While everyone will experience loss at some point in their lives — whether it’s the death of a family member, friend, or pet, a divorce, or job loss — the way they process and cope with their grief varies from person to person. Grief is a normal response and the emotional suffering you may feel following a loss. The emotions may range from anger to sadness to guilt to disbelief and can even take a negative toll on physical health. But by incorporating the healthy coping techniques that we include below, in time, you’ll be able to process your grief and find the motivation to keep going while still honoring your loved one.
Acknowledge Your Pain
In order to process your grief, you must first acknowledge it. It’s important to recognize that grief is highly personal and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed over what loss you are grieving. Be patient and give yourself time. There isn’t a “normal” amount of time or way to cope with a loss and you may find your process feels like a rollercoaster with highs and lows. Avoid comparing your grief to someone else’s.
Don’t ignore the loss you just experienced or your grief. It won’t make it go away but rather make it worse for you to manage in the long run. Give yourself time to intentionally grieve and understand your feelings. Prepare yourself for triggers, such as holidays, special dates, or activities that remind you of your loss. Hosting a gathering with friends during those days, reminiscing on your loss, or planning a new tradition to honor them can help you manage your grief.
While you may feel the need to put on a “strong” face and not cry to protect those around you, resist that urge. Reaching out for help or talking with others about your feelings can greatly benefit both of you. You won’t be “burdening” them with your grief or feelings. Those who love you want to be there for you and help you through it and they may need someone to talk to as well. Accept the help, whether that’s with planning funeral arrangements, a hot meal, or a shoulder to cry on and be that person for someone else when the time comes in the future.
If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to family or friends, consider joining a grief support group or speaking with a professional grief counselor. An experienced mental health professional will help you work through your intense feelings and provide strategies for coping after loss. A support group can be greatly beneficial as it will allow you to connect and seek guidance from a group of individuals going through similar situations. You may meet new connections who you can lean on through the grieving process and remain friends for years to come.
After a loss, it may feel difficult to do even the simplest of tasks such as shower, exercise, or cook, but you must properly take care of your physical health in order to heal your emotionally. Try to avoid under-eating or overeating and opt for healthy, non-processed meals that give your body the nutrients it needs.
Another important healthy routine often overlooked during the grieving process is sleep. For many, especially following the death of a spouse, falling asleep can be a difficult feat and lead to the mind flooding with painful emotions when it’s not occupied. Incorporate a healthy bedtime routine into your schedule to help encourage sleep. During the day, stay active through exercise. Physical activity has been proven to help regain energy, reduce stress, and feel better both physically and emotionally. Continue to participate in the hobbies and activities you’ve always loved doing. Don’t feel guilty about laughing with friends over a meal, travelling to places you’ve always wanted to see, or letting your creativity flow. Laughter is a great medicine and your loved one would want you to continue staying active and involved.
Recognize the Difference Between Grief and Depression
While coping with grief takes time and the process is unique to everyone, if the emotions don’t slowly begin to ease or if they worsen and impact your life, you may be suffering from complicated grief. If the loss has led to you feeling depressed or suffering from PTSD, you may need to seek professional help. If you’re feeling that your life is meaningless, have thoughts of suicide, remain in disbelief, or have a difficult time focusing, schedule an appointment with your mental health professional and learn more about our clinical trials to find out if it could help you.