Grief Series: Grieving Together

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
One of the most common ways to grieve is to practice self-compassion

Most Common Ways to Grieve

Grieve. It is a simple word packed with a complex and highly volatile set of emotions, behaviors and even cultural tendencies. There is no #1 or best way to grieve. As we've already discussed in this series on Grief Support, people grieve in very, very different ways and vastly individualized timetables. This is a list of twenty of the most common ways that I have seen and discussed with clients in my practice when dealing with grief. Since there isn't a single right way to grieve or cadence to follow, I've listed these alphabetically and it certainly doesn't constitute a complete list of ways to grieve.

Accept Your Emotions

Acknowledging and accepting your emotions is a vital step in the grieving process. Research by the American Psychological Association (APA) highlights that embracing emotions contributes to long-term psychological well-being. The study showed, "acceptance helps keep individuals from reacting to – and thus exacerbating – their negative mental experiences. Over time, experiencing lower negative emotion should promote psychological health." Authentically grieving involves allowing the full spectrum of emotions and emphasizes the importance of expressing grief openly, contributing to adaptive coping mechanisms. This is another reason why sending and receiving texts, messages and cards from friends and loved ones dealing with grief is so important.

Be Kind to Yourself

Self-compassion is key during grief. Research from the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates that individuals who practice self-kindness experience lower levels of stress and depression during the grieving process. This is so important - give yourself the space and freedom to grieve. Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the study of self-compassion defines this practice as "being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, non-judgmental attitude toward one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one’s experience is part of the common human experience."

Be Patient

Grief doesn't follow a timetable or a consistent path to healing, and being patient with the process is crucial. The British Journal of Psychiatry notes that patience with oneself correlates with a more positive long-term adjustment to loss.

Eat Well

This might sound obvious, but maintaining a healthy diet supports physical and emotional health during grief. When we grieve, sometimes the most basic of habits and needs are put on the back burner while we focus on our grief. Research in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine suggests a correlation between nutrition and improved mood, helping individuals navigate the grieving process. For those providing grief support, this is another benefit for offering to prepare meals for families dealing with grief.


Regular exercise has been linked to reduced symptoms of grief-related depression. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that physical activity positively influences mental health, promoting resilience in the face of loss. The 2019 study showed that physical activity reduced feelings of depression, anxiety and the experience of PTSD. Exercise also created a sense of freedom, enabling the expression of emotions, providing a distraction, and an escape from grief.


Putting pen to paper can aid in processing emotions. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs cites studies showing that "writing about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over four consecutive days was associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems." Journaling is hugely popular in many avenues of therapy and counseling, but the related positive health affects during grieving are undeniable.

Reach Out to Others

Seeking support from friends and family is vital. The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reports that strong social connections are associated with better mental health outcomes in the face of grief and bereavement.

Sleep Well

Quality sleep is crucial for emotional regulation during grief. The journal Sleep emphasizes the bi-directional relationship between sleep quality and mental health, highlighting the importance of prioritizing rest. This works in the reverse too, according to a University of Arizona study. Those who have persistent trouble sleeping before grief, may have an especially difficult grieving process after the death of a loved one. Either way it underscores the need to focus on quality sleep as you grieve.

Understand Grief Affects Everybody Differently

Recognizing the universality of grief fosters empathy and connection. The Harvard Review of Psychiatry emphasizes that understanding the shared nature of grief reduces feelings of isolation and facilitates healthy coping. It's also about understanding the stages of grief and their interconnected impacts across everyone that is affected by a loss. But remember, the stages of grief aren’t linear and may not happen in the same order as the textbook indicates. Those stages are not a map but they provide some scaffolding for how the overall process happens.

Navigating grief is a unique journey for each individual. By incorporating these evidence-based strategies, individuals can find meaningful ways to cope, fostering resilience and promoting a healthier adaptation to loss. Remember, seeking professional guidance and connecting with supportive communities are integral aspects of the healing process.

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

As mentioned in the post about "What You Should Look For in a Grief Therapist" I talk with clients about the stages of grief. Helping a client to identify which stage of grief they are currently in, and working toward acceptance is important.  Those dealing with significant grief can find it hard to get out of bed, much less think about eating and exercise. However, taking a walk outside, eating with a friend, and focusing on your own physical health can be just as important as your mental health. For those supporting someone in grief, sometimes just sitting with them and saying, “I don’t know what to say, but I care about you and wanted to be here to support you” can be helpful. Asking for help can be particularly difficult for individuals, so it is best to let them know we are there to love and support them.

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Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.