Dealing with Grief: Healthy Ways and Harmful Ways

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on April 18, 2014

griefloss-182Choosing to Recover Well After Loss

When Loss punches you hard, it knocks you back.

The thud of reality feels like cold concrete against your back.

Head reeling and gut wrenching, you feel the pain.


If you let it, Loss will take you down.


Confronting Loss


What is it that knocked you down?

Foreclosure? Death? Job loss? Divorce?


Grief is normal. It is a natural companion to loss.

Some of us embrace it and some of us resist.

Whether the process helps or harms is really up to us.


When loss hits hard, do you grieve in a way that gets you back on your feet?

Or do you make harmful choices that keep you down, suffering, dazed, and confused?


How Will You Grieve?


  1.        Will You Accept Loss or Ignore It?


  • Healthy grief accepts the painful reality.


It’s better to take the hit, absorb the impact, and feel the pain. It’s okay to cry or yell. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, or guilty. It perfectly normal to feel however you feel. Take the time to care for yourself and honor your emotions.


  • Harmful grief avoids or postpones the pain.


Attempts to “suck it up”, ignore the hurt, or bury distress in some other feeling accomplish little.  Unhealthy grief can show up physically. Has your weight changed? Are you experiencing insomnia? Refusing to take care of yourself just means the pain will demand more attention later.


  1.        Will You Acknowledge your feelings or Curb them?


  • Healthy grief processes, shares, and reflects.


Positive and negative feelings are part of the deal. Be patient with yourself; allow grief to run its course. Support is key to rebounding after loss. Participating in some form of ceremony may help you see the meaning or value in the loss.


  • Harmful grief attempts to place rigid limits on the process.


It tries to keep grief confined to a specific time period, place, or group of people. It rejects the idea that loss might affect many areas of your life. Are you pushing people away? Do you tell yourself it’s “not right” to feel hurt, numb, or angry? This response can lead to solitary, hostile, or even violent episodes.


  1.        Will You Adjust to Change or Resist It?


  • Healthy grief adjusts to the “new normal”.


Allow yourself to ease into changes brought on by loss. As you re-engage “normal” life, there will be unexpected triggers or reminders of your loss that come up from time to time. Plan for tough moments. Write in a journal, visit your counselor, or keep a good friend on speed-dial.


  • Harmful grief can be keep you unproductive and exhausted.


Time does not heal the pain of loss. You cannot wait out grief. Are you fruitlessly holding on to the past? Do you feel stuck, listless, drained by grief? Resisting change can lead to anxiety, depression, and irrational fears.


  1.        Will You Heal or Self-destruct?


  • Healthy grief heals.


With time and support, grief teaches resilience. Grief is meant to move you from the life you expected to one you never saw coming. It is a restorative and unique process. Grieving well moves you through pain, restores balance, and allows you to rebound psychologically.


  • Harmful grief, unchecked, can engage a long cycle of chronic suffering.


Self-medication and self-destruction are frequent byproducts. Do you feel depressed or unable to keep yourself from ruminating on your loss? Do you use substances, food, or sex to numb your feelings? Are you harming yourself or others? Don’t drown in the feelings. Seek help.



Loss is tough.

Grief can make you stronger.

You have a choice.

Chose to heal.



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