Coping with Grief and Loss - 10 Strategies to Use During This Difficult Time
Updated: Nov 17
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
When you are grieving, it might feel as though nothing and no one can console you. You might be in the depths of despair and feel overcome by so many emotions that you don’t know where to turn to or what might help you cope.
Find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There are things you can do to support yourself in this challenging period in your life.
Even if you only try one thing in the list below, please test it out and see if it gives you partial relief from your emotional pain. And, as cliché as it sounds, your pain will ease with time and with healing -- hopefully that brings you some comfort while you read this post.
1. Reach out to loved ones
Now is a time that you will need to lean on others. Talk to your partner, call your sibling, text a friend, or connect with other people you trust and feel you can rely on.
There are people in your life who will want to support you in this time and it is important that you receive that unconditional love and support that they can bring you in this moment.
You are not burdening them – you are getting a chance to express your feelings and thoughts in the same way that they will turn to you in their own time of need. Learning to be there for each other will help you to deepen and strengthen your relationship.
2. Focus on your routines
Your life may feel chaotic right now, so try to ground yourself in any way possible. Try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day to maximize your sleep (if you are having sleep issues, which is common at a time like this, you may want to speak with your doctor or a mental health professional).
Eat healthy meals to keep up your energy. Get some exercise and fresh air. Try to keep your home in order as having a clean and organized living environment can help you feel calmer.
Sticking with routines, staying active, and having a purpose and meaning in your daily life can keep your mood level and help you feel more in control over your life at a time when things may feel out of control emotionally for you.
3. Accept where you are at
Find comfort in knowing that how you are feeling is completely understandable following the loss of a loved one.
Don’t rush to accept the loss as this can make the grief process more complicated. Healing is continuous and ongoing – there is no specific timeline or end goal. You will process the loss in your own way and in your own time.
4. Validate your experience
If you find you are really struggling right now, that is part of your experience and it needs to be recognized. You aren’t overreacting. You don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed that you haven’t moved on.
You are exactly where you need to be right now. The path that you follow in how you move forward may look different from someone else, and that is ok.
5. Practice gratitude
This may seem like an unbelievable task, but practicing gratitude can be a shining light in the darkest of times.
Consider whether you were able to be there for your loved one in their final moments and how much you treasure these memories. Think about if you helped to take care of their special needs and assisted them to live with dignity when their health took a downturn. Or that you brought a smile to their face despite the pain or discomfort they may have been feeling before they passed away.
Take some time to write down some of the key things you are grateful for regarding the time you had with your loved one before they died – looking back on these points may help you when you are feeling low.
6. Streamline your schedule
This is a very overwhelming time for you. You may feel that you need to minimize any unnecessary commitments to take the load off of you.
This makes complete sense – no one can blame you for that. Cut out anything that you don’t have to do right now. Just focus on your priorities and take the time you need to heal.
7. Identify your triggers
Ups and downs are very common during the grief process. It can feel like a wave that washes over you – one minute you are upright and doing ok and the next minute you are overcome by a swell of emotions and are struggling to rise above it.
Triggers can be something you expect and, in other moments, they may surprise you. For example, there are the common dates that you might expect to be challenging (e.g. their birthday, your birthday, the holidays, anniversaries, any other dates or seasons that were special to you in your relationship).
And yet, there are other times, like when you walk by someone who is wearing perfume or cologne that reminds you of that person, or you see a person wearing a shirt that is in your loved one’s favourite colour, or you notice some other feature or detail that reminds you of the person you lost.
Those surprise moments can be the hardest as it may have caught you off guard. It’s ok if your eyes well up with tears – this is normal in the context of the situation and you can take the time you need to process it.
8. Honour them
You may choose to honour your loved one in a very meaningful way based on past traditions, rituals, and shared memories.
Perhaps you keep one of your favourite photos in a frame as a special momento. Or you light a candle in their honour on their birthday. Maybe you enjoy their favourite drink over the holidays. Or you listen to one of their favourite songs on an anniversary or a day that was special for both of you.
Think about what stands out to you about your relationship and honour them in a way that speaks to this special bond between the two of you.
9. Seek out individual therapy
If you find that you are depressed and are having difficulty with taking care of yourself or others who depend on you, or if you are having trouble managing your school or work responsibilities, it may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional. You can also let your doctor know about your symptoms as well and they may encourage medication to help with your mood.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room. You can also reach out to a crisis line if you need non-emergency but urgent emotional support. Here are some crisis line resources:
The Canadian Suicide Prevention Service 1 833 456 4566
First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline 1 855 242 3310
Kids Help Phone 1 800 668 6868 or text TALK to 686868
ConnexOntario 1 866 531 2600
Telehealth Ontario 1 866 797 0000
10. Try group therapy
Group therapy can be a great idea for those who would like to connect with others who are going through a similar type of loss.
For example, if you have lost a child or lost a loved one to cancer or some other type of traumatic event or situation, there may be groups that provide support in this specific area. You may also feel more comfortable with a support group that brings people together who have experienced loss in many different ways, and that is understandable as well.
You may notice that, through group therapy, you find your voice through the support of others who are also grieving the people they care about who have died. It may be easier for you to share more freely in this kind of group without worrying about how your disclosures are impacting other people in your life.
Look up groups near you or see if there is an online support group if you are more comfortable with that option.
Losing a loved one evokes many feelings and it is never easy to go through. Think about what you can do to support yourself, who you can connect with and get help from, and remember that your grief journey – and how you recognize the special place your loved one had in your life – is unique to you.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no specific timeline or benchmark you have to follow. Your healing process will unfold in its own pace and time.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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