How to Cope with Grief and Loss
Losing a loved one, experiencing the end of a significant relationship, or going through major life changes can leave you struggling to cope with your emotions.
One of the most difficult parts of grieving these losses is how isolating it can feel.
You may feel as though nobody understands what you’re going through, or feel as though you can’t talk to friends or family about the pain you’re experiencing. You may even feel like you shouldn’t be grieving because other people are experiencing situations that seem more difficult.
It’s important to remember that your feelings are valid and you’re not alone.
For over 14 years, our team at KMA has been supporting clients during life’s most challenging moments. We’re here to help you understand your emotions and help you put a name to the feelings you can’t quite explain.
We’ve created this article to help you identify your feelings of grief and learn ways to support yourself during difficult times.
After reading this article, you’ll have a clear list of symptoms that may indicate you’re grieving, an understanding of the difference between grief and mourning, and three strategies to support yourself as you navigate this difficult stage of life.
What Causes Grief?
Several different events can cause feelings of grief. Any significant loss in your life may be extremely difficult to process and result in feelings of grief.
Some examples of experiences that can cause grief include:
- Loss of a pet
- Breakups or divorce
- Death of a loved one
- Personal injury or illness
- Changes in financial status
- Retirement or other major life changes
Over the past few years, we’ve also all had to deal with grief caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic itself caused significant losses for many people, it also changed the way that we were able to grieve other losses. You may have been unable to be with loved ones who were sick or attend funerals of those you lost, which can create additional feelings of grief.
It’s okay if things continue to feel difficult, and it’s okay if grieving looks different than it has in the past.
How Do I Know if I’m Grieving?
You may know that you experienced something difficult, but how do you know if you’re truly grieving?
Grief can express itself in different ways for different people. However, there are common symptoms of grief that you’ll likely experience after a difficult loss.
Symptoms of grief can include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Issues with appetite
It can be difficult to get in touch with your emotions after experiencing a significant loss, but identifying these tangible symptoms can help you understand them as grief.
What is Complicated Grief?
If your symptoms and feelings of grief don’t fade over time, you may be experiencing complicated grief. You may feel unable to accept the loss or adjust to the new reality you’re facing.
If you’re experiencing complicated grief, it can be especially important to speak to a mental health professional to seek out additional support for your grief.
What’s the Difference Between Grief and Mourning?
While both grief and mourning are natural parts of the healing process, they have different characteristics.
Grief involves our internal feelings of loss, and mourning involves our outward expression of loss.
While grief involves the psychological and physical symptoms outlined above, mourning involves an outward process that varies depending on the type of loss experienced.
Mourning can include:
- Attending a funeral
- Cultural events or practices
- Sharing memories of loved ones
- Exploring new ways of life after loss
- Connecting with friends or family about the loss
While grief and mourning often go hand-in-hand, allowing yourself to fully mourn a person or situation can be the first step to coping with loss.
How Do I Cope with Grief and Loss?
Now that you have an understanding of what grief involves, you can start to find ways to move through it.
Here are three ways that you can begin to cope with grief and loss.
1. Allow Yourself to Mourn
As outlined above, mourning is the process of outwardly expressing your feelings of grief.
Mourning is an important part of the healing process, as it allows you to accept the reality of what happened and begin to move forward.
Mourning allows you to embrace the pain of the loss you’ve experienced and find meaning in what happened.
Over time, allowing yourself to mourn can help lessen your feelings of grief and loss.
2. Connect with Friends and Family
Receiving support from others is an important component of the grieving process. Grief can feel incredibly isolating, so it’s important to stay connected to those around you.
It’s helpful to be around people who are willing to understand how impactful this event has been for you, and who are there to support you while you process your emotions.
Even if it’s difficult to discuss your feelings of grief with loved ones, it can be helpful to simply spend time with them. Surround yourself with people who will be there to listen once you’re ready to talk.
3. Seek out Additional Support
Seeking out additional support, such as therapy for grief and bereavement, can be helpful no matter where you are in your journey with grief.
Therapy can help you:
- Process the event that you’re grieving
- Understand your emotional responses
- Create a plan of action to move forward
Sometimes, we all need some extra help, especially after going through a difficult loss.
Our feelings of sadness after a loss may never fully go away, but they can become easier to manage.
The amount of grief you’re feeling at the moment is temporary, and there is a way for you to move forward.
Next Steps For Coping with Grief and Loss
After reading this article, you now have an understanding of the signs you may be experiencing grief, the difference between grief and mourning, and three steps to take to cope with grief.
Here at KMA, our therapy for grief and bereavement starts with a 50-minute introductory session. We’ll take the time to understand your unique situation, establish a customized therapy plan for your goals, and match you with the best therapist for your needs.
If you’re not yet ready to connect with our team, read these resources for more information:
- If you think you may be experiencing trauma in addition to grief, read: What are the 4 Trauma Responses, and How to Cope
- If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, read: How to Find a Therapist for Depression in Toronto
- If you’re wondering whether therapy could help you, read: Will Psychotherapy Help Me?