6 Coping Skills to Work Through Grief

Hope Gillette is a freelance writer and published novelist. She’s passionate about providing accurate, empathetic mental health content for readers, and believes writing can help combat stigma and improve wellness outcomes.

Feeling overwhelmingly sad may be a natural reaction to loss. But what do you do when the emotion stops you in your tracks?

Loss is a unique experience. Not everyone goes through mourning and grief in the same way, and there’s no such thing as “grieving correctly.”

In fact, grief can take many different forms, from feelings of numbness to unstoppable tears. Some people go through five stages of loss, but other people have different experiences. Every reaction is unique and valid.

There’s no deadline for grieving. How long it takes you to process a loss depends on many factors. One of them could be the resources you have at hand. For example, your coping skills.

What is grief?

Grief usually refers to deep emotional sorrow resulting from a loss. However, it’s not always the loss of a loved one.

Losing a home or job, experiencing a natural disaster, or even witnessing someone you love go through a difficult time may cause you to grieve. For some people, the end of a romantic relationship may also lead to grieving.

Despite what some people may believe, grief and depression are not the same.

Depression is a formal mental health diagnosis with specific and identifiable criteria or symptoms.

In some cases, an unresolved grieving process could lead to symptoms of depression. But this is not always the case and depends on many factors.

Both grief and depression can involve feelings of sadness and hopelessness, but with grief, these are typically connected to a specific event or loss.

Symptoms of depression may also last longer and often require the support of a mental health professional to manage them, which is not usually the case with grieving.

What are coping skills?

Coping skills are those thoughts and actions you use to respond to events that may cause you distress. You have probably learned this along the way and from influence and experience.

These skills are conscious strategies you put in place to manage emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear, or sadness. They don’t necessarily resolve the situation, but you may find they help you manage how you feel.

For example, after a fight with your partner, you could practice meditation for 10 minutes or have a glass of wine.

Coping skills can be simple tactics you use in the moment as you feel your emotions rise. They can also be long-term strategies you focus on when you’re going through extended difficult periods, like when you’re grieving.

But not all coping skills help you relieve distress. Some may actually delay the process and some of them may put you or someone else’s safety in jeopardy.

Avoidant vs. active coping skills

When you experience grief, you may find yourself working with active or avoidant coping skills. It may depend on the situation or on how you’re used to managing distressing events.

Active coping means you try to directly address the source of your emotional pain with thoughts or actions that change the event itself or the way you look at it.

Avoidant coping skills are more about using strategies that take your mind or heart off the event.

For example, an active coping skill may be asking someone to help you solve a problem, while an avoidant coping skill could be alcohol use.

According to a 2016 studyTrusted Source, active coping mechanisms tend to be most effective when managing distress.

Coping skills when grieving

The goal of coping skills is often to reduce or endure the negative emotions and thoughts that may come with grief or about actively solving problems.

Positive reframing

Also known as “looking at the bright side,” positive reframing may feel challenging at first, particularly when grieving.

Reframing can be cognitive — focused on your thoughts, or emotional — focused on how you feel.

It’s natural to feel there are no positives in your loss. But with positive reframing, you’re not disregarding the importance of your loss. You’re focusing on appreciating those aspects that may still connect you with the person or event you lost.

For example, you may focus on good memories and lessons learned, or you could work on a tribute. These actions may reframe your grieving emotions and bring you temporary relief.


Laughter during a time of loss may feel impossible, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments here and there where you can find humor. Read more https://psychcentral.com/health/coping-skills-for-grief#coping-skills-for-grief

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