Grief is an emotion that is particularly tricky to overcome. Most people associate it with the death of a family member or loved one, but grief can be triggered by other circumstances such as a break, the loss of a job, or the death of a pet.
Many people who suffer from grief feel as if they will never be able to cope with their loss. The feelings of sadness and hopelessness that accompany a loss weaken over time. While you can take steps to deal with grief, nothing can change the past, and learning to cope with loss is an arduous process with no clear conclusion.
Self-Blame and Guilt
Grief can make you feel like it is your fault that a person or pet has passed. Often, when one experiences the loss of a loved one or family member, they blame themselves for that loss.
It isn’t your fault that the loss occurred, and you can’t change the past by feeling guilty or blaming yourself for the way things happened. It is important to recognize that you feel guilty for a loss so that you can stop blaming yourself for your loss.
Confront those feelings of guilt and self-blame. Acknowledge that those feelings as having roots in your grief, so that you can cope with them. Whenever you start to feel guilty as a result of grief, remind yourself that your loss is not your fault.
Feelings of guilt and self-blame might be accompanied by the inclination to blame anyone else who is close to the situation. Blaming yourself or others distracts you from confronting the real cause of your grief and can unnecessarily prolong the negative emotions that accompany grief.
Your friends and family will be invaluable to you in your time of grief; don’t push them away by blaming them for a loss that no one could control. Just as it is important to stop blaming yourself for a loss, it is equally as important to avoid blaming others.
Acknowledge that the loss is no one’s fault so that you can avoid pushing people away during your grieving process. Building and maintaining a support network will be crucial to coping with and overcoming your grief.
Anger and Fear
Anger is another distracting emotion that can accompany grief and hinder your ability to cope with loss. Feeling guilty about a loss or are blaming yourself or others might lead to feelings of anger and fear. It is also common that people feel angry at the person who passed or the people who precipitated the loss.
It can be scary to try to move past the negative emotions that you feel after the loss of someone close to you. You might feel that, if you accept the loss, you’re being unfair to the person who has passed or that you will lose your memories of that person.
The fear of loneliness might also accompany your grief. Focus on building the relationships that still surround you and recognize your fears so that you can work through them healthily.
Reentering the world after the loss of a partner or a pet might feel terrifying. Remind yourself to celebrate the small positives and maintain a healthy support network to assuage any fears you may have during your grieving process.
Lack of A Support Network
Many people feel lonely while grieving, and you might be inclined to retreat inward and push people away. It might seem like you are completely alone, especially when feeling anger, guilt, or fear as symptoms of grief.
These feelings of blame and guilt can cause you to distance yourself from support networks of family and friends who can help you to cope with grief. It is crucial to rely on the people around you and maintain a healthy network of support to cope with your grief.
Having a healthy network of support during your time of grief is crucial to your ability to cope with the sadness, anger, and fear that accompany grief. Support groups for individuals experiencing grief after a loss are designed for people who don’t feel supported by their family or friends or those who don’t have a healthy support network.
There are support groups for everything and being surrounded by people who are all sharing your experiences can be a valuable coping mechanism. Support groups can help you to overcome the fears, anxieties, anger, and loneliness that accompany grief.
Not Confronting Your Emotions
You might turn to distractions instead of confronting the emotions that accompany grief but recognizing and confronting those emotions will allow you to move past them quicker. Some people also ignore the negative emotions that are associated with grief.
When you are feeling overwhelming sadness, guilt, anger, fear, and other negative emotions after a loss, it is important that you recognize those emotions. Give those emotions a name and allow yourself to feel them fully so that you can cope with them when they arise in the future.
Being mindful of your emotions and dealing with them in healthy ways will help you to cope with those emotions. Don’t be afraid to embrace those emotions and feel them fully. If you embrace negative emotions and allow yourself to feel them to their fullest extent, you will be better equipped to cope with them, and the feelings won’t linger for so long.
Misplacing Your Emotions
It can be easy to allow your grief to control your emotional state and affect overall health. If you blame all your negative emotions on your grief, you might become frustrated and feel that it is impossible to cope with your grief. Conversely, if you attribute negative emotions that are caused by grief to other sources, you risk not properly coping with those feelings.
