Strategies for Coping with Grief and Their Consequences

May 28, 2020
The strategies you use to cope with grief will either help you or make it more difficult to face your loss. Read on to learn more!

Everyone has or will experience loss at some point in their lives. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a breakup, getting fired, or moving, it always involves losing something that was truly important. Grief comes after any loss. It’s a process in which you have to deal with your emotions and redirect your life. However, everyone has different strategies for coping with grief.

For some people, it’s easy to accept their new reality and adapt to it. For others, it feels like their world is crashing down on them. Confusion, pain, and anger torment them and rob them of any happiness.

The fact that each person has a different strategy for coping with grief is what accounts for these differences. If you feel like your coping strategy isn’t working for you, you can do some things to change the process.

A woman with her hands over her face who needs strategies for coping with grief.

Strategies for coping with grief

Coping is defined as the set of cognitive and behavioral efforts that are set into motion for dealing with and responding to internal or external demands. A situation that overwhelms an individual will lead to stress. That’s when coping strategies kick into gear to help them adapt to said demand.

Grief is, without a doubt, a very overwhelming experience that makes you resort to your coping mechanisms. However, as we mentioned above, there are many different coping strategies and they’re not all made equal.

Problem-focused coping strategies

In this case, all of your resources focus on the problem that needs a solution. There are three problem-focused coping strategies:

  • Reflexive. Analyzing and reflecting on the situation and yourself, as well as planning how you’re going to move forward.
  • Reactive. Impulsive and uncontrolled activities, driven by your distorted thoughts.
  • Suppressive. In this case, you deny what happened and avoid exposing yourself to reality.

Reflexive strategies get you closer to a solution, while reactive and suppressive strategies make it much harder for you to cope.

Therefore, when you use a coping strategy that’s focused on problem-solving, you identify the stressful situation and evaluate its importance. Also, you analyze the causes and engage in behavior that’ll lead to changes.

Emotional coping

This consists of focusing your energy on the emotions that the problem causes, not the problem itself. On one hand, you have emotional processing, which involves recognizing and understanding the emotions you’re experiencing. On the other hand, there’s emotional expression, which consists of releasing and sharing these feelings with yourself or others.

Emotional coping can also be divided into the three categories we mentioned above: reflexive, reactive, or suppressive. Here, reflexive coping involves analyzing your feelings, reactive involves expressing them in an impulsive and uncontrolled way, and suppressive involves avoiding your feelings altogether.

A sad guy looking out the window.

The consequences of strategies for coping with grief

All of the strategies we mentioned in this article are ways that people deal with loss. If you analyze them carefully, it’ll be easy to identify the ones you resort to. Each of these strategies has different consequences that determine how quickly you work through grief and how effective the process is.

People who usually engage in reactive behaviors are more likely to experience a complicated grieving process. They’re also more likely to experience anxious and depressive symptoms. Reactive strategies might be beneficial at first, as anger can give you a sense of strength, but, over time, this emotion is an obstacle to proper grieving.

On the other hand, those who opt for emotional expression and reflexive strategies will experience more growth and positive personal transformation after a loss. These strategies help you find solutions, ask for support from your social circle, and appropriately express your feelings.

Thus, the best way to cope with grief consists of identifying, expressing, and releasing your emotions in an appropriate way. In addition, mental clarity and focusing on problem-solving also help. Denying the problem, avoiding it, or reacting impulsively will only intensify your suffering.

  • Bustos Caro, A. C. (2011). Cuando se acaba el amor: Estrategias de afrontamiento, duelo por pérdidas amorosas y crecimiento postraumático en estudiantes universitarios (Bachelor’s thesis, Quito: USFQ, 2011).
  • Bermejo, J. C., Magaña, M., Villacieros, M., Carabias, R., & Serrano, I. (2012). Estrategias de afrontamiento y resiliencia como factores mediadores de duelo complicado. Revista de psicoterapia22(88), 85-95.