Grief is very difficult to overcome. The healing process is emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. It can be hard to try to cope with it, so keep reading to find out 6 tips on how to cope with grief to help your healing process.
If you are a someone who is looking to learn how to support someone experiencing grief, you can use these tips as well as the tips included in the post: How to Support Someone Experiencing Mental Health Issues
Before we dive into how to cope with grief, it is important to understand what grief is, what the physical symptoms look like, and what the 5 stages of grief are.
What is Grief?
Grief is a natural reaction to loss that comes with intense, overwhelming emotions such as sadness, anger, and disbelief.
Some examples of loss that could result in grief are the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of a terminal illness, being fired/laid off from a job, or the end of a friendship/relationship. 
What Does Grief Do to Your Body?
Grief can be very painful to cope with and will often have a negative effect on your physical health. Some common reactions that may occur are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- More susceptible to sickness
- Body aches & pains
- Shortness of breath
- Heart problems (increased heart rate, chest pains, broken heart syndrome)
This list is only a brief snapshot of common physical symptoms of grief. It is possible to experience other symptoms as well. Make sure to always consult a doctor about any health concerns you have.
Stages of Grief
The stages of grief are also referred to as the “Kübler-Ross Model” designed by a psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969.
The framework has 5 stages and it is not expected for everyone to go through each stage. Everyone’s grieving experience is different, so it is possible that you may skip some stages or experience all the stages but in a different order.
“… Our grieving is as individual as our lives.”
– Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
Kübler-Ross stated in her final book, On Grief and Grieving, that the 5 stages of grief, “… were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages.
They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives.”
These stages were simply made to help those who are mourning to define where they are in their healing process. So, don’t look at the stages as a guide of where you should be after a loss. Allow yourself to feel every emotion to ensure you completely heal from your loss.
The Five Stages of Grief are :
Dealing with the loss of someone or something is a traumatizing experience. The mind uses denial as a defense mechanism to allow time for you to process what has happened. It helps to cloud the intensity of the experience you just had.
For example, if a loved one just passed away and someone says, “They aren’t really gone. They can’t be gone.” This is a form of denying what has happened to avoid the pain that you will have to experience if it is reality.
The transition out of the denial stage is the hardest to endure. This is when those emotions that you pushed down come to the surface. It is difficult to cope with, but remember that it is important for you to feel those emotions and acknowledge them.
Coming to terms with a traumatic experience being a reality is very difficult. After the denial stage, the wave of hidden emotions can be overwhelming. These emotions are all redirected and expressed as anger.
The anger expressed can be directed at various people and items depending on the situation.
For example, if a loved one has passed, you may blame that person for leaving you with all this pain.
Or maybe a doctor just told you you have a terminal illness and you blame them for diagnosing you.
Or you have lost your job and you direct anger towards your manager/company.
Understand that you will blame external (things outside of you and not in your control) factors because your mind is in disarray. Although you understand they are not to blame, in the moment of grief, your emotions are too intense to comprehend that.
When you are in a vulnerable state, you often times will search for ways to regain control of the situation. This is most prominent in the bargaining stage. Some common statements that are a form of bargaining are:
- “What if we had paid more attention to her/him…”
- “If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…”
- “What if I picked up their phone call…”
- “Lord, I promise I will ____ if you…”
Bargaining is a way to postpone how you are feeling and it often is paired with guilt. During this stage, you may begin to feel like you could have done something to prevent the situation.
The 3 stages discussed before are more strenuous, while depression is more discreet. During this stage, you are coping with the loss and beginning to mentally separate yourself from the situation.
Emotions of sadness, hopelessness, and even guilt may be present. And everyone copes differently, some may surround themselves with loved ones while others go through this stage in private.
Just because this stage is more discreet does not mean it is not difficult to get through. It can actually be very overwhelming because you are finally addressing how you feel about the situation.
If you feel stuck in this stage and don’t feel yourself improving, contact a mental health expert. They will help you cope with the pain you are dealing with in this stage.
This stage is the final stage where you come to terms with your pain and have accepted what has happened. This isn’t necessarily a positive stage, but it does indicate that you have an understanding of what this experience means in your life now.
This stage does not indicate that you have passed the “test” or that you are done grieving. This stage allows you to understand that this experience has impacted your life and that there will be better days.
Always keep in mind though that a traumatic experience takes a lot of healing. So, be prepared to have some bad days scattered in between good days. Make sure to feel those emotions and don’t resist it to avoid taking a step backward in your healing process.
How Long Does It Take to Grieve?
Grief is different for everyone and there is no clear beginning, middle, and end to the grieving process. Some people may grieve for months and others, it could last a lifetime.
The initial shock and pain of grief typically begin to slowly fade between the first weeks or months following the situation.
In regards to reaching the acceptance stage, how long it will take to completely heal depends on your relationship or status with the situation.
