How to Cope with Grief and Loss

Processing grief & loss

Grieving is an awkward thing.

It’s not something you can put in a box and say “this is how it works”.

It’s changeable and unpredictable, and a highly individual experience.

How you grieve depends on your personality, your life experience, and your faith. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

What is grief?

Grief is the natural response to loss. It’s normal. Healthy. If you have lost someone or something, you should grieve.

But grief comes in many shapes and forms, and for different reasons. You grieve when you lose a loved one or friend, but any loss can cause grief – divorce or relationship breakup, loss of health or a job, a miscarriage, the death of a pet or a cherished dream, the loss of a friendship or a home.

The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be. If you lost a loved one your grieving will be determined by the relationship you had with that person and even how they died.

You may grieve because the person was an anchor in your life, or you may grieve for what you never had with the person because the relationship wasn’t healthy.

Grief is not something you can pin down. It has no set timetable and cannot be forced or hurried. Some will feel better in weeks or months, others take years.

The pain of loss can feel overwhelming and may disrupt your life – causing sleeping problems, mental fog, or lack of appetite, and you will likely go through some stages of grief, but these are not linear – following a certain order.

Progression through the stages may be quick or slow, depending on the individual. Some people get stuck in a stage, others skip stages, or don’t experience them at all. You do not have to go through each stage to heal. Everyone is different and everyone heals differently.   

Stages of Grief

Shock & Denial

This stage helps to numb you to the reality and intensity of the situation. Once you move out of this stage you will begin to really feel the emotions you’ve denied.

It’s important to allow yourself to feel what you feel. Don’t bottle it or squash it, medicate it (through TV, media, movies etc) or pretend it’s just not there.

Acknowledge your pain. Your feelings are valid, don’t deny them.  

Anger

This stage hides many of the emotions and pain. Anger is a secondary emotion – meaning, you are feeling something before you feel angry.  

This anger may be redirected at others – the person who died, those around you, people who remind you of the person who died, yourself, and even God.

Anger may also be masked in feelings like bitterness or resentment. Take note of these, and don’t bottle any of it. Find a safe place to talk about your feelings.

During this stage it’s important to guard where you allow your heart to go about God and His love. Be careful what you begin to believe about Him. God can handle your questioning, but too much questioning will lead to rebellious feelings toward God and you can’t afford that. You need God more than ever.  

Bargaining

This is where you find yourself saying “what if”, or “if only”. This stage usually goes hand in hand with feelings of guilt. If only you’d known they were going to die, you would have done things differently. What if you’d not taken your car to work that day, or kept your mouth shut instead of yelling.

Sometimes people try to make a deal with God in return for healing or relief from the grief or pain.

Depression

This may feel like a quiet stage of grief. You may feel foggy, heavy, and confused. During this stage you reflect on the loss and begin to realise its implications.

Feeling depressed is normal but don’t ignore it if it persists.

Acceptance

This is not necessarily a happy stage of grief. It doesn’t mean you’ve moved past the loss, it just means you understand what it means to your life now. You may have to adjust to new roles and responsibilities and loneliness. You’ll be able to appreciate the memories of the person you lost and you will also begin to put the pieces of your life back together.

Coping with the loss of someone or something dear to you is one of life’s biggest challenges. Whatever your loss, it is personal to you. Don’t be ashamed of how you feel, or believe that your grief is insignificant. If whatever you lost was significant to you, then your grief is legitimate.

Through every stage there is one sure, reliable fact: You are never alone. God is near. He promised the comforter – the Holy Spirit. Invite Him into your pain.

Take your loss to His love. Ask Him to fill the void, heal the hurt, and put you back on your feet again. Be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

How you can help yourself cope with grief

Acknowledge your feelings

– even the ones you don’t like. Don’t stuff them. It’s ok to cry (or not to cry), to get angry, to laugh, find moments of joy, and let go when you’re ready.

Express your feelings

– whether that be talking to someone, writing them in a journal, yelling at the sky, writing a letter to your loved one to say the things you never got to say, or making a photo collage celebrating the person’s life.

Maintain hobbies and interests

There’s  comfort in the familiar. Continue doing the things that bring you joy.

Try to maintain your normal lifestyle

Routine creates security and until you are feeling stronger, don’t make any major life changes during the first year of bereavement (moving, changing jobs etc).  

Look after your physical health

Exercise is a good way to release tension. Feed your body with good, wholesome food. The state of your body will affect the state of your mind.  

Forgive yourself for all the things you did or didn’t say or do

Offer yourself compassion. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Have you lost someone close to you? Do you recognise these stages of grief? How do you cope with grief?

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

1 COMMENT

  1. Grieving the Death of a Difficult Person - What Does it Feel Like? - Love More to Live | 2nd Feb 21

    […] written about this before: How to Cope with Grief and Loss  […]

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.