Thompson Rivers University

Creating meaning out of loss: coping strategies for grief

  Posted on: November 26, 2019

Two friends comforting each other.

Grief is a process; be patient with yourself and others during emotional times.

When tragedy strikes or the unthinkable happens, all of life’s responsibilities seem inconsequential. Unfortunately, even though our hearts are broken, the world dares to continue spinning on its axis and life moves us onward, whether we want it to or not. How can we manage our health and well-being when we are steeped in sorrow and weary from mourning? How can we handle our obligations and care for ourselves while we come to terms with loss?

Grief can be such a roller-coaster ride; hang on to support systems, self-care and coping strategies.

Here are a few gentle suggestions and reminders to consider:

Healing takes time

Be patient with yourself. Adjust your schedule as needed. If you have to cancel, reschedule or reduce commitments, everyone will understand. Avoid making major decisions—this is a time to move slowly; don’t rush through anything just now. Don’t forget that grief looks different for everyone, so be mindful not to compare yourself to others. We grieve because the person we have lost meant something to us and the closer the connection, the more profound the grief.

Share your thoughts and feelings

It’s okay to talk about your loss. Tell stories about the individual you loved and lost. It can also be helpful to express yourself through writing, journalling and artwork.  It’s also important to remember that it’s healthy to experience grief or sadness after a loss but that it does not equal depression. If your grief is overwhelming and affecting your ability to function, inform your employers and professors to manage expectations. However, after a six-month period, if you find yourself unable to move through life as you did previously, then more intensive counselling may be called for. For ongoing support services, connect with Counselling or the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy.

Care for your health

Eat small meals. Sip water slowly. Take naps. Stretch gently. Break a sweat. Breathe deeply. Dress warmly. Limit caffeine consumption. Resist self-medication with alcohol or substances.

Make space for socialization

Solitude isn’t always the ideal remedy for grief. Ensure that you lean on your community to feel supported and connected. Spend time with friends and family. Make plans. You might feel guilty for having fun or feeling joyful, but you must take breaks from the grieving process whenever possible. It doesn’t mean that you forget your loved one or that you love them any less—but to move forward, you need to access hope and optimism.

Let loss fuel your purpose

Carry the memory of your loved one with you throughout your life. Move forward with love, gratitude and intention. Honour them in your actions. Embody their potential through your work. Often, those grieving express guilt or regret about not spending quality time with the individual before their passing. Instead of harboring negative feelings about any deficits in the friendship department, allow that energy to go towards being more proactive and intentional in your relationships.  Say “I love you” more. Offer help when you can. Reach out whenever possible. Know that you’ve done your best to connect and stay connected.

Click the link for more information about health and wellness supports on campus.

friends hugging