grief and loss

Grief: How to Cope with the Loss of a Loved One

Grief is a normal response to losing someone you love or care about. Often characterized by feelings of profound sorrow or sadness, grief can also cause you to feel other emotions like guilt, anger, and fear. It can also manifest itself physically with symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain,  digestive problems, and feeling very tired and weak.

Grief is a unique and personal experience, so no two people grieve or mourn the same way. While being sad is a common response, it may also involve a range of painful emotions that may sometimes feel endless. This is especially true if you’re also dealing with mental health issues or personal problems. It is, however, common for your grief to change over time or for its intensity to lessen.

Dealing with grief can be a long and overwhelming process. Here are a few suggestions that can help you cope in a healthy way. 

Acknowledge and Show Your True Feelings

Don’t try to ignore your pain or put on a brave face. Suppressing your true feelings will only make them worse or prolong the process of grieving and healing. Trying to avoid your grief can also lead to other problems like anxiety or depression, health issues, and substance abuse. Let yourself feel, be it sadness, fear, relief, or a combination of different emotions. 

No one else can tell you how to deal with grief or how you should “move on”.  It is okay to cry (a lot) or not to cry, yell and express anger, or even smile and let go when you are ready. Let your emotions be heard without judgment, embarrassment, or anything. 

Give Yourself Time to Grieve

Don’t give yourself a deadline for how long you should be grieving. Let your emotions unfold at your own pace and don’t criticize yourself for not coping with grief soon or feeling better quickly. In short, be kind to yourself. Bear in mind that grief is a highly personal experience and everyone should grieve in whatever way works for them. 

Take Care of Your Physical Health

As previously mentioned, grief can have physical symptoms. It is important to acknowledge and attend to your physical needs, so you can cope better emotionally.

Eat right

Feelings of overwhelming loss can lead to loss of appetite, causing you to skip meals or not eat at all. Keep in mind, however, that your body needs nutritious foods to get through the grieving process. Just be sure to avoid overeating or loading up on junk and processed foods. Also, don’t turn to alcohol or drugs to “lift or soothe” your mood or to numb the pain.

Get adequate sleep

Grief can disrupt your sleeping habits, resulting in insomnia, sleep deprivation,  or just feeling exhausted all the time. Try to focus on creating healthy sleeping habits like doing relaxation exercises, sticking to a regular bedtime and wake-time routine, and making sure that your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet.

Get moving

Exercise or any type of physical activity can help your mood. Engage in activities you enjoy doing such as running, walking, cycling, or hiking. These release endorphins, which are beneficial in boosting your mood or relieving discomfort. Exercising is also a positive tool that can help you adapt to loss and keep moving forward.

Find Creative Ways to Express Your Feelings

Consider writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal or a diary. Doing so can help ease the stress and pressure of the pain you’re feeling. It will also allow you to look back and see how your emotions and grief change over time. If you, however, find it difficult to express your feelings in words, you can engage in other activities you enjoy like art or music. 

Reach Out or Talk to Others When You Can

Share whatever you’re going through with family and friends when you can. It is beneficial to talk about your loss and grief, especially in processing and navigating your feelings. You can also grieve as a family and talk about your deceased loved one, share your emotions, or even cry together.  If you feel like you need extra help or emotional support, you can also talk to a counselor, or family doctor. 

Maintain a Routine

Keep up with your daily routine, so you won’t get overwhelmed. This will allow you to stay connected to the world around you and somehow feel better emotionally. It is best not to make any major life changes during this period. The stress and pressure of grieving can make you vulnerable to making impulsive decisions that you may regret later on.

Take a Break From Grieving 

The pain of grieving can sometimes get overwhelming. Give yourself permission to take a break from it by engaging in things or activities you enjoy. You might, for instance, watch a movie, listen to music, start a new hobby, or hang out with friends. It is perfectly fine to not feel lonely all the time. It is good for you to smile, laugh, or feel happy. 

Remember, Celebrate, and Honor Your Loved One

Holidays, birthdays, and death anniversaries can be challenging for everyone. While such occasions can reawaken sadness and other emotions, they can also be used as a time to celebrate and remember the life of a loved one or continue honoring the relationship you had with them. You can do this by looking at videos or photo albums, recalling fun memories, making a donation to their favorite charity, or planting a memorial garden. 

Seek Professional Help: Consider Online Therapy

If you’re struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one, seek help from a licensed mental health professional. An experienced psychologist will educate you about the things you might experience and use evidence-based treatments to help you get through your sorrow. They will also help you navigate through your emotions and deal with the hurdles you face during the grieving process

Therapy or grief counseling can also be done remotely or online. The COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for the rise of telemental healthcare, giving people an opportunity to meet and talk with a therapist in the comfort of their own homes. This is more flexible than face-to-face therapy, as it can be done over a video chat, or through a messaging app.

Here are the benefits of online therapy:

  • Cost-effective – It can be cheaper than face-to-face visits since you can attend therapy sessions without leaving your home. There is no travel cost and associated expenses.
  • Time-efficient – You can fit it into a busy schedule, especially that it eliminates travel time between appointments. It also allows you to schedule more frequent sessions if needed.
  • Safer – It eliminates your risks of potential exposure to COVID-19. It  lets you protect both your  physical and mental health by practicing social distancing
  • No more geographical barriers – You can still meet and talk to your therapist even if they live far away, in another city or country.
  • More accessible – This is especially true if you are unable to leave home due to multiple responsibilities, physical limitations, mental health illness, or other reasons.

Keep in Mind 

The emotional symptoms associated with grief gradually ease over time. If feelings of emptiness, guilt, and sadness don’t go away, or if you feel that they are getting worse, your grief can turn into depression. An experienced grief counselor or therapist can help determine the treatment or type of support you need.  This may involve one-on-one therapy, support group, or medication.

While grief is a rollercoaster and everyone approaches it differently, it is recommended to get extra help with coping if you experience the following:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Loss of appetite or continuous difficulty with eating
  • Difficulty completing normal routines a few months after the death of a loved one
  • Prolonged feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
  • Using drugs or alcohols to cope
  • Suicidal thoughts

The saying “there is no right or wrong way to grieve” is true. There are, however, healthy ways to deal with it. The right support, effort, and patience can help you move forward. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or take online therapy.

If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, ask for help and take online therapy at Calmerry. Don’t think that it will just go away on its own. Professional help is always available to help you deal with grief and its challenges in a healthy way, so you can lead a better life. 

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more