Ways of Coping with
Loss & Death
Following a sudden loss,
death or tragic event, it is important for the grieving person to remember
to take care of him/herself. Focusing on the basis survival needs for the
body is especially needed during time of stress and uncertainty:
Ways of Coping - More
Take it one hour at a time,
one day at a time.
Maintain a normal routine. Try
to keep doing regular activities. Adding structure into a daily routing
will help the grieving person regain a sense of control.
Get enough sleep or at least
Try and get some regular exercise.
This can also help relieve stress and tension.
Keep a balanced diet. Watch
out for junk food, or high calorie comfort food binges.
Drink plenty of water.
Drink alcohol in moderation.
Alcohol should not be used as a way of masking the pain.
Do what comforts, sustains &
Remember other past losses and
the coping strategies used to survived them. Draw on these inner strengths
Ways of Relieving Grief
Give yourself permission to
grieve. It is important to work through the difficult emotions. An ungrieved
loss remains alive in our unconscious.
Talking about your emotions
can help a grieving person work through them. Talk with someone you trust—parents,
family, other relatives, trusted friends, school counselor, physician or
a spiritual leader.
Tell your story. Telling the
story of the grief gives a voice to the loss. Telling and retelling the
story of grief is a way to make the loss real. Each time the story is repeated,
the reality of the loss becomes more undeniable.
Listen to each other. One of
the most valuable things we can do to help each other heal is listen to
For news making losses, keep
up with the news reports, as new information becomes available. However,
take breaks away from the intense news coverage for periods of time.
If needed avoid media coverage
all together. Repeatedly reliving the event in images or hearing how frightening
the event was can hinder a person's ability to get over the loss.
Reflect on what is important
and brings special meaning to life. Losses can be view as a "Wake-up" call,
chance to re-evaluate life and life’s priorities.
Draw strength from your spiritual
or religious beliefs and traditions.
Attend (or organize) memorial
or funeral services.
Avoid making any major life-changing
decisions. Instead use the time to evaluate priorities—which many
have changed following the loss, death or life-changing event.
Spend time with family and/or
If the feelings remain as strong
or last longer than four to six weeks, or thoughts are out of control,
causing inactivating depression or anxiety, the grieving person may want
to seek professional help to help you sort through your feelings. He/she
should contact their Employee Assistance Program, primary care physician,
or mental healthcare provider.
Many begin healing by giving.
By thinking of and helping others the grieving can begin their own healing
Below are some additional
techniques which can be helpful in relieving the intense emotion of grief.
Things to Do:
Things to Sense:
Express emotions down on paper
via creative writing, journaling, poetry, even list making.
Take slow deep breaths, especially
when feeling tense.
Soak in a warm bath, or warm
Walk, run, hike, dance, play
tennis, swim, ride a bike, climb a rock—just get moving.
Attend religious services.
Plant a "memory garden."
Send your condolences.
Walk or run for charity.
Design a Website.
Organize or attend a memorial
Sing, listen to soothing music.
Pray or meditate.
Hug a loved one.
Get a massage.
Create a memorial—quilt, mural,
Help someone else less fortunate.
Things to Feel:
Watch favorite old uplifting
Attend the theater.
Go to the symphony or music
Look through old photo albums,
alone or with loved ones.
Get out in nature.
Walk through a garden.
Look up at the night sky.
Watch the sun rise or set.
Watch the waves at the ocean.
Listen to a brook, lake, river
Smell - your favorite smells
e.g. baking bread, pine forests, spring flowers, lavender.
Places to Just "Be"
A deep sense of calmness.
Feeling the wind on your face.
Tumbling down a snowy or grassy
Having water splash and tingle
Seeing a rainbow emerge from
More Ways of Helping
Under a tree.
At the beach.
On a rock.
By a stream or lake.
On a bench.
Under a waterfall.
In a warm bath or hot tub.
On top of a high mountain.
In a church setting.
In a setting with a breath-taking
At sunrise or sunset.
Sitting quietly, calmly.
People have found many different
ways of helping them cope with loss, death and tragedy. Some turn to creative
ways of expressing their grief, including activism. The list that follows
are some of the best suggestions. For more suggestions see the reference
on "Creatively Expressing Grief."
Organize and plan a memorial
service - to honor those who have died.
Create a Memorial - Bulletin
Board of Letters, poems pictures, sculpture, collage
Donate—money, time, food clothing—to
a favorite charity, homeless shelter, animal shelter or home for
Donate blood at your local blood
Write sympathy and support notes
to those affected by the loss.
If the loss involved an accident,
thank the emergency and hospital personnel, highway patrol, police and
firefighters for helping.
Tell your loved ones and friends
how you feel about them often.
Perform random acts of kindness.
This will help to remind one there is tenderness and thoughtfulness in
the world. Pay the bridge toll for the person behind you. Smile at the
store clerk. Let someone else go first in line.
Be kind to others. Make space
for the car merging in on the freeway. Don't use your horn unless it is
Volunteer services, offer assistance
to someone in need.
Do something that can benefit
others. Take a first aid or CPR class.
Plant a tree or flowers in a
garden in memory.
Dyer KA. 9-11: United in
Courage & Grief. Ways of Coping then Helping. October 7, 2001. Available
Dyer KA. Creatively Expressing
Grief. December 2001. Available at: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/kirstimd/create_grief.htm
Dyer KA. Healthy Ways of
Coping. 1998. Available at: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/kirstimd/coping.htm
Dyer KA. More Health Ways
to Cope with Grief. 1998. Available at: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/kirstimd/coping2.htm
Dyer KA. Coping with the
Blues. 1999. Available at: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/kirstimd/blues1.htm
Dyer KA. More Suggestions
for Dealing with the Blues. 1999. Available at: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/kirstimd/blues.htm
Dyer KA. Volunteerism. 1999.
Available at: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/kirstimd/volprojects.htm.
© 2002 Kirsti
A. Dyer, MD, MS, FAAETS. Journey of Hearts, www.journeyofhearts.org.
All rights reserved.
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