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How to Cope with Grief and Loss

How to Cope with Grief and Loss

Grief causes such intense emotion, especially after having lost someone, whether by death or heartache. Coping with grief and loss is definitely difficult, affecting one emotionally, mentally, and even physically.

Here is a quick look at how grief can impact your mental health and how you can cope with it.

How Does Grief Affect Mental Health?

Losing someone can be a traumatic experience. For some people, the feelings of grief can fade after some time and they may continue to live a normal life. The period where a person mourns for their loss is called bereavement.

There are two kinds of grief:

  • Acute grief, also called normal grief, often has a bereavement period of 6-24 months
  • Persistent grief, also called chronic grief or complicated, occurs when time has passed and the feelings of grief do not lessen.

Acute/Normal Grief

Symptoms of normal grief can include:

  • Intense pain over their loss
  • Lack of trust
  • Detachment
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty in accepting death
  • Memory loss

Persistent/ Complicated Grief

Complicated grief has similar symptoms to normal grief, but it often would be experienced for a much longer period, which can affect the way that they think and feel. Additionally, complicated grief can interfere with normal routines.

When a person feels deep sadness daily because of grief, it can make them feel very demotivated. For example, people who have depression often perform poorly with cognitive tasks.

Depression and Grief?

People who experience grief often feel depression as well. However, it can be hard to distinguish major clinical depression between grief.

Some of the symptoms that depression and grief can both cause are:

  • Feeling sad and/or hopeless
  • Engaging in self-destructive behavior

A clear difference between the two is that grieving people focus on their loss whereas depressed people focus on themselves.

Additionally, you can identify the loss if a person has grief. A person may or may not find an identifiable loss if they are depressed.

Another way grief could impact your life is anxiety. Studies have shown that people with chronic grief have a high rate of getting an anxiety disorder in comparison to people with normal grief.

Does Grief Affect Other Aspects of Your Life?

Insomnia. Grief can affect other parts of your health as well. For instance, grief can make it difficult for people to go to sleep or have peaceful sleep.

Fatigue. The lack of sleep can also make a person experience fatigue. However, fatigue can also come from the emotional toll of their loss and bereavement period.

Weak immunity. Grief could also potentially weaken a person’s immune system. When a person’s immune system is weak, they can be more susceptible to getting infections and illnesses.

How Can You Cope with Grief and Loss?

Dealing with grief and loss is often not a linear journey. People will often have their ups and downs as they go through it. However, trying out some coping mechanisms could help you alleviate your symptoms and help you process your feelings.

Meditate Regularly

A helpful coping mechanism that you could try is mindful meditation. In a study done on bereaved participants, the results showed that there was a significant improvement in their emotion regulation and executive control.

Exercise More

Exercising is a good way to also take care of your mental health during your bereavement period. Studies have shown that exercise can help reduce negative moods, depression, and anxiety.

Exercise can have a generally positive impact on everyone, especially when it comes to mental health. It can help people deal with social withdrawal and improve their self-esteem.

Get Adequate Sleep

As we mentioned earlier, people can often have trouble sleeping when they experience grief. Your body is dealing with huge emotion and physical toll, so it would be wise to try to sleep.

You can try to set a sleeping schedule and try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you find it hard to get a restful sleep at night, you could try to limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening.

Connect with People

While it may be easy for you to withdraw yourself from the world, you may need the help of other people. If you want to speak about how you feel, do not be afraid to reach out to a friend or family member.

coping with grief and loss

When Should I Seek Professional Help?

People with chronic grief may need to get professional help. Professional help, such as grief counseling, could help a person learn how to better understand and cope with their loss. Seeking professional help would always be ideal if you feel like it is hard to bear with your grief.

However, getting professional help if you have normal grief can also still be very beneficial. It would be very wise to seek professional help if you have suicidal thoughts and/or tendencies, feeling hopeless after your loss, feeling guilt, etc.

Key Takeaways

Coping with grief and loss is a difficult process that many people have to go through in life. Luckily, there are coping mechanisms that you can try and professional help that you can seek to help you manage your symptoms and process your loss.

Remember, coping with grief and loss does not have to be a solo effort; do not be afraid to seek help.

Learn more about a Healthy Mind here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

How to overcome grief’s health-damaging effects, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-to-overcome-griefs-health-damaging-effects, Accessed July 8, 2020

Complicated grief, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374, Accessed July 8, 2020

Motivational and Emotional Influences on Cognitive Control in Depression: A Pupillometry Study, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25280561/, Accessed July 8, 2020

Depression (major depressive disorder), https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007, Accessed July 8, 2020

Sleep Disturbance in Bereavement, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2826218/, Accessed July 8, 2020

Four Questions: How Grief Affects the Immune System, https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/four-questions-how-grief-affects-immune-system, Accessed July 8, 2020

Does Grief Counseling Work?, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14577426/, Accessed July 8, 2020

Mindfulness IMproves Emotion Regulation and Executive Control on Bereaved Individuals: An fMRI Study, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360180/, Accessed July 8, 2020

Exercise for Mental Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/#:~:text=Exercise%20improves%20mental%20health%20by,self%2Desteem%20and%20cognitive%20function.&text=Exercise%20has%20also%20been%20found,self%2Desteem%20and%20social%20withdrawal, Accessed July 8, 2020

 

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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos Updated Jun 17
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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