Be mindful of your emotions. As you acknowledge and confront your emotions, ask yourself if those negative emotions are because of your grief, or are being triggered by something else.
Ignoring Overall Health
As with any depressive episode, ignoring your overall health, your feelings of grief will only get worse. Loss of appetite and insomnia are two common symptoms of grief, but both can prolong the negative emotions that accompany grief. When you are hungry, fatigued, or unhealthy, it will be more difficult for your brain to focus on coping with the negative emotions that grief can trigger.
Maintaining your physical and mental health includes eating healthy foods, doing what you can to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, and continuing to exercise will help you to cope with the negative emotions. Your physical health affects your mental health, and your mental health affects your physical health.
The fact is that your body and your emotions are intimately intertwined and that caring for both emotional and physical health will help you to cope with the negative emotions that are symptoms of grief.
Expectations and Lack of Patience
Once you start to feel the negative emotions that accompany grief, you might expect yourself to learn to cope with those feelings quickly so that your life and emotions can level out. Every situation is different, and everyone will experience grief differently.
You must be patient with yourself as you start to cope with grief. Don’t expect yourself to recover instantly as you start to recognize those negative emotions, even if you are doing everything you can to cope healthily.
Be patient with your recovery to avoid the risk of incurring more feelings of guilt, anxiety, and anger at not being able to cope with and overcome those feelings quickly. Keep maintaining your physical health and practicing mindfulness through the duration of your grieving process.
Set realistic expectations for your recovery and be patient with yourself when your grief is triggered. Don’t let all your progress get ruined if negative emotions resurface even years after you experience loss.
Thinking You Can Change the Past
This one is crucial: you might believe that, had you taken different actions, you could have changed the outcome of events or prevented a loss. Thinking that you can change the past will hinder your ability to cope with the negative emotions that accompany grief.
You have to accept that your actions wouldn’t have changed the past and, even if they could, now that the loss has occurred, you can’t reverse it. Accepting that things are the way they are is crucial to being able to cope with grief.
Not Focusing on The Positive
Loss can distract you from all the wonderful aspects of your life that are still present. It can be hard to find enjoyment in the things that used to bring you joy, especially if you enjoy those things with the person you’ve lost.
Focusing on the positives, on the relationships and activities that bring you joy, will help you to cope with the negative feelings of grief. Don’t let your grief distract you from the wonderful things in your life. Focusing solely on your grief will only beget more grief.
You’re still the amazing person that caused the person you’ve lost to love you, and you have a lot of positive things to look forward to. Focus on those positive aspects while still healthily confronting your negative emotions as you experience them.
Not Celebrating Life
It can be difficult to celebrate the life of a person after they’ve passed, but it is important to celebrate life as you work on coping with grief. It is easier to focus on everything that you’ve lost, but that will hinder your ability to cope with grief.
Celebrate the life that still surrounds you, including your own life. Focus on the beauty around you, from your support network to the natural and material bounty of the world. Instead of focusing on loss, focus on the positives in your everyday life, and don’t be afraid to celebrate small things.
Refusing to Move On
Some people cling to the negative emotions that accompany grief because they feel that, if they cope with and move past those feelings, then they are disrespecting the loss. It is natural to be reluctant to move on from your grief as you don’t want to forget or disrespect the person who has passed.
Recognizing the source of those feelings and healthily coping with them is vital to overcoming grief. Only you can allow yourself to feel positive emotions again after a loss or while coping with grief. Keep working at recognizing and accepting the negative emotions that accompany grief. Be patient, and eventually, you will understand that it is okay to move past your grief.
Getting Stuck in Your Grief
Working to recognize and accept the negative emotions and symptoms of grief can be difficult for a lot of people. While you are maintaining healthy habits to work through your grief, you should notice that your symptoms are becoming easier to cope with.
Everyone’s grief is different, and some people may need to seek support groups or psychotherapy to overcome grief. You might talk to your doctor or visit a psychotherapist when the methods of coping with your grief on your own aren’t working for you.
