How to Cope Through Grief

Two people hug during a grief support group meeting.

The elements of grieving are both personal and unpredictable. The extent of bereavement, how we handle loss, and the direct impact on our health varies greatly person to person. Research shows that it’s normal to experience an undercurrent of emotional, mental and physiological health issues punctuated by emotional spikes triggered by known or unknown causes.

The best way through traumatic grief is to lean on family, friends and your healthcare providers. They can help you develop coping strategies and practice self-care to minimize grief’s potential to hurt your health.

Here are some key ways to cope through your unique, natural and highly personal timeline of grieving:

Focus on your diet. While some grievers don’t feel like eating at all, others eat their emotions, turning to food for solace and comfort. Either way, it’s important to try and eat a normal balanced, nutrient-dense diet. Poor diet habits can exacerbate other symptoms of grief.

Get sleep. Sleep is essential for our health, but it can be interrupted by the grieving process. If you’re having trouble sleeping, start by examining your sleep hygiene. Follow a calming bedtime routine and try to go to sleep at the same time each night. If sleep interruptions continue, seek advice from your primary care doctor.

Exercise. While you may just want to curl up in a ball and shut out the world, it’s important to get exercise, even if it’s just a daily walk. Exercise helps counterbalance stress, lower anxiety and is good for the parts of our bodies affect by grief. It’s also a good way to spend time reflecting on your loss and your emotions and focus on good memories.

Relieve your stress. Stress is a natural part of loss. But it’s not healthy for long periods. Try meditation, mindfulness or yoga. Lean on hobbies you enjoy, even if you slow-step back into them. Listen to music, read something uplifting and consider volunteering in your community to help others. The social activity can help you relieve stress and loneliness.

It’s also important to spend time with your emotions. It’s okay and natural to grieve — set aside a quiet moment each day to grieve and reflect, focusing on the good memories, positivity and joy that your loved one brought you.

You may wish to do this alone or with a group. Some studies show participants in bereavement support groups found relief from their grief. Others find relief in religion. Spirituality can be protective and supportive during crisis, studies show. If you’re religious, seeking out a spiritual leader or group may help.

If your grief is overwhelming and ongoing, reach out to your primary care doctor. They can help you or refer you to another professional for help. You don’t have to go through grief alone.

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