Helpful Ways to Cope with Grief and Loss During Hard Times
Millions of people are dealing with loss right now.
During the health crisis, some have lost their jobs. Others have lost someone close to them.
Perhaps your life has been negatively impacted during the stay-at-home season. Identifying and processing your feelings can help you cope with a personal, relational, or financial tragedy.
If you’re dealing with a loss, there are steps you can take to begin the healing process. The first is to identify which stage of grief you’re in and what that means.
The Stages of Grief
Grief leaves a lasting imprint on the brain and can cause many physical and mental problems. It can make people feel sad, moody, unfocused, edgy, or irritable. It can even cause sleep issues.
Although models vary, many counselors follow the 5 Stages of Grief (Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle) to help their patients. The 5 Stages are:
- Denial – This is typically the first stage (some quickly proceed to Anger). When faced with an unexpected or tragic situation, many people resist the facts or enter a state of disbelief.
- Anger – As the reality of the situation sets in, many people become outraged and may even start to blame others. This is especially true when an avoidable or senseless tragedy has occurred.
- Bargaining – When people feel helpless and vulnerable, they may try to regain control with “If only” statements like, “If only we’d gotten that second opinion.”
- Depression – Depression may manifest itself as mourning, sadness, regret, helplessness, or hopelessness.
- Acceptance – People who arrive at this stage have come to terms with what happened and are trying to figure out how to move forward with their lives. Some reach this stage only after extreme effort. Sadly, some never fully reach this stage.
If you’re in the process of grieving, working through this cycle can be a huge help. Here are 6 additional strategies for how to deal with loss and recover from grief…
6 Helpful Ways to Cope with Grief and Loss
1. Don’t Avoid Your Feelings
A healthy way to deal with grief is to allow yourself to express painful emotions. In a private place, let out your feelings: cry, pound pillows, and even scream if necessary.
Avoiding painful thoughts, feelings, and memories can do more harm than good in the long run. Research has shown that avoidance increases the likelihood of a host of psychological issues that can lead to mood problems, binge eating, persistent pain, low academic performance, and more.
2. Write It Down
Suppressing your feelings (negative emotional energy from grief, guilt, anger, etc.) can lead to harmful behaviors and coping methods. Whenever you have a bout of grief, write down your feelings in a journal or notebook. This can help bring perspective, which often gets lost during emotional crises.
The process of journaling gives mournful thoughts a place to live other than your brain. Once those concerns have been expressed, they often lose their intensity and urgency, which will help you mentally relax. Writing in your journal 10 minutes before you go to bed can help relieve worries and put you in a restful state of mind.
3. Overcoming Painful Memories
A helpful way to overcome emotional trauma or grief involves breaking the bonds of the past. This exercise is based on the belief that negative feelings and behaviors are often motivated by memories that are either inaccurate or unhealthy.
Whenever you have a painful or disruptive memory or feeling, write down the answers to the following 5 questions:
- When was the last time you struggled, had the disruptive memory or feeling, or emotional pain? Give details.
- What were you feeling at the time? Describe the predominant emotion.
- In your mind, imagine yourself on a train going backward through time. Go back to a time when you had the feeling. Write down the incident in detail.
- Can you go back even further to the moment you had the feeling for the first time? Write down the details of the original incident.
- If you’ve identified the origin of your feelings, can you disconnect them by reprocessing them through an adult or parent mindset? Consciously disconnect the emotional bridge to the past with the knowledge that what happened in the past belongs in the past, and what happens now is what matters.
This technique has helped many people who’ve struggled with grief and loss. Keep in mind that this process can dredge up painful memories.
When you’re emotionally ready, consider volunteering at a homeless shelter, food bank, or animal refuge. Serving others can help alleviate sorrow, increase health and happiness, and make you feel grateful for the positive things in your life.
Volunteering for a cause you believe in can give you something to look forward to and is a great way to find like-minded friends. Doing any of these activities with a partner or in a group can promote bonding and make the experience even richer. Also, by sharing your experiences, you might be able to help someone else who’s dealing with loss.
5. Don’t Rush Recovery
It’s important to realize that people react differently to loss. Some quickly rebound from a trial or trauma. Others may require more time to get back on their feet.
Try to remain patient during this difficult time. Though the natural tendency is to accelerate the recovery period, there’s no set time limit. Just as grieving is a process, so too is recovery.
6. Reach Out for Help
Though isolating yourself during tough times may feel like the safest option, closing yourself off from the world can intensify your feelings of grief. Resist the urge to shut out the individuals who can offer you encouragement and support.
Reach out to friends and family and let them know when you’re emotionally overwhelmed. Seek professional help if necessary, but don’t fight your battles alone.
Where to Find Help
Many people receive guidance and emotional support from talk therapy. Speaking with a trained therapist or counselor can make a significant improvement in your outlook and ability to bounce back from life’s challenges.
During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is just as important as your physical well-being. If you’re dealing with anger, guilt, sadness, or mood issues, you don’t have to continue struggling alone.
Amen Clinics offers in-clinic and telehealth (via telephone and video conferencing) services. To learn more about the full range of services at Amen Clinics or to set up an appointment, please call 866-347-6076.
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