Antidepressant medications can provide a jump-start to your recovery. If you feel that you can’t cope with your grief without help, it might be smart to ask your doctor about antidepressants. Grief can cause biochemical changes to your mind and body. There is no shame in seeking pharmaceutical help to cope with a particularly devastating loss.
Antidepressants sometimes have side effects and, if you don’t typically take antidepressant medications, it will be important that you learn all the facts about antidepressants before you begin to take them.
For example, it can take from two weeks to a month for most antidepressants to begin to work, and you can’t quit taking antidepressants abruptly. Make sure to consider all your options when deciding to start antidepressants to help you cope with grief.
Not Learning and Recognizing The 5 Phases of Grief
Grief is individual, but there are five stages of the grieving process that many people experience. While not everyone experiences all of these stages, and some people will experience them in a different order, these five stages can help you to think through your personal grief process.
Denial of the fact that a loss has occurred can hinder your grief process. You must come to terms with making a new life for yourself while coping with your loss. When you deny that the loss occurred at all, you may continue to feel the negative emotions that accompany grief and be unable to recognize or cope with those emotions.
Once you’ve accepted a loss, you may feel angry at the person you’ve lost or at the other people surrounding you. Recognizing the source of your anger will help you to cope with that anger. Once you realize that your anger isn’t productive, you will be able to focus on coping with the other negative emotions that accompany grief.
You will be tempted to think that, if the loss you experienced had never occurred, you would be much better off. You will blame your negative emotions on the loss and try to bargain with yourself, “If only this hadn’t happened, I would be able to be healthy and happy.”
This is an unhealthy line of thought. You have to try to accept that you can be happy and healthy, that you are worthy of health and happiness, even while coping with the negative emotions that accompany grief.
Depression is one of the most common negative emotions that is associated with grief. Depression can make it feel impossible to do anything and cause you to lose interest in things you once enjoyed. It can also lead to insomnia and other symptoms of grief.
It is natural to feel sad and depressed after a loss but dwelling on the sadness and depression will hinder your ability to cope with your grief and will prolong the process of overcoming those emotions.
Once you accept your loss as reality, you can begin to do the hard work of coping with those negative feelings that accompany grief. You must understand that your life has value and will continue to have value if you accept that your loss is real.
Not Recognizing the Symptoms of Grief
As mentioned, everyone experiences grief differently, and it is important to be mindful and aware of your emotions and your body. While you are experiencing grief, one of the best ways to cope is to mindfully recognize the symptoms of grief that you are experiencing.
Shock and Disbelief
It is common for people to be in shock after a loss. Shock can make it difficult to believe that the loss has occurred, which, in turn, will hinder your ability to cope with your grief. You might have to do the work of contending with and accepting your loss before you can cope with your grief and begin to overcome it.
Anger, Fear, and Guilt
These emotions and how people experiencing grief feel these three emotions are detailed above. Understanding how to recognize these emotions will help to cope with them properly. While your anger, fear, and guilt might be caused by it, when the source of your emotions is your grief, there is likely another cause.
Feelings of sadness, depression, and hopelessness are most commonly associated with grief and accurately pinpointing your loss and grief as the root of the sadness you are feeling will help you to cope with those negative emotions.
While some people are inclined to be aware of only the emotional impacts of grief, many people experience physical symptoms of grief. Recognizing these symptoms as caused by your grief will help you to compartmentalize those symptoms and focus on coping with your grief so that you can alleviate those symptoms.
People who are experiencing grief often feel aches, pains, and fatigue. These might also be linked to a loss of appetite or insomnia, which are also common symptoms of grief. If you allow your grief to overcome you and derail your ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle, your immunity to infectious diseases might be lowered along with those other symptoms.
Not Knowing When to Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, even when taking all the necessary measures to be mindful of your emotions and aware of the grieving process, it can be difficult to overcome grief without extra help. The depression that accompanies grief can last for weeks, months, or years and can hinder your ability to work and enjoy life. Your grief can also threaten your long-term physical and mental health.
Professional grief counseling and psychotherapy are a valid option for anyone that is experiencing overwhelming grief, whether or not you think you can cope with your grief on your own. It is a good idea to seek professional therapy or grief counseling if your grief brings about suicidal ideations, excessive hopelessness, or if you wish that you had passed along with the person you’ve lost.
