8 ways We Cope with Grief


My stomach was still recovering from the largest meal of the year. The turkey decorations were scattered throughout the living room and the thankful jar overflowed. The end of the year is usually a happy season.  A time of thankfulness, remembering the birth of Jesus, time with family, and holiday festivities. But November 2012 and December 2013 became a nightmare for me.

Late in 2012 my sister Natalie was diagnosed with stage 4 Bile Duct cancer.  It came out of nowhere.  She was the glue that held our family together. She was a  professional photographer and happy go lucky mother of 2. She passed away only weeks after diagnosis, leaving us all behind. How could God allow this to happen?

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The day before my sister’s funeral we found out that my father-in-law Gerald, who I called Papa G, was diagnosed with stage 3 Stomach cancer.  Soon it spread to the liver and surrounding organs.  He also passed away during the holiday season, a year after Natalie. He left behind 3 daughters, a wife, and countless friends.

geraldWhether you have dealt with the loss of a loved one or you have been deeply hurt, grief is a part of living.  It is human.  Everyone is unique and we all cope in different ways. Here are 8 common ways people cope.

1. Silence

After tragedy strikes whether it be death or a change of some sort, many choose to keep to themselves.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  After my sister passed away I felt better keeping to myself and I became temporarily introverted.  I would listen to people talk about it, but I felt like I was in a dream, just listening.  I was in shock and at a loss of words.

2. Cry

Letting your emotions out can be beneficial so it does not “build up inside.” It is a form of healing to recognize the loss and release it in that way.  If you don’t cry that certainly does not mean you aren’t sad or grieving. I noticed that after my sister’s passing my brother didn’t shed a tear, whereas my wife still cries over her dad’s death.  Equal pain, unequal ways of releasing it.

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3. Question

To cope with grieving some question their beliefs.  They wonder why God did this to them or even if there is a God.  This can be healthy as it acts as a refiner’s fire.  It turns us into stronger more resilient individuals.  It gives us a chance to turn to God and learn about the things that shape our eternity.

4. Anger

When you lose someone you love you can get angry. And it’s only natural. It’s not fair to have to say goodbye too early and we’re all left behind. During the grieving process anger can be released within sports, fervent prayer, even discussions with friends and family. But it should never be directed toward a person. If anger from grief starts to harm someone, help should be sought.

5. Distance

Separating yourself from a situation is common after a loss.  Physically or mentally distancing is a defense mechanism to remove any reminders of the pain. If someone is grieving and gives off the impression that they need space, give it to them.  Don’t suffocate them with advice or try to convince them to talk.

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6. Depression

People may go into a dark place in their lives as an attempt to cope.  No matter how difficult it is to watch someone remain extremely sad, we cannot tell them to just “snap out of it.” We can however encourage them to seek counseling or a support group to talk about it.

7. Apathy

A lack of concern or interest is a form of grieving.  People stop enjoying hobbies and activities they had previously loved.  They may come off as cold or uninterested, but it’s neccessaryt to remember it’s a coping strategy.  It’s a strategy to protect them from further pain.

8. Reminisce

Some people tell stories, laugh, and talk for hours about the person who has passed or the event that has just occurred.  Others may view this as insensitive and inappropriate.  Some remember the good times while the pain Is fresh to others.

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Grieving is a normal process with no time table or right or wrong way to do it.  No matter how you grieve make sure it’s healthy and that it doesn’t hurt others.

Understanding how we cope, you will be more prepared the next time grief strikes a loved one, or even you.

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