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How to Navigate Grief: How to Cope and Build Resilience


Grief is a social emotion, and a transformative experience. There is much diversity in human grieving, accounting for cultural differences, generational differences, and emotional capacities. Sometimes these differences can make it difficult for people to understand each other in times of grief. When we do not grieve the losses we experience, when grief goes unexpressed, repressed, or unresolved, mourning can remain “stuck” in depression.

Types of grief

Types of grief

There are many different types of losses, and there are equally as many types of grief. Considering that there are so many different types of grief, it can be helpful to distinguish between individual grief and collective grief. How we experience and approach grieving might differ with each. Individual grief is usually related to individual losses, such as “the big three Ds”: Death, Dying, and Divorce. Then there are other losses due to health conditions, career, and faith. Or it can be relational, due to situations, relationships ending, substance use issues, or diagnoses. Examples of collective grief are the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis (also known as ecological grief).

When grief is not directly related to loss, it can be difficult to allow ourselves to grieve, which is called “ambiguous loss” (for example, supporting a loved one with dementia), and this can lead to “chronic sorrow”, as it may not be a one-time event that we need to process. Rather, we are experiencing repeated losses and repeated grief, and we learn to live with these ongoing losses. There is also “anticipatory grief” – for example in terminal illnesses, which can allow us to go through several cycles of grief before death. Another example is the heightened anxiety felt during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are traumatic events and losses that can lead to “complicated grief”, such as war, natural disasters, rape, terrorism, violence, accidents, preventable and sudden deaths, or suicide. While death ends a life, it does not end the relationship. Many researchers identify the need to find meaning and purpose in life following loss as an important part of grieving, and this meaning-making process can be complicated by such traumatic events. 

Coping with grief

Coping with grief

The “stages of grief” and other models that attempt to categorize and organize grief have long been critiqued, since grief is rarely a predictable, linear process. Rather, grief is often cyclical, it comes in waves, and continues and transforms. There is no set timeline. However, we can seek support to find a way to manage grief as a part of life, by identifying our coping strategies and managing stress, so that grief can become a transformative process. 

Six guidelines for resilience

While these are not linear, here are six guidelines for resilience that can be supportive for navigating loss, grief, coping, stress, and allowing grief to transform us:

  1. Finding meaning – transforming grief into hope

  2. Tempering mastery  - letting go what I cannot control

  3. Reconstructing identity  - who am I now?

  4. Normalising ambivalence – accepting conflicting feelings such as angry and happy all at once

  5. Revising attachment – letting go while remembering

  6. Discovering hope – imagining future possibilities

Why see a psychotherapist?

As a global human family, we are all still in various stages of grief, loss, and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and we all have different ways of grieving, which can make it difficult to connect, reconnect, and rebuild. A psychotherapist can support you in this process and sort out the following transformative questions: What have you lost? How have you found meaning? What have you let go of? Who are you now? What is your hope for the future? 


About the author


Suzanne is a Student Intern at Your Story Counselling Services, as part of the Master of Social Work program. Suzanne aims to hold space with empathy and compassion, to provide a space to work through a range of challenges that life can bring with it (i.e. relational issues, depression and anxiety, grief, trauma, communication and boundary setting, burnout, parenting and chronic illness). She works with a trauma-informed, feminist, decolonial and 2SLGBTQIAA+ affirming lens. 

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