterized by numbness and disbelief, providing emotional respite before the full impact of the loss sets in.
  • Anger: As the masking effects of denial start to fade, the painful reality emerges, often leading to anger. This anger might be directed towards others, the person who died, a higher power, or even oneself. It’s important to understand that this anger is a natural part of the grieving process, reflecting the pain of the loss.
  • Bargaining: During this stage, individuals might dwell on what could have been done differently to prevent the loss or mitigate its impact. Common thoughts include “If only…” and “What if…” This stage often involves a desperate attempt to regain control or to negotiate a way out of the hurt.
  • Depression: As the reality of the situation truly sets in, individuals may feel overwhelming sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty. This stage is often marked by tears, sleep issues, and a lack of interest in activities that once brought joy. It’s a period of preparation for the eventual acceptance of the loss.
  • Acceptance: This final stage is not about being okay with what happened. Rather, it’s about accepting the reality of the loss and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. There’s an understanding that life has to be restructured without the loved one or the lost aspect. In this stage, people start to look forward and live again, but they can never forget the loss.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Non-linear Process: These stages are not linear and may not happen in a specific order. People may move back and forth between stages, experience multiple stages at once, or not experience every stage.
  • Individual Experience: Everyone grieves differently. The stages are not a rigid framework but a guide to understanding common emotional responses to loss.
  • Duration Varies: There is no set timeline for grieving. Each person’s journey through these stages will be unique in length and intensity.
  • Not Just for Death: These stages can apply to various forms of loss, such as the loss of a job, a relationship, health, or any significant life change.

Understanding these stages can offer insight into the grieving process and provide solace in knowing that what one is experiencing is a natural and valid response to loss. However, it’s crucial to remember that grief is a personal journey, and allowing oneself the grace to experience it in one’s own way is vital for healing.

Seeking Professional Help

During such a difficult time, seeking professional help can be invaluable. A mental health professional can provide personalized guidance and support, helping you navigate the complexities of complicated grief. This is especially important if you find the pain of grief overwhelming or persistent, affecting your daily life.

The Role of Support Groups

Joining a grief support group can offer comfort and understanding from others who are experiencing similar emotions. These groups provide a safe space to share your feelings and learn from the experiences of others. They reinforce the idea that you’re not alone in your journey.

Coping Strategies for Grieving

  • Allow Yourself to Feel: Give yourself permission to experience grief in your own way. It’s a natural response to loss, and acknowledging your feelings is a crucial step in healing.
  • Share Your Feelings: Talking with family members or friends about your loss can provide emotional relief. Sharing memories of the person who died can be a healing experience.
  • Practice Self-Care: Engage in activities that feel good and foster well-being. Whether it’s reading, walking, or listening to music, prioritize activities that bring you comfort.
  • Create a Routine: Establishing a daily routine can provide a sense of normalcy during this tumultuous time.
  • Honour Your Loss: Find ways to honor the memory of the person who died. This could be through a memorial service, a personal ritual, or a creative expression like writing or art.
  • Plan for Triggering Moments: Anniversaries, holidays, and special events can reignite grief. Plan ahead on how to cope with these days.
  • Consider the Grief Works App: For immediate support, the Grief Works app offers resources and tools to help you understand and navigate your grief. It’s a convenient and accessible option, especially for those facing barriers to accessing counseling or therapy.
  • Explore Creative Outlets: Many find solace in creative expressions like painting, writing, or music. These activities can provide a therapeutic outlet for your emotions.
  • Focus on Physical Health: Physical activity, adequate sleep, and proper nutrition can significantly impact your mental health and help in coping with grief.
  • Remember, Grieving is Personal: There is no “right” way to grieve. Be gentle with yourself and allow the process to unfold in its own time.

Navigating the Future

While the pain of grief may never fully disappear, with time and the right support, it can become more manageable. Remember, experiencing grief is a testament to your capacity to love and care deeply. As you journey through this difficult time, be kind to yourself, seek support, and hold onto hope for healing and peace.

For those seeking immediate, accessible support in their grief journey, remember that resources like the Grief Works app and various support groups are available. You are not alone, and there are many paths to finding solace and strength in the face of loss.