Processing Grief for Mental Health

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As we face the trials and tribulations of life, maintaining mental health can be a challenge. Moving through the ups and downs, there are many truths we will learn—the fact that loss is inevitable may be the hardest one.

Experiencing a tragedy, like the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a home, may lead to feelings of anguish and pain that make it hard to continue with our daily routine.

Keeping Tabs on Mental Health While Grieving

It’s important to monitor the state of our mental well-being throughout the grieving process and reach out when we need assistance getting through it. For most, the process can be managed with a strong support system and using healthy emotion management techniques.

However, for those who need additional support, the most effective results come from being informed on the signs and symptoms of developing mental health concerns and seeking early intervention, when necessary.

Warning Signs During Grief

The five stages of grief that are commonly recognized are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but everyone processes grief differently, and not every stage may be experienced. As a person progresses through their grief, some warning signs and symptoms of a mental health concern may develop.
Unfortunately, when we resort to avoidance, isolation, or withdrawal from others, we are prone to longer periods of depression and feelings of loneliness or helplessness.

Our ability to regulate our emotions may be affected, as well, and we may find ourselves to be more irritable or frustrated with the things and people around us—possibly even transferring our uncomfortable emotions onto others.

When we allow ourselves to seek comfort and connection with others in times of sadness, anger, or fear, we can move towards acceptance in a manageable and efficient way.

Grief & Physical Health

Unresolved grief may also impact our physical health. Sleeping and eating changes—either too much or too little—can be early signs that we need help coping with our loss. These can lead to a diminished immune system, making us more prone to illness. We may feel aches and pains, like headaches or an upset stomach, because of our affected mental health.

Engaging in behaviors, such as substance use or self-injury, to cope with grief are additional signs that more support is needed. If any thoughts of suicide arise, speaking with a professional as soon as possible is highly recommended.

Building Resilience While Grieving

Experiencing grief from loss may not be within our control, and it is something that we will all face throughout our lifetime. Even though it is often unexpected, there are things we can do everyday to build resilience and strengthen our skills to prevent our challenges from growing into deeper concerns when tragedies occur:

  • Establish healthy self-care routines, and take time to decompress after long, stressful days
  • Ensure conflicts are managed appropriately, and respectfully communicate thoughts and emotions with others
  • Form a strong support system and identify who you will reach out to when needed
  • Develop a future-oriented, positive mindset, which will provide hope and encourage us to keep moving forward

Routine Grief Check-Ins

Any type of loss is difficult. It is understandable, and natural, for us to feel all kinds of emotions as we process through our grief. Challenges can intensify how we experience our feelings.

As we move through our unique grieving process, consistently checking in with how we are doing is important. If we are not making progress as time moves on, or if the signs and symptoms of our grief are worsening, reaching out for additional support can make a big difference.

There are community support groups, self-help strategies and professional treatment options available. It is ok to not be ok, and assistance is available.

Written by:
Jessica Liria
Community Outreach Specialist,
David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health