How to Deal with Grief and Loss: An In-Depth Guide To Moving Forward

“Those we love & lose are always connected to us by heartstrings into infinity.” – Terri Guillemets

Losing someone you love is one of life’s most difficult experiences. It’s important to remember that everyone grieves differently, and how you feel in the immediate moments and days after the loss of a loved one is a profoundly unique and personal experience.

The pain you feel during the grieving process can be overwhelming at times, and it’s natural for your feelings to shift and change as time moves forward.

The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself. The most challenging experiences also offer the opportunity for personal reflection, healing, and growth.

In this article, we will give you tools and insights that we hope will help you cope with your loss.

What is Grief?

Grief is both intensely personal and entirely universal. While it can feel overwhelming at times, it may help to remember that grief is a natural response to losing someone.

Grieving takes on many different forms, and navigating through the emotions can be a very different experience for each of us. Every relationship we have is unique, and our grief will be unique as well. Our relationship with the person who passed away may have been close, distant, warm, or challenging. We can still grieve, no matter what emotions are involved. There is no one “correct” way to grieve.

As you move through the coming days and weeks, it’s important to allow yourself the space and time to grieve in whatever way feels most natural. Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you, and consider connecting with a therapist or grief counselor who can help you work through more complicated emotions.

Symptoms of Grief

Although we each experience and react to grief differently, it’s important to remember that most reactions are normal and valid. Even though our reactions can overwhelm us, they are important to acknowledge so we can find healthy ways to cope. Grief can cause significant disruption and change in our lives.

As you take time to reflect, find a moment to identify your physical and emotional reactions. Download and print our checklist below to mark off those you have experienced.

Remember that everyone’s journey is unique and you may be experiencing none or a combination of these reactions. The important thing is to acknowledge the feelings you are experiencing so you can consider how to move forward.

Suggested Read: Can Grief Make You Sick? 9 Tips to Manage The Effects

Common Reactions Checklist

Click here to download a printable version of our Common Reactions Checklist.

Physical Symptoms of Grief

  • change in appetite
  • tightness in chest
  • headaches
  • lack of energy
  • nausea or indigestion
  • general body aches

Behavioral Symptoms of Grief

  • sleeplessness
  • lack of motivation
  • unexpected crying
  • social withdrawal
  • hyperactivity
  • reckless behavior

Cognitive Symptoms of Grief

  • confusion
  • poor concentration

Emotional Symptoms of Grief

  • depression
  • anger
  • anxiety or panic
  • loneliness
  • relief
  • indifference
  • fear
  • shock or disbelief
  • self-blame or guilt

Spiritual Symptoms of Grief

  • anger towards god
  • seeking meaning of loss
  • examining meaning of life
  • strengthening in faith

Grief And Loss - 4 Ways to Cope

4 Ways to Cope With Grief

After a loss, you may encounter a wide range of feelings, including shock, anger, sadness, and frustration. There are times you may even feel relief or lightness, which can be followed by a sense of guilt for having those feelings.

Often, we can cause ourselves additional and unnecessary pain by wishing we had said or done something different before the passing of our loved one occurred, especially if the passing was sudden or unexpected.

Thankfully, there are many healthy ways to cope with grief. There is no right or wrong way to work through your loss as long as it doesn’t involve harming yourself or others.

Coping with a loss can include taking time for yourself, finding people to support you, or taking part in something you enjoy. To help you get started, we’ve collected a few ideas for you to consider incorporating into your healing process.

Suggested Read: 5 Stages Of Grief – Why Everyone Grieves Differently

1. Find a Support Network

Having the support of other people you trust is one of the most important things after experiencing a loss.

More like This: What You Can Do To Support A Friend During Loss?

2. Seek Comfort in Your Faith

You may seek comfort from spiritual activities that help you heal. If it feels right for you, take the time to include prayer, religious services, or meditation in your daily routine. It’s not uncommon for people who are grieving to question their faith, or to seek comfort in a new faith. Seeking out and speaking to members of your faith community can help you navigate these feelings.

