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Coping with Grief and Loss

Date: 02/01/22

At some point in our lives, everyone experiences grief. Grief is a natural response to any loss, large or small – death of a loved one or pet, divorce, job loss, move, or the end of a friendship. Not everyone experiences grief in the same way, but everyone needs to go through the process of grieving and letting go.

What is grief

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the process that allows us to let go and move forward with our lives. The way we grieve or mourn can be influenced by our cultural beliefs or traditions—in some cultures, it’s typical to express grief quietly and privately, in others, it can be loud and public. No one way or amount of time for grieving is right for everyone, and you should give yourself permission to grieve in the way that feels right for you.

Symptoms of grief

Grief can cause both physical and emotional symptoms. Emotionally, you might feel extreme sadness, shocked, angry, or even guilty. You might “feel numb” or cry a lot. If your grief is because someone has died, you might keep thinking they’re going to walk in – even though you know they’re gone. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel anxious or fearful about the future without the person who died. Physically, many people have trouble eating or sleeping. They may feel nausea or fatigue, gain or lose weight, and have lowered immunity to infections.

The “stages of grief”

You may have heard someone talk about the “stages of grief.” This is from the work of a psychiatrist named Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who worked with patients who were dying. She saw that most patients experienced five stages in the process of grieving:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Since Dr. Kubler-Ross wrote about her work, other researchers have applied it to people experiencing grief from other causes. It’s important to remember that you can’t control the process. Grief isn’t a straight line. Not everyone will experience each stage, and it’s not unusual to revisit steps during the grieving process. In fact, some doctors describe grieving as like a roller coaster, with highs and lows all along the way.

Coping with grief

Grief can feel overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you will make it through. Remember, you can’t force or hurry the grieving process. A big part of coping with grief is taking care of yourself. Here are some other tips from the National Institutes of Health and the American Psychological Association for how to cope with grief:

Take care of yourself. Try to exercise regularly, eat healthy food, and get enough sleep. Avoid habits that can put your health at risk, like drinking too much alcohol or smoking.

Talk with caring friends. Talk about how you’re feeling, what happened, or remember your loved one.

Try not to make any major changes right away. It’s a good idea to wait for a while before making big decisions like moving or changing jobs.

Join a grief support group. Talking with others who are grieving too can help. Check with local hospices or hospitals, religious groups, funeral homes, or your doctor to find a support group.

Consider professional support. Sometimes talking with a counselor about your grief can help.

Accept your feelings. It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions.

Be patient with yourself. Mourning takes time.

Written by Cindy Maxim 

Sources NIH, HealthGuide, American Psychological Association

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Please always follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Programs and services are subject to change. Managed Health Network, LLC (MHN) is a subsidiary of Health Net, LLC. The MHN companies include Managed Health Network and MHN Services, LLC. Health Net and Managed Health Network are registered service marks of Health Net, LLC or its affiliates. All rights reserved