Unhealthy VS Healthy Responses to Grief

Grief is a normal human response to loss. Grieving will look different for different people of course, depending on a variety of factors from the type of loss to where the person is at in their lives during the time of loss. The grief itself has a purpose- because even though it is painful and uncomfortable, grief allows a person to feel and acknowledge this loss as a way of processing their emotions and moving forward. And a whole array of emotions are completely normal as well- one might feel anger or anxiety, confusion or fear, guilt, regret or relief or any combination of these feelings and more.


Grieving is natural and to be expected, but that doesn't mean that all types of grieving are healthy. So, while there are a myriad of ways to experience grief and a whole host of intense emotions that accompany the grieving process, there are some decidedly unhealthy ways to process this grief. In this article we'll look over a list of unhealthy vs healthy ways for adults to grieve a loss.


1- Unhealthy: Isolation from Friends and Loved Ones

It is not uncommon for a grieving adult to retreat into their safe space and isolate themselves. And while a little alone time can be beneficial, it becomes an unhealthy response to grief when this self-imposed separation becomes an excuse to immerse themselves in grief without working to actually resolve it.


1- Healthy: Accept Help from Friends

After a loss it is important not to avoid friends and loved ones but to accept their desire to help. Friends who haven't experienced a similar loss may not know what exactly to say or do, so the grieving person should not feel uncomfortable telling them exactly what they need. A shoulder to cry on? Some pre-made meals when there just isn't the energy to cook? Help going through important documents or planning the funeral? Whatever it is that would assist in the grieving process as well as help them continue to care for themselves.


2- Unhealthy: Turn to Drugs and/or Alcohol

We all know that drugs and alcohol are an easy way to numb the pain or to artificially boost your mood. Unfortunately they do not provide any benefit to the grieving process. The issue is that using an external source to try and heal and internal pain will only yield temporary results. You might be able to distract from the loss in the short term but it will do nothing to cure the emotional wounds.


2- Healthy: Focus on Self-Care

While grieving it can be easy to neglect one's own physical and emotional wellbeing, but this is arguably the most important time to do so. When your own needs are met you are better able to cope with the emotional anguish of loss. Grief is stressful and a grieving person will need to manage that stress by getting a sufficient amount of sleep, eating whole, healthful foods and not neglecting physical activity. Focusing on one's own wellness, and taking time for the things that bring joy will support a healthy response to grief.


3- Unhealthy: Suppressing the Feelings

It is common to want to power through the grieving process by ignoring or suppressing the intense emotions that arise. But avoiding these feelings only serves to tuck them away until a later date and ultimately prolongs the entire process. Addressing these emotions is the only way to begin to heal. If there is an issue doing this alone, joining a support group or talking with a grief counselor are two options to help share these feelings with other people going through similar pain or with a qualified, experienced professional.


3- Healthy: Express the Feelings in a Creative Way

Addressing the feelings associated with grief doesn't just have to be through the spoken word. There are other creative outlets that help to process these emotions in a more tangible way. From writing in a journal or taking up drawing or painting, to making a scrapbook, photo album or small memorial, anything that feels like a creative release is a healthy response to the emotions arising from grief.



At the end of the day the most important takeaway is that grief is a normal process that anyone experiencing a loss will go through. But the similarities end there. The length of the grieving process, the emotions that present themselves and even the steps a person takes to heal will all look different from person to person. Even so, there are some ways of dealing with grief that are decidedly unhealthy, and if you or someone you know are struggling with processing feelings of grief in an unhealthy way, refer to this list for ways to shift the response to a healthier, more productive way to grieve.

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