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How to cope

Because everyone is different, there is no one way to cope with grief and to mourn. Below are some ideas about coping with loss and grief. The important thing is to do some of all of them, not just do one of them.

  • Denial: Many people talk about denial like it's always a bad thing, but everybody uses denial. Denial is when something just doesn't feel real in the beginning. We feel numb or in shock and we say, "I just can't believe it." It's OK to feel this way, especially in the beginning. Denial helps us to get used to the reality of the loss more gradually. We can't feel the pain all at once.
  • Distraction: It doesn't help anyone to think about loss and grief all the time. Everyone needs a break. Part of coping is doing the things that you used to do, like go to school, listen to music, go out with friends, do sports, watch movies and play games. Sometimes doing these things even when you don't feel like it can make a difference.
  • Deal with the grief: If you try to ignore and bury feelings before they're ready to go, it won't work. It's like in scary stories when someone buries someone who's not dead--the one who is buried just comes back to haunt the person. Grief feelings are strong, and ignoring them will just cause problems somewhere else in your life. This means that sometimes you will need to go with the feelings. Talk about them, write about them, think about them, do things in memory of someone. You will need to find ways to mourn, ways that fit your grief.

There are no rules with grief. Life can get better. But it may take a long time, and what you choose to do with that time matters. When we have a big loss, we may never "get over it," but we can learn to live with it.

The content of this article was contributed by Greg Adams, LCSW, ACSW, CT- Director, Center for Good Mourning, Arkansas Children's Hospital. The article was first published in the Fall 2004 on

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