3. Talk to an Expert

Speaking to a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling can be a smart and proactive choice. A professional counselor or therapist can help you work through your feelings and the obstacles you are facing, as well as offer a safe space to share any feelings you struggle to understand.

4. Express Yourself Creatively

Creativity and the arts are proven and powerful healing tools that can help you cope with your loss. The most important thing is to find what speaks to you. Painting, dancing, creating art, journaling, or merely writing down your feelings are all ways you can express yourself and help encourage the healing process. You may decide to share your creations, or you may feel best keeping them for yourself. There are no rules around what to create or what you do with these things once you create them.

Consider – Write a letter to your loved one who has passed as a way to express your unsaid thoughts or feelings. You may also find comfort in writing a letter from your loved one to you, imagining the things you think or wish they could express if they had the chance.

Suggested Read: Final Arrangements: Writing Letters To Loved Ones For When Your Gone

Suggested Read: What Does Grief Feel Like? 4 Comparisons To Explain Your Grief And Loss

Moving Forward

Moving forward after a loss doesn’t have to mean the connection to your loved one ends. There are many meaningful ways to continue your bond and the most important thing is finding a path that is right for you.

Important dates like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries can be especially difficult. Creating meaningful rituals around these important dates can give you the strength to acknowledge these days as you reconnect with the memories you shared with your loved one.

Adjusting to your new normal can mean all kinds of things. New highs, new lows, new adventures, new routines, and new relationships are all normal. It is perfectly okay to give yourself permission to embrace everything new and to also honor and continue your love for those you’ve lost.

Suggested Read: Moving Forward After Loss — Adjusting To The New Normal

Grief and Loss - 6 Tips

6 Tips for Moving Forward

Click to download a printable version  of these 6 tips so you have a reminder to hang on your fridge, put in your desk, or keep wherever it will be most helpful to you as you find your way forward.

1. Get Moving

Try to stay physically active by taking walks or participating in sports or other physical activities that you find enjoyable.

Suggested Read: After a Loss, Let Nature Help You Cope

2. Stay Present

The emotions you experience are valid, and whether laughing or crying, give yourself permission to express how you feel.

3. Find Support

Don’t go through it alone. Find support in family & friends or seek out a professional that can help you find healthy ways to cope.

4. Take Time

There is no set timetable for grief, and how you feel can change over time. Make sure to be patient with yourself.

5. Be Mindful

Finding ways to connect spiritually can be therapeutic. Explore adding yoga, meditation, or prayer to your daily or weekly routine.

Suggested Read: Relaxation Breathing — 3 Tips to Help You Cope During Vulnerable Times

6. Take Action

Consider using your experiences to influence a more positive future.

We hope you’ve found this article useful. Acknowledging your grief and exploring ways to cope are great first steps.

We’ve also provided you additional helpful resources below to help support you as you continue to move forward in your healing process.

Additional Grief Resources

1. Book and Materials

For Adults

  • The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman
  • It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine
  • A Time To Heal: A Grief Journal by Beth Marshall 

For Children and Teens

  • Finding the Words: How to talk with children and teens about death, suicide, funerals, homicide, cremation, and other end-of-life matters by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D.
  • When Someone Dies: A Child-Caregiver Activity Book provided by The National Alliance for Grieving Children
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
  • Thoughts of You: A Journal for Teens Coping With Grief by Jennifer Yonker LCSW

2. Support Groups and Grief Counseling

These are several ways to connect with individual or family grief support and counseling services in your area:

  • Hospice agency
  • Funeral home
  • Hospital
  • Agency on Aging
  • A trusted advisor, such as your physician or a clergy member
  • Many employers have Employee Assistance Programs or other insurance options. Check with your human resources contact to see what resources may be available.

3. Organizations

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