Coping with Grief and Loss

The loss of a loved one through death can turn our world upside down.  It can be a life-altering event not only because of the new emptiness in our lives, but also because we, too, can become a victim of the loss through depression and hopelessness.

Everyone endures the death of someone close at some time in their life, so many who have lived the experience will tell you it is hard, but survivable.  Here are some suggestions to take care of yourself, which will help you through the grief and sense of loss.


Your body needs to sleep because of the emotional roller coaster you are on.  However, death brings stress as well, and stress is the biggest enemy to rest.  Try to keep to your daily routine so you will be tired at night.  Walk the dog, take a stroll or read a book—whatever you normally do.  You might be tempted to have an alcoholic drink to make you relax, however, alcohol will prevent you from having a quality sleep.  Tobacco and caffeine can also impede rest.  Don’t forget that caffeine is also in chocolate and many soft drinks.  Don’t do strenuous tasks prior to bedtime because your adrenalin will keep you awake.  Sometimes a high protein, high carbohydrate snack prior to going to bed can help you fall asleep more quickly.  Rest and relaxation training can help, too.  If you find yourself still struggling after three weeks, your doctor may wish to prescribe a sleep aid.


Your loved one is gone, but you are still here, and your body needs nourishment to survive.  While it’s normal to have irregular eating patterns during the grieving process, try to make yourself eat, even if you’re not hungry.  Protein diets can help reduce stress.  You may even consider a multi-stress vitamin or B-vitamin.  Potassium and calcium intake can help reduce stress, too.  Try milk and cheese or bananas rather than junk food.


Consider doing something physical which is in the scope or your present health.  Take a walk, go to the gym, maybe even go shopping in the mall.  Do something to keep yourself physically moving.  It will make you feel better overall, plus it will make you tired at the end of the day, thus enabling you to have a better chance of sleeping.

Treat Yourself Well

Grief has many steps to ascend until you work through the loss.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, rather, treat yourself to outings and activities that can distract you from your sadness.  It’s okay to be happy, even briefly.  You are not betraying your loved one by enjoying your life.  Some suggestions include:

  • Dining out with friends.
  • Dressing up, even if you’re not going anywhere.  Sometimes just taking a bath makes us feel better.
  • Practice/participate in your hobbies: movies, TV, sports, reading, interacting with your animals.
  • Find outlets to discuss your loved one to allow yourself to be comforted.  These may include your spiritual leader, friends, counselors, family members.  You may find consolation in prayer or letter-writing.
  • Schedule your day to include doing something nice for yourself.  Include activities that let you achieve something rather than sitting idle at home.  Grocery shopping, going to the post office, visiting a friend are some ideas.  If you do find yourself at home, identify chores to accomplish each day.
  • Visit the ill or help someone else.

Grief does not pass quickly, but it is survivable, and these suggestions can help you through the process in a healthy manner.

How We Respond to Grief

If you’ve experienced an immense loss in your life, be it the death of a loved one, the ending of a long term relationship or friendship, or the loss of a job, you may find yourself going through the stages of grief.  But what are those stages?  Are certain behaviors “normal?”  How long do they last?  How can you get help to make your way through?

Here is a list of common responses to grief:

  • Loss of appetite or emptiness in the stomach
  • Inability to sleep or continuously dreaming of the loss
  • A sense of denial that the loss really occurred.
  • Crying unprovoked at unanticipated times
  • A sense of anger in realizing the extent of the loss, oftentimes aimed at the one who left
  • Difficulty concentrating combined with a sense of restlessness
  • Making the person lost the center of your thoughts to the point of being preoccupied with them
  • Physical symptoms like a heaviness in the chest or tightening of the throat
  • Experiencing bouts of forgetfulness combined with lack of desire to complete projects
  • Constantly reminding yourself about your loved one, or even taking on that person’s gestures
  • Feeling as though your loved one is still present, like possibly “hearing” their voice or “seeing” them

These and other behaviors are common to those grieving, so there is no cause for alarm.  However, grief can continue beyond a reasonable period of time, which is to say, it can be all consuming and unmanageable.  If it comes to that point, then you should seek out counseling for your own health and peace of mind.  Left unattended, some people even begin to think of hurting themselves, which is the last thing their loved one would have wanted.