For example, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one that you had a close relationship with, it can take a much longer time to heal than someone who is grieving the loss of their career.
Also, try to understand that if you lost someone close to you that others around you may have a shorter grieving process. This does not mean they don’t care about the individual or that you aren’t getting over it fast enough.
Everyone has a different experience, so make sure to take your time to make sure you are fully healed no matter how long it takes.
Emotions can also arise around holidays or occasions that remind you of a loved one you lost. Even small triggers such as a song, a scent, or a landmark can ignite feelings of sadness and loneliness.
Therefore, even when you may feel healed, a holiday can bring up emotions you have not felt in a long time.
This doesn’t mean you are moving backwards, this is a part of the grieving process, so make sure to allow yourself to feel those emotions because avoiding them can worsen your mental health.
How to Cope with Grief: 6 Helpful Tips
Disclaimer: I am not a professional psychologist. These tips are based on my own personal experience. This is not a guaranteed fix to your healing process, these are simply suggestions to help your healing process be a little easier.
1. Write how you feel down
In order to heal, you have to face how you are feeling and stop avoiding it. It’s important to acknowledge the pain you’ve endured from your loss. Refusing to acknowledge your emotions during the grieving process pushes you further from truly healing.
So, write all those emotions and thoughts running through your mind in a journal. There are so many different ways to express how you feel in a journal that could be effective in releasing the tension you have built up. For example, you could write about:
- How your day went
- How you felt coping with your loss on a particular day (good day/bad day)
- A memory
- What you miss the most
Make sure to write on good and bad days! Our minds tend to fixate on negative emotions and memories that we have experienced. We often forget about many of the memories of good days because they aren’t as eventful as a bad day.
When it comes to mental health though, it is very important to take note of those good days. This helps to feel more grounded when a bad day does come around. It makes you feel like everything will be okay because better days are coming.
2. Join a support group
When dealing with grief, the world tends to move on while you are still healing from your loss. As stated before, there is no timeline for how long the grieving process takes, so sometimes you’ll feel lonely because no one around you is grieving with you.
In this case, try to join a support group that is going through a similar experience as you. Sharing how you feel to others that have experienced a similar loss can be great moral support.
Here are a few resources that have support groups for those dealing with grief:
- An interactive grief website on the internet that offers discussion boards, articles, and books for anyone experiencing grief. The site also includes contact information to help aid those who need extra guidance during their healing process.
- A website that has about 50 types of support groups and provides online resources for individuals and families that are dealing with a loss. They also have kid support groups which is VERY important!
Pathways Center for Grief & Loss
- A resource center to help anyone experiencing grief get through the healing process. The website has videos, articles, and support groups for various types of loss for both adults and children.
3. Get Active
The mind and body are connected, so when your body feels good, your mind will follow its lead. This doesn’t mean that if you go run all your grief will wash away. What this means is that you are taking a minor step to make a bad day into a better day mentally.
Try exercising for at least 10 minutes and see how you (mentally) feel after. You could simply go on a walk or do a little yoga. It does not have to be a fast-paced run up a hill (but if you prefer that, then go for it!).
Also, eating healthy foods that give you energy like bananas, yogurt and salmon can help too. Avoid trying to improve your mood artificially through drugs or alcohol. Doing that can actually make you feel worse, especially since alcohol is a depressant.
So, take care of your health and I promise your healing process will be much smoother.
4. Surround yourself with loved ones
When we experience loss, our instinct is to go hide in our shells and cry. Now, it is okay to do that because in order to heal you have to feel every emotion that comes with grief.
What you want to avoid is being isolated during your entire healing process. When you are ready, reach out to loved ones and spend time with them. Don’t be afraid to express what you need because some may not know how to approach you during a time like this.
Being around loved ones can help to feel more supported and if all you need is a shoulder to cry on, that is okay. Take baby steps and don’t rush to do activities that you aren’t ready to do.
5. Make a plan for holidays
Around the holidays or special dates, intense emotions may hit you like a tidal wave. It’s important to plan ahead to ensure that you are mentally prepared for the day.
You could plan a day with friends or family to help you keep you busy during the day. Or, you could plan a way to honor the person you have lost. Depending on where you are mentally is what you should base your decision on.
6. Talk to a Professional
If it feels like your grief is stagnant, then consider talking to a mental health professional. Talking to someone can open up overwhelming emotions that you may be pushing to the side. It could also help bring closure to your loss and unlock why your grieving process is at a plateau.
Click below for a mental health resource that has a database with therapists that offer virtual sessions:
Please contact a therapist if you:
- Are not able to go about daily activities
- Feel disconnected from everyone for over 3 weeks
- Feel like life isn’t worth living
- Blame yourself for the loss
I hope you found this helpful and these tips can help to make your healing process a little easier. Share this with others that may be dealing with grief and comment down below positive ways you cope with grief.