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6 Tips for Handling Grief

Older woman sitting outside dabbing her eyes with a tissue

February 23, 2022

Everyone grieves in their own unique way, but the one thing we have in common is that all of us face grief and loss at some point in our lives.

How we go about dealing with grief is up to us. While it may be difficult, there are things we can do to help ourselves and others handle the grieving process. Turning Point counselor Jamie Copaken, LSCSW, has provided a few tips for dealing with grief and loss.

Know that the 5 stages of grief don’t always go in order

Most of us are familiar with the 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What many of us don’t realize is that these stages rarely go in order, and the length of time varies for each stage.

“It would be nice if we went in sequential order, but we don’t,” Copaken says. “We kind of bounce all around. We sometimes get to acceptance, saying, ‘OK, we've been doing this for a while. This is how it is.’ And then something happens that makes us upset again.

“So sometimes knowing that this is the process we have to go through can help us fit it into our brain and make sense of it so that we can move through it.”

Try not to compare loss

Some may grieve the death of a friend, parent, child or pet differently. Some may even grieve a loss that has nothing to do with death, like losing a job, moving away or losing an element of life. The key is knowing that loss is loss, and there’s no right or wrong way to handle it.

If you’re dealing with a loss like the death of a pet, you shouldn’t feel bad about grieving just because you or someone you know recently lost a family member. Your grief matters too because grieving is how we deal with loss to get back to our normal selves.

“Losses can be trauma with a capital T, or even a trauma with a lowercase T,” Copaken says. “Meaning it's a little bit less traumatic, but it still hurts. It's still painful. And it still requires a process. It’s necessary to feel that emotion so you can get through it.”

Avoid being quick to diagnose

At times we can be quick to say that a grieving person is depressed, but that may not necessarily be the case. They could just be going through a grieving process that is normal and healthy. Grief can lead to depression, but it depends on the length of time and how much the grieving period affects that person’s life. So instead of being quick to diagnose, be patient, listen and pay attention to how the grieving person in your life is feeling and improving over time.

Find balance on social media

When used correctly, social media can be an excellent tool for seeking connection among our friends and family. But remember that a balance is needed with everything, especially social media usage. It’s OK to share our stories with others online, but as we mentioned earlier, try not to get caught up in comparing yourself with others. Also, try not to depend on likes and comments from those online, because you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment if you do not receive a certain number of positive interactions.

Seek help if needed

It is never a bad thing to seek help if the grieving process becomes difficult to handle alone. In fact, it’s healthy and helpful. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

“Talk to your friends, your clergy, talk to a therapist, go to a support group or grief group,” Copaken says. He also suggests seeking help online through chat groups and blogs if you’re more comfortable with that type of interaction.

Be curious and listen

We often tend to think we know what’s best for others, but when someone close to us is grieving it’s better for us to be present and to listen. Instead of trying to provide answers, help the person close to you find answers themselves by listening and talking things out with them. Truly try to understand their point of view.

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