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.

How to Take the Steps to Relieve Your Depression

So where do you start, when you’re depressed?
If you feel that you may suffer from depression, the most important thing to keep in mind is this- you are not alone. Most people suffer from at least one period of depression in their lives, and many people live with depression day in and day out. Depression can be triggered by the loss of a loved one, or it may be a more disruptive illness that interferes with the ability to enjoy work and family life on a daily basis.

Depression affects everyone differently, but people who are depressed usually feel overwhelmed by pressing ideas of hopelessness and loneliness. These feelings, coupled with fear and anxiety, make it difficult for people suffering from depression to face the issue head on. Don’t let these feelings keep you from seeking help.

Depression can be treated with a combination of support, medical intervention and self-help. You do NOT have to suffer alone.

Get support for your depression

The first step in relieving your depression is acknowledging that it exists. Talk to a loved one or trusted friend. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Addressing your feelings is a big step in the direction to recovery. When you open up to the people who are close to you, you give them the opportunity to support you and understand what you’re going through. This is helpful for both you and your loved ones.

See a Doctor to help you manage depression

Seeing a doctor helps determine the cause of depression.  If you’re not sure of the cause, start with your family physician. Depression can be caused by many factors: the death of a loved one, the change in the seasons (seasonal affective disorder), a chronic chemical imbalance, etc. If you know that your depression is brought on by a specific trauma, ask your family physician for a referral to a counselor or a psychiatrist.

Therapy can help you understand and cope with depression

Talking about your problems with a mental health professional (counselor) can be helpful in treating depression.  No matter how trivial you consider your problems to be, or how hopeless you feel in doing anything about them, a mental health professional takes your problems seriously and gives you undivided attention and direction.

Talking to a counselor is different than talking to a close friend.

Counselors are trained to remain objective when listening to your problems so they can formulate a plan to help you make positive changes in your life. Mental health professionals create a safe environment to share negative feelings that your loved ones may take personally. It will take time for your depression to lift. By talking to a mental health professional in a safe and open environment, you’re taking a positive step to the road to recovery.

Medication for depression is available

Some types of depression respond well to medication. This must be prescribed by a doctor. However, keep in mind that anti-depressant medication is not a cure-all. Treatment of depression with medication, if used, needs to be taken in conjunction with counseling. Unfortunately, your issues don’t go away just by popping a pill. A mental health professional will give you the support you need to move forward with your life in a healthy direction.

You can begin to help yourself

Sometimes depression, especially if it’s caused by a certain traumatic event, can be alleviated by following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Aerobic exercises such as walking, bicycling or swimming are especially beneficial. Scientists theorize that these exercises release “feel good” hormones (endorphins) in the brain that can naturally lift your spirits and help you feel more optimistic and in control. This approach can be useful, especially when taken with another form of therapy.

Mental health and physical health go hand in hand with each other. When you’re suffering from depression, it’s especially difficult to get active. A mental health professional can give you tips to keep you motivated on your path to recovery.

Moving toward recovery

Almost everyone who experiences depression recovers and feels good again. Your “normal self” is not lost. Recovery is a step-by-step process, but the first small step leads to the next one. With help, and a little bit of self determination, you’ll be able to enjoy your life again.

If you (and/or or someone you care about) need help to overcome depression, 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.