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  • Katherine Mackenzie

Grief Guide Part 3: Practical Strategies for Coping with Grief

Updated: Jun 3

Grieving the loss of a loved one is a profound and often overwhelming experience that impacts every aspect of our lives. While grief may feel insurmountable at times, integrating practical coping strategies into our daily routines can provide comfort and support as we navigate the journey of healing.


It's important to recognize that coping skills serve as tools to help us manage the intensity of grief and navigate its challenges, but they do not eliminate the underlying pain or resolve the problem entirely. Coping skills are like a lifeboat in the stormy sea of grief, offering us moments of respite and relief amidst the waves of sorrow.


Self-care practices form the cornerstone of grief management, nurturing our physical and emotional well-being.



  • Self-Care and Nurturing Your Well-being Research indicates that maintaining physical health and proper nutrition can significantly impact our ability to cope with grief [1]. These practices help us build resilience and stamina, enabling us to withstand the emotional toll of loss."Self-care isn't about escaping grief; it's about giving yourself the strength and energy to face it," says Dr. Thompson. "By prioritizing your well-being, you're honouring yourself and your journey through grief."


  • Manage your Routine and Habits Finding a new routine and intentionally prioritizing activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being can offer moments of solace and rejuvenation amidst the turmoil of loss. This can include s imple practices such as having a set schedule, maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in regularly occurring activities can help to provide the foundation for resilience in the face of grief.


  • Sleep and relaxation techniques Prioritizing rest is essential for restoring our bodies and minds. Quality sleep not only rejuvenates us physically but also fosters emotional regulation and cognitive function [2]. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help alleviate stress and promote a sense of calm amidst the storm of grief.


  • Mindfulness and meditation Taking the time to slow down is a powerful tool for staying present and cultivating acceptance in the midst of grief. Research suggests that mindfulness-based interventions can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhance emotional regulation, and improve overall well-being [3]. By grounding ourselves in the present moment, we can better navigate the waves of grief with greater clarity and compassion.


  • Journaling and writing Self expression can provide avenues for expressing our thoughts and emotions, facilitating the grieving process. Guided journaling prompts can offer structure and guidance, helping us explore our feelings, memories, and reflections on loss. Studies have shown that expressive writing can lead to improved psychological well-being and greater emotional resilience in the face of adversity [4].


  • Art, Music and Movement Engaging in creative outlets such as art, music, and movement can also aid in processing grief and finding solace amidst sorrow. Creativity offers a unique form of expression that transcends words, allowing us to tap into our innermost emotions and experiences. Whether through painting, playing music, or dancing, creative expression provides a channel for catharsis and healing.


  • Exercise and Physical Activity Incorporating physical activity into our daily lives further supports our holistic well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural pain relievers and mood enhancers, offering relief from the intensity of grief [5]. However, while coping skills can provide valuable support, they are not a substitute for professional therapy. Therapy offers a safe and supportive space to explore and process our grief, address underlying issues, and develop coping strategies tailored to our individual needs.


  • Connecting with others Research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology indicates that participation in support groups and peer networks can reduce feelings of isolation and improve coping outcomes for bereaved individuals [9]. Connecting with loved ones or others who have experienced similar loss can provide invaluable support and validation as you navigate the journey of grief. Seeking out support can also take the form of finding online forums, groups or community organizations dedicated to bereavement can offer a sense of belonging and understanding. Sharing your experiences with others who have walked a similar path as well as hearing others stories of difficulty and resilience can help alleviate feelings of isolation and provide comfort in knowing that you are not alone.


In nurturing our well-being amidst grief, taking care of your physical wellbeing is paramount. Research underscores the significance of maintaining physical health and proper nutrition in bolstering our resilience and stamina during periods of loss. By prioritizing activities such as balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and mindfulness techniques like meditation, we cultivate a sense of calm amid the storm of grief. Engaging in creative outlets such as journaling, art, music, and movement offers avenues for expression and healing.


It's important to remember that while coping skills provide valuable support, they are not a substitute for professional therapy. Therapy offers a safe space to process grief, address underlying issues, and develop tailored coping strategies.


References:

  1. Mastin, T. (2010). Importance of Sleep. Harvard Medical School.

  2. Franzen, P. L., & Buysse, D. J. (2008). Sleep disturbances and depression: risk relationships for subsequent depression and therapeutic implications. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 10(4), 473–481.

  3. Khoury, B., Sharma, M., Rush, S. E., & Fournier, C. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 78(6), 519-528.

  4. Smyth, J. M., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2008). Exploring the boundary conditions of expressive writing: In search of the right recipe. British Journal of Health Psychology, 13(1), 1-7.

  5. Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The benefits of exercise for the clinically depressed. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 6(3), 104-111.

  6. Knaevelsrud, C., & Maercker, A. (2007). Internet-based treatment for PTSD reduces distress and facilitates the development of a strong therapeutic alliance: a randomized controlled clinical trial. BMC Psychiatry, 7(1), 1-9.

  7. Shear, M. K., Simon, N., Wall, M., Zisook, S., Neimeyer, R., Duan, N., ... & Keshaviah, A. (2011). Complicated grief and related bereavement issues for DSM-5. Depression and anxiety, 28(2), 103-117.

  8. American Psychological Association. (2022). Stress Management. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress-management

  9. Lichtenthal, W. G., & Cruess, D. G. (2010). Effects of directed disclosure of loss on post-loss adjustment: An efficacy trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(6), 870-879.

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