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How to Cope with Loss and Grief Healthy Coping Strategies

Updated on September 12, 2014

The Pain of Grief

Pain | Source

Healthy Ways of Coping with Loss and Grief

When faced with a loss, crisis or life-changing event, you are suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar world, one that can be frightening and unsettling.

Knowing some simple ways of coping and how to make it through the first few days or hours can help ease some of the sorrow.

This lens offers articles and resources along with helpful, healthy strategies for coping with a loss and the grief response that follows.

Sometime the best you can hope to do during times of challenge is remember the basics and take things one minute at at time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.

It can be helpful to realize that sometimes all you can do is take it moment by moment.

On life's most difficult days all that we can do is simply take things moment by moment.

— Kirsti A. Dyer

Live after Loss

Life after Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life after Experiencing Major Loss
Life after Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life after Experiencing Major Loss
One of the classics on coping after experiencing a major life loss from Bob Deits.

Remember the Basics

Remember the Basics When Coping with Loss

When faced with a life challenge, a loss it is helpful to remember the basics.

This short list provides healthy coping strategies that I recommended to patients and to friends, to keep them moving during the first few days.

  1. Take it one hour at a time, one day at a time, if need be one moment at a time.
  2. Get enough sleep or at least enough rest.
  3. Try to maintain some type of a normal routine.
  4. Remember that regular exercise helps relieve stress and tension.
  5. Eat a balanced diet. Limit high calorie and junk food. Drink plenty of water.
  6. Avoid using alcohol, medications or other drugs in excess or to mask the pain.
  7. Do those things and be with those people who comfort, sustain and recharge you.
  8. Talk to others, especially those who have lived through and survived similar experiences.
  9. Find creative ways-journal, paint, photograph, build, woodwork, quilt, knit, collage or draw-to express intense feelings.
  10. Remember coping skills you have used to survive past losses. Draw upon these inner strengths again.

More on Understanding Grief and Loss

This is a collection of some of the best articles and resources on understanding and coping with grief and loss from the Journey of Hearts site.

Healing After Loss

Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief
Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief
Martha Whitmore Hickman's pocket-sized book of daily meditations is one that has been gifted to many a grieving person to help in workting through the grief.

Grief is a Journey

Grief is a journey,

often perilous and without clear direction,

that must be taken.

The experience of grieving cannot be

ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled,

pushed aside or ignored indefinitely.

It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love.

It may be postponed, but it will not be denied.

Molly Fumia

Articles on Coping with Loss and Grief

Additional resources for helping people cope with loss.

When There Are No Words

When There Are No Words: Finding Your Way to Cope with Loss and Grief
When There Are No Words: Finding Your Way to Cope with Loss and Grief
Some losses are so great there simply are no words. Charlie Walton offers his helpful tips on finding your way to cope.

To Keep Going Beyond the First Few Days

More Healthy Coping Strategies

After making it through the first few days just focusing on the basics, the grieving person may need some helpful suggestions to keep going.

This list provides additional healthy coping strategies to keep the person moving and doing something beyond first few days following the loss.

  1. Create a Memorial.

    Depending on the circumstances and the person you may want to create roadside memorial, a home shrine or a bulletin board filled with letters, notes, poems and pictures. You may decide to create a sculpture, a collage or fill a scrapbook with memories.

  2. Help to plan and organize the funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life to honor the person who has died.

    Planning a service, tending to the details, is something active to do, during a time when people often feel helpless.

  3. Plant a tree or flowers in a garden in memory of the person.
  4. Donate--money, time, food, clothing or other needed items

    Donate to a favorite charity, homeless shelter, animal shelter or home for abused women.

  5. Donate blood at your local blood center.

    Donating is another way of doing something active and giving something back.

  6. Write sympathy and condolence notes, letters of encouragement and support to those affected by the loss.
  7. Thank the emergency and hospital personnel, highway patrol, police and firefighters for helping

    This is particularly important if the loss involved an accident or emergency.

  8. Be kind to others.

    Make space for the car merging in on the freeway. Don't use your horn unless it is absolutely necessary. Let someone with fewer items go first in the grocery store.

  9. Perform random acts of kindness.

    This will help to remind one there is tenderness and thoughtfulness in the world. Pay the bridge toll for the person behind you. Smile at the store clerk. Some choose to perform random acts of kindness in memory of the person lost.

  10. Volunteer your services or skills.

    Offer your assistance to someone in need.

  11. Do something that can benefit others.

    Take a first aid or CPR class.

  12. Remember to tell your loved ones, friends and family how much you care about them often.

How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies

How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies
How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies
Therese Rando's book on How to Go on Living is another one of the classics that is given to help people continue living after the death of a loved one.

Finding Support During Times of Sorrow

The Great Family of the Heavy-Hearted

When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne,

let us think of the great family of the heavy-hearted

into which our grief has given us entrance,

and inevitable,

we will feel about us,

their arms and their understanding.

Helen Keller

Mourning Ends - When You Decide to Live Again

People in mourning have to come to grips with death before they can live again.

Mourning can go on for years and years.

It doesn't end after a year, that's a false fantasy.

It usually ends when people realize that they can live again,

that they can concentrate their energies on their lives as a whole,

and not on their hurt, and guilt and pain.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Coping with Valentine's Day

Several posts from the Grief, Loss & Transitions blog on getting through Valentine's Day.

Grief - An Ever Changing Storm

After a stormy period of mixed feelings

of prolonged sadness, there comes a calm.

After we become convinced that we are at the very brink

of eternal despair, or fear, or guilt, or sadness,

we are given a reprieve.

We have a breathing space that eventually leads to whole days

that have personal value and offer us the opportunity for affection.

Then we recognize that no period of misery

is endless and unrelenting;

it is instead, changeable.

Carol Staudacher

Understanding Your Grief

Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart
Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart
In this book from Alan Wolfelt he takes a look at his ten touchstones for finding hope and health the heart after experiencing grief. includes rights of mourners and sections for journaling.

Creative Commons License © 1997-2014 Kirsti A. Dyer MD, MS, FT. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

The material in this resource book may be copied and reproduced on websites or in newsletters, ezines provided that the Author's Biography information is included with any article.

Longer excerpts from this online resource book may not be copied, duplicated or reproduced for use in a for-profit setting without prior written permission by the author.

Contact the Author at the Contact Me link above.

What has helped you in the past?

Share your thoughts about coping with grief in the comments below.

© 2007 Kirsti A. Dyer


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