Coping with Grief and Loss

Loss is something that comes with living life – one of the greatest challenges in life is dealing with the loss of a loved one, a friend, or something very meaningful to you such as a pet, a job or your health. In fact, losses can make us sad or stressed and in some cases can be a factor in the start of depression or other mental health problems. No matter how awful it is to be faced with the loss of someone or something you love or care about, you can learn to deal with it in ways that protect your emotional balance and keeps you moving forward in meaningful ways.

What is grief?
Grief is the emotional and physical reaction you have when you cope with the impact of a loss – even though it might feel overwhelming and awful, grief is a normal, healthy part of the healing process after experiencing a loss. Although grief is a painful experience that can make you feel out of control, there are ways to help yourself (or a friend) deal with it and ways to protect yourself from more complicated, long lasting emotional pain.

How do you handle facing a loss?
Everyone grieves with different emotions at different times and for different lengths of time – it’s important to respect how a person faces their loss and support them as they struggle to cope.  Usually, people are sad when they face a loss, but this isn’t always the case – one person might turn to humor and laughter to cope with grief, when in the same situation, you might feel sad and cry.  Every loss is experienced differently so it’s helpful to try to avoid reading too much into a person’s reactions.

Grieving is very personal – a friend may seem more upset about losing a boyfriend than you would feel, or you may feel distraught over the loss of a pet and your friend can’t relate to your distress.  The point is that each loss is a unique experience and the pain is real for the person who is grieving.

Though there isn’t one right or wrong way to work through grief, there are things you can do to make it worse.  Turning to drugs and alcohol or self-destructive behaviors to cope with your loss will make things worse in the long run.  It is clearly much more effective and helpful to stay connected with loved ones and friends who can support and comfort you while you are dealing with a loss.  As much as you might want to “shut down,” it is usually very helpful to try to keep up with your daily life – go to school, or work and go out with a good friend.  And finally, it’s always beneficial to take good care of your physical health while coping with grief.

If you’ve suffered a loss and after some time things just don’t seem to be getting better for you – or are getting worse – this may indicate that you are having trouble handling the grief on your own. This is when it might be helpful to reach out to a trusted adult to discuss the situation and possibly get some support.

Additional Resources
Actively Moving Forward – Resources
Our House – Ways Teens Can Help a Grieving Friend

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