If you find yourself in need of a listening ear that can help beyond just hearing you, reach out to Tracy Crain.

Holidays Can Trigger Grief

When we lose a loved one, whether it’s from death or break-up, we go through a grieving process.  While that process normally runs its course over time, memories and feelings of loss can be dredged up and magnified during the holiday period.  After all, we usually spend the holidays with loved ones, so their absence is felt moreso in those seasons.

A lot of factors can influence how much grief is reborn within us.  They include the length of time since the person has left us, the intensity of the relationship and the history of special activities that are associated especially with that person.  Remember, grief never really disappears; it makes our lives different.  We can’t erase a loss, but we can grow from it.

During the holiday season, take time to evaluate how your grief has affected you.  Have you adjusted?  Is it positive?  Can you acknowledge our loss and move forward?  Or is it all-consuming?  Does it remain the focal point of your life?

Grief gets different over time, not necessarily easier.  Positive outcomes of grief include personal growth, like discovering inner strengths that we may not realize we had.  With our loss comes a type of freedom—freedom to pursue something new, like developing a talent or traveling to places we’ve dreamed of, or making new friends.

If we’re not at this point in the process, though, we must ask ourselves if our grief has gotten destructive.  Unresolved grief exceeds normal grief not only in duration, but also in severity.  Symptoms include the following:

  • Health upsets like lethargy, muscle weakness, extreme fatigue and shortness of breath
  • Mental confusion  and hallucinations
  • Sleep distractions
  • Eating pattern changes to either extreme:  binging or loss of appetite
  • Tending toward accidents
  • Outbursts of anger and withdrawal from social interaction
  • Feelings of loneliness, despair, depression or even thoughts of suicide

These physical changes can carry hurtful outcomes that harm us to the point of interrupting our daily normal lives.

If this description fits your own life or the life of someone you care about, be alarmed and seek help.  Grief counseling is aimed at helping people go through the stages of grief with a caring, guiding hand.  Goals include acceptance of the loss, living the pain in a non-harmful way, creating a new environment that incorporates your life’s changes, channeling energies to positive outcomes, learning how to say goodbye in a loving, respectful manner, and moving forward while taking cherished memories along with you.

Don’t be surprised when feelings of loss are aroused during the holiday season, but use them to evaluate your progress through the steps of grieving…and if you need help, please reach out to Tracy Crain.

Stages of grief and loss (with substance abuse)


At this stage, you don’t admit the loss has occurred/will occur. Or, with chemical dependency, you don’t believe that alcohol or drugs have caused you any problems. It can also mean you think you can control your substance use any old time you feel like it. But other people in your life don’t agree. Try this: write the word “denial” then write one reason why you think your relationship with drugs or alcohol hasn’t caused you any problems.


Translation: “Let’s make a deal.” You think you can somehow negotiate so as to not experience the loss. Or, with chemical dependency, get yourself out of the trouble your alcohol or drug use has caused. Examples might be: “Give me one more chance, Mom and I promise I’ll never…,” or “Dear God, if you’ll just help me out this one time, I’ll stop using for good.” Try this: write one “deal” you’ve made to remove yourself from the chaos caused by your drinking or drug use.


You feel angry that you have lost/or are losing something dear to you. Or, with substance abuse, when you have a problem but feel angry at having to give it up. “I don’t want this disease,” “This isn’t fair! I’m too young to have this problem,” or “I don’t want to quit drugs” are examples of the anger stage.


You’re experiencing pain, hurt and/or sadness for your loss. Or, with substance abuse, it’s feeling hopeless yet admitting that now is the time to give up your destructive behavior. It’s the time when you face the truth of what drug use and/or drinking have done to you (and those around you). You need to feel this sadness and hopelessness; they are vital parts of your recovery. Feeling this way is normal and it is important to share these feelings with someone you trust.


This is when you ultimately accept the loss. Or, with substance abuse, you accept that you have a problem, which is different from admitting that you have a problem. This time you “own it” and are taking responsibility for dealing with your problem. You are choosing to take action.