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How to Deal With Grief

Healthy Living

Administrative Director of Spiritual Wellness at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission

You may be mourning the loss of a job, a relationship or your formerly healthy self. Or you may be suffering perhaps the most profound form of grief; the loss of a loved one.

A broken heart is a real thing. The emotional stress associated with grieving can affect your mind, body and spirit. It can trigger psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety, and can actually cause physical pain, as well. You may feel heavy, fatigued or weepy. You may have trouble eating, sleeping or getting out of bed. You may suffer body aches, headaches and digestive problems. You may see no end in sight.

If you feel stuck in your grief, you’re not alone. One in 5 people who experience significant loss admit to the same.

You need support and, thankfully, it is out there for the taking.

Everyone Suffers Grief at Some Time

Grief is one of the most powerful emotions and difficult life stressors a person can face. Unresolved grief can lead to these negative impacts:

  • Destructive behavior, regardless of age
  • Physical illness
  • Psychological problems
  • Social impairment
  • Spiritual struggles

And while no two people grieve the same, one commonality in the grieving process is just that; it is a process - a continuum involving many changes over time.

The Many Faces of Grief

Much has been written about the stages of grief, suggesting that your grief process is a linear series of specific emotions; that your grief will progress in a way consistent with others.

But grief is actually a cyclical series of unique reactions to loss, including:

  • Shock
  • Emotional release
  • Depression
  • Physical symptoms of distress
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Hesitancy to renew normal activities
  • Healing of memories
  • Acceptance of one's new role in life

These reactions, called the faces of grief, can occur in no particular order, on no particular timeline and, in some cases, can recur over a period of time.

Facing Your Grief

A common fear among people who are grieving is that once they succumb to their grief, they will be overwhelmed and unable to handle it.

The truth is that unexpressed grief lasts indefinitely. Grief that is experienced and expressed does diminish over time.

To start the healing process, it is important to identify how you grieve.

Two Types of Grieving

Instrumental Grievers

  • Have a more tempered affect to loss
  • Are more likely to describe it in physical or cognitive terms
  • Are more likely to cognitively process it or immerse themselves in activity as a diversion

Intuitive Grievers

  • Are more likely to experience their grief as waves of affect
  • Often need to express their feelings
  • Seek the support of others
  • Find it more beneficial to vent and facilitate a strong expression of feelings
  • Will likely benefit more from support networks

Grief Support Groups Can Help

Grief support groups can benefit you in these ways:

  • They provide a high level of social support.
  • They reduce the risk of bad outcomes.
  • They shorten the duration of the grief.

The goal of these groups is not to cheer you up or minimize your grief, but to aid you in navigating your personal process.

Support Groups in Your Area

Contact us for information about our twice-yearly grief support sessions, facilitated by the AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Pastoral Care staff, or find a support group in your area.

Suicide Awareness Survivor Support also has many great resources.

If you need further help, keep in mind that most hospice organizations offer grief support groups.

Recommended Reading

Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, by J. William Worden
Men Don’t Cry… Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes of Grief, by Terry Martin and Ken Doka
Learning to Say Goodbye: Dealing with Death and Dying, by Rosalie Peck and Charlotte Stefanics