Applied Psychology

How to Deal with Grief and Loss

Mar 26, 2024 | By Jenna van Schoor
Senior man receiving support at grief and loss counselling

It can be overwhelming dealing with grief and loss. Each of us has a different emotional landscape and not everyone experiences or expresses pain in the same way. Specific experiences also might be more traumatic for some than others.

However, we can all agree that loss, while inevitable, can be debilitating. Overwhelming feelings of grief can also make life feel unmanageable. While there are many support methods available, here are some recommendations for how to deal with grief and loss.

1. Take care of yourself

It might seem challenging, but having a routine and prioritising wellbeing as much as possible can help you cope better. Unfortunately, while drinking alcohol can seem like a welcome distraction, it is only a temporary distraction and can lead to feeling much worse, especially if you overindulge. 

You may lose your appetite or it increases. You may not desire to do anything except sleep or numb out. Loss can also manifest in a somatic response like physical ailments. For example, digestive issues, panic attacks and even insomnia. Take medication if needed to help you manage, but also try to support your grieving process through maintaining a healthy lifestyle – eat as well as possible and rest when needed.

2. Acknowledge your grief

You might not easily be able to talk about how you are feeling when you are going through a life-changing loss. When dealing with the effects of grief in our lives, our first instinct can often be to just get through the day. However, while it might feel like you need to carry on with life as “normal” even though you’re experiencing enormous stress, it’s essential to acknowledge your feelings through all of the phases of grief.

You might not initially be ready to talk to someone about the experience yet, but seeking support so that you don’t go through the loss alone and can be very helpful to move through the different stages of grief in a healthy manner. Loss affects us physically and emotionally and can impact our immediate world in ways we never imagined. Acknowledging your grief and finding support is essential, as opposed to bottling up your feelings and hoping that it will all work itself out in time.

3. Lean on friends and family

Well-meaning friends and family may send flowers and food in a crisis. However, while we all need food, deliveries can be another source of stress for grieving people – maybe emotionally they don’t have the energy for the small talk that comes with these well meaning pop-ins or maybe managing and storing everything they receive can feel too much at the time.

Instead, offering practical and logistical support can be more supportive. For example, paperwork needs handling in the case of an untimely death. Unexpected errands, such as visiting funeral homes and other administrative tasks, also come up. These can be very challenging for grieving people to manage.

If you’re grieving, lean on people who offer support to help take care of practical matters. Ask for help when you need it. If someone you know has experienced loss, you may be able to provide support by assisting with practical matters that might feel overwhelming to those who feel incapacitated. Even simple things like washing the dishes and giving lifts can be invaluable. 

4. Reach out to professionals

For most people knowing what to do, what to say or how to deal with someone else’s loss can be challenging. In this case, platitudes can become a source of annoyance and frustration, and people with the best intentions can pressure grieving people to “be ok”, grieve in the “right way” or make the “best” choice on a host of practical issues .

A range of professionals can provide support. These professionals include counsellors and, in the case of a death, funeral planners, lawyers and others who can deal with complex processes that might feel impossible to a grieving person or family.

5. Find ways to process your feelings

Dealing with grief and loss is not a linear process. Even years after losing someone you love, it can be challenging to put into words exactly how you are feeling. Journaling and talking through your feelings  can be cathartic. It can also help create awareness of your needs, which can change over time in response to where you are in the grief process.

While taking care of yourself is vital, it’s helpful to seek out qualified mental health practitioners to assist you with processing complicated emotions and experiences. Exercise can also help you manage stress and sleep better, which can go a long way to help you cope with challenging circumstances.

Another essential part of acknowledging your feelings is acceptance. We might not know precisely how to deal with our pain, but if we can find practical tools and the proper emotional support, we can process our grief in the most constructive way possible, especially in the long term.

Learn more about counselling for grief and loss

As we discussed in this post, knowing how to deal with grief and loss can be difficult, as the journey looks different for everyone.

If you want to learn more about counselling and its role in managing grief, register for one of these SACAP Global courses:

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