Grief: What It Is And How To Manage It

Oliver Jay

Grief: What It Is And How To Manage It

Presented by BetterHelp.

Grief is a painful emotion that people feel in response to serious loss. While many people are aware of traditions like funerals, the experience of grief is often misunderstood or over-generalized. Grief is a very personal experience, which people process in different ways. This article explores what grief is, how it may present, and ways you can get support after experiencing a loss. 

What is grief? 

Grief refers to emotions felt while processing and coping with a significant loss. Though it’s typically associated with death, grief may occur in response to many things, including: 

  • The death of a family member, friend, pet, or other loved one
  • The loss of financial security
  • The dissolvement of a serious relationship, marriage, or friendship
  • The loss of a job, house, community, or neighborhood
  • Giving up on dreams, goals, or aspirations 
  • Growing older
  • Theft
  • The loss of some form of independence, such as losing the ability to drive, see, or walk
  • Terminal illness in oneself or loved ones
  • Undesired infertility

When someone experiences grief, they may experience different stages of grief, including: 

  • Denial: During this stage, people may have a hard time believing that the loss really occurred.
  • Anger: In this stage, people may direct their grief as anger towards themselves, others, or religious figures.
  • Bargaining: This stage may involve making deals with yourself, others, or religious figures to feel better. You may find yourself wishing you could go back in time to change the outcome. 
  • Depression: Depressive symptoms, such as intense sadness, emotional detachment, or changes in sleep habits, are common while grieving. 
  • Acceptance: Though there is no way to know how long it will take, most people eventually come to a place where they accept the loss, though it may still cause significant pain. 
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While many people experience some variety of the five stages of grief, not everyone will experience them in order or at all. Additionally, these stages may overlap, or someone may quickly move between them. Grief can be a very individual, personal, and unpredictable process. 

Getting grief support 

When you’re experiencing grief, you might not know where to turn for support. This list may help you explore support options you hadn’t considered: 

  • Find support specific to your loss

Different types of losses may require individualized support. For example, if you’ve lost a pet, you might want to explore available pet loss support options. On the other hand, if you’ve gone through a divorce, you may want to research resources like online divorce support groups.

  • Go to therapy
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Grief therapists or counselors can help you process your loss, accept it, and develop strategies to help you cope in a healthy way. Additionally, therapy is a safe space to express uncomfortable emotions, like relief and guilt, which you may not feel comfortable sharing with other people in your life. 

  • Use healthy coping strategies  

Tools like deep-breathing exercises, journaling, mindfulness, yoga, and cognitive reframing can help you cope with uncomfortable emotions without turning to unhealthy strategies like avoidance, substance use, or distractions. 

  • Practice self-care

Practicing good sleep hygiene, getting regular exercise, going outside every day, eating nutritious meals, and getting enough sleep each night can help protect your physical and mental health while you grieve. 

  • Ask for what you need

When you’re experiencing a significant loss, consider asking friends, family, and loved ones to help out with childcare, make meals, clean, or provide a shoulder to cry on. 

What signs to look out for

Grief can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as: 

  • Intense sadness
  • Relief
  • Yearning
  • Anger
  • Apathy
  • Detachment
  • Regret or guilt
  • Fatigue 
  • Migraines 
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness 
  • Sleeping changes, such as sleeping too much or not enough 
  • Appetite and weight changes 
  • Chest tightness or palpitations 
  • Difficulty thinking straight or making decisions 
  • Lack of direction
  • Difficulty focusing 
  • Making more careless errors than you usually do
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An extended, intense period of grief may develop into complicated grief if it lasts for a year or longer without improvement. Complicated grief can cause significant disruption to daily life for a long time, and often requires immediate help from professionals to address.  

In general, if you’re finding it difficult to cope with a loss or it’s interfering with your ability to carry out daily responsibilities, it’s a good idea to reach out to a therapist who’s experienced with grief. 

Takeaway 

Grief is an emotional response that occurs while processing a significant loss, such as a divorce, death, or loss of a job. It can be a deeply painful emotion, but there are tools that can help, including speaking with a therapist, asking loved ones for help, and practicing self-care. 

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