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More About Coping With Grief

Kathryn Patricelli, MA, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

 woman walking

  • Good Physical Self-Care – During the grief process, it is important to practice good physical care. This includes getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. All of these things will keep grieving people's bodies in good shape while they deal with emotional issues. When such self-care steps are not taken seriously, people may develop conditions (medical and otherwise) which can complicate the grief process.
  • Keep Active and Social (as tolerated) – Many grieving people feel the need or desire to withdraw from relationships and activities while they are grieving. However, it can actually be helpful for grieving people to stay engaged in other relationships and activities. Such activities provide important opportunities for distraction; allowing grieving people to focus on something other than their grief.
  • Putting Off Major Decisions – While grieving a loss, it is generally best to put off any major life decisions, as people's ability to think straight and use good judgment can become clouded by their loss. It is best to avoid making any serious decisions such as whether or not to move, change jobs, or to commit to a new relationship until grieving is over.
  • Be Flexible – Grieving people who are accustomed to a tightly scheduled life should instead allow themselves flexibility with their schedule and daily routine during their grieving process. While many people want to continue to act "normal" during this period and stick to their regular schedule, this is often not practical in the aftermath of a serious loss. Instead, it may be better to allow time for dealing with the loss. For example, completing household chores, such as laundry or washing dishes may be put off and not done as consistently so as to make time for talking with an intimate friend or family member or attending a counseling session. There is no need to feel guilty if things are not done to standard during a time of grief.
  • Read – People may find comfort in reading books about grieving, self-help, the meaning of life, and inspirational or religious/spiritual matters. Others find comfort in reading something completely unrelated to grief, such as the latest fiction novel, so as to temporarily escape from grief feelings and regain a sense of normalcy, even for a short time.
  • Pray - People who find comfort in prayer and religious participation should pray and participate in prescribed rituals as a means of helping themselves cope with their loss.
  • Plan Ahead for Anniversaries – Even after a grieving process has run its course, grief feelings can become renewed in anticipation of anniversary dates that remind people of their losses. It is helpful therefore to figure out what these anniversary dates are likely to be in advance, and to create a plan for managing them. Some people find comfort in making anniversaries into a special days that commemorate the lost loved one. Others may decide that they will take the day off work and be alone to process their memories. While there might not be any way to avoid the resurgence of painful memories in the moment, a little time spent planning ahead can make those feelings easier to cope with when they do return.