Grief can bring about feelings of guilt and shares many of the symptoms of depression. The inability to recognize and confront grief, ignoring your overall health, and an unwillingness to move on and celebrate life can all make grief especially difficult to overcome.
Here are a few key things to remember as you cope with the negative emotions and symptoms of your grief. It is important to remember that everyone’s loss, and therefore everyone’s grieving process, is individual to their personal experience.
Recognizing the source of your pain as grief and acknowledging that pain as being caused by your loss and grief are important steps in the process. If you are in denial about the source of your emotional or physical symptoms of grief, it will be difficult to pinpoint and cope with that pain.
Accept and Plan for Triggers
Some people will never fully overcome their grief, and things like anniversaries, familiar places or activities, and certain topics of conversation can trigger your grief no matter how well you are coping.
When you accept that certain things and situations trigger your grief, you can plan to cope with those feelings when they crop up or, if they are too much to bear, you can learn to avoid those triggers altogether.
Emotional Health and Physical Health
When you are depressed as a result of your grief, it can be hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your emotional health is tied to your physical health and vice versa. To set yourself up for the best possible emotional health, make sure that you keep eating healthily, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and exercising regularly.
Recognize the Differences Between Grief and Depression
When you are grieving, it can be easy to write off any depression you may feel as a symptom of your grief. Prolonged depression or feeling depressed and hopeless about things that are not related to your loss or your grief is a sign that you are suffering from depression rather than grief.
You must recognize the symptoms of grief and differentiate between depression and grief, so that you can properly cope with both of those emotional states.
Seek Support Groups or Psychotherapy
No one can cope with or overcome grief alone. Research suggests that most people can cope with and overcome grief with time and healthy habits. Other people, however, might not have such an easy time coping with the negative emotions related to grief, especially if they normally experience depression or anxiety.
Your support network of healthy relationships with family and friends will be invaluable to you as you cope with your grief. Other support networks and groups exist, both online and in-person for, people who aren’t fortunate to have a support network of family or friends.
Some people might think that seeking the sense of community of a support group is a sign of weakness, but it is actually a sign of strength and recovery. Recognizing that you need the support of a group is a healthy step in the process of acknowledging and processing the negative emotions that are symptomatic of grief.
Therapists and grief counselors are trained and licensed to help people overcome grief. People who see a psychotherapist regularly might benefit more from therapy or grief counseling since that method of working through negative emotions already works for you. Therapy might be a good idea for anyone experiencing grief as a therapist can help you to process emotions in a safe and judgment-free space.
Allow Grief to Help You Grow
Once you have acknowledged and come to terms with your loss, you will have practiced the mindfulness and self-reflection that are required for overcoming grief. The intense self-reflection that coping with grief requires presents an opportunity for growth. Use this opportunity to improve yourself, your mental and physical health, and push yourself to grow from the lessons that your grief has to offer.
3 thoughts on “16 Reasons Grief is so Hard to Overcome”
Thank you for this. My grandpa, the only grandparent I met and grew up with, died on April 4th. It was the first time I have experienced the loss of someone I really loved and cared about and it was devastating. It has been 4 weeks since but I still cry when I think about him and I think this will go on forever. I’ve said I already accepted it many times but I know deep inside me still wishes that time flashbacks to when he was still healthy and alive… It’s really hard to overcome grief, but I’m still lucky I have a great emotional support system that’s why even though it wrecked me, I still get better every day. Again, thank you for this blog. I am able to understand more about grief because of this. This helps me a lot.
Partner ( age 60)of past year, divorced 10 yrs, still grieving for losing parents and sibling from 3 diff causes in 18 month period years ago and his faithful boxer dog of 12 years passed last spring… my husband died 5 yes ago after 5 months palliative care at home. Thé new partnership is very positive for both … but his grief rises up ( esp in pandemic days) and feels if he loses anything else in his life it will kill him. He had some counselling but felt didn’t help and won’t seek more.
Hi Barbara, This sounds like a lot to carry. Therapy might not be the best option for your partner right now. Perhaps he’d more open to group counseling? I do hope you’re getting the support you need as well.