Coping With The Emotional Pain Of Grief And Loss

In a recent study, researchers found that those who sought meaning and communicated their grief through writing had fewer physical problems and improved mental health.
Lessening The Emotional Pain Of Loss
Source – What’s Your Grief
  • A major challenge of ageing is coping with several losses at the same time, even if they occur at any moment.
  • Grief can be transformed into something else, something rich and fulfilling if we find significance in the loss of a loved one.
  • In a recent study, researchers found that those who sought meaning and communicated their grief through writing had fewer physical problems and improved mental health.

Coping With The Emotional Pain Of Grief And Loss

Anyone struggling to come to terms with the death of a loved one might learn from this advice from a grieving expert Meg Selig, Psychology Today.

Even though the death of her cousin, Frank, was foreseen, it nonetheless surprised her. He was the first to pass away from her extended family. “It's the beginning of a long winter of loss," she told myself.

When she was in her 70s, she recognised that coping with sorrow and loss is a fundamental talent that every woman should learn to master. The ability to deal with several losses at once is a problem that comes with ageing, even though losses may happen at any point in life. Her cousin's death was the first of many losses to come—the deaths of family or acquaintances, decreasing health, and, of course, one's own mortality. It seemed to her that coping with a sudden storm of emotional, mental, and bodily blows could be difficult for the elderly or anybody who is about to lose someone close in the near future.

Source - Tiny Buddha

When she was looking through her library for resources, she came upon a book by David Kessler, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, that she'd bought a while back but never read. By just glancing at the headline, she realised this is the page that she was searching for right away.

A co-worker of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004), who coined the term “five phases of grieving," David Kessler has written extensively on the subject of sorrow. However, these “stages" don't always follow one another in a logical order; rather, they might occur in any order.

Grief workshops, disaster counselling, and teaching first responders and health care professionals about the grieving process are among Kessler's current initiatives, as are many others.

Kessler wrote about the stages of grief: “Over the years, she came to realise that there is a crucial sixth stage to the healing process: meaning…if we allow ourselves to move fully into this crucial and profound sixth stage—meaning—it will allow us to transform grief into something else, something rich and fulfilling."

Even though I've written a lot on the need of finding meaning in life (see, for example, here and here), Kessler raised some important points about how the pursuit for meaning may turn pain into a purpose that she had not previously considered.

The following are a few of his many insightful thoughts:

  • Take as much time as needed. Do not rush through the grieving process. Allow yourself to go through all phases of loss, even the deepest, most debilitating ones. Allow yourself to experience any and all of the tough emotions you may be experiencing, including sadness, frustration, and grief.
  • Make decisions to heal yourself. It takes time and effort for the body to mend itself. There is a need for us to be cautious in our efforts. “Create a life worth living" is an inspiring concept that may keep us going ahead in the face of pain and loss.
  • To be optimistic about the future, rather than be pessimistic about the past. Despite all you've been through, the pain you've endured cannot be minimised. However, by finding meaning in your loss, you'll be able to make changes in your own life. Even though the pain of loss will never go away, you may learn to flourish in the wake of a tragedy over time.
  • Accept the fact that no one is immune to the suffering and tragedies of life. In his grieving classes, Kessler asks participants: “Why did I assume she would go through this life without sorrow, misery, or sadness? The good and the terrible are part of life's deal. There's no such thing as everything good." In her opinion, normalising “sorrow, pain, and grief" has a calming effect.
  • Making sense of a loss is impossible without the help of other people. Kessler's book is brimming with stories of individuals whose lives were transformed by the death of a loved one. When mourning, it's easy to concentrate on individuals who accomplished huge things, such as establishing foundations and organisations in honour of loved ones, but Kessler emphasised that little means of generating purpose may be just as valuable.

Some examples of meaning-making, both large and small:

  • Telling stories about a deceased loved one can be therapeutic. Pennebaker's study on the importance of writing about horrific events was highlighted by Kessler. Writers experienced fewer physical problems and better mental health as a result of writing about their grief.
  • Starting a charity in memory of a loved one's suffering is a way to honour their memory and help others in the same situation. After losing her daughter in a drunk-driving accident, Candy Lightner created Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
  • Volunteering or making a donation to a charity of your loved one's preference. Anyone may make a tiny donation to a charity in memory of a loved one, even if they don't have the money to form their own foundation. For volunteering, she was especially affected by the tale of a grieving father in Mumbai who opted to patch potholes on the local roadways to avoid accidents like the one in which his son tragically died.
  • Create routines that serve as a constant reminder of the person you miss. Is ice cream something your loved one likes? On his birthday, get some of it. If he seemed to be a fan of a certain programme, connect with it by watching.
  • Reconnect with those you've lost touch with. Let them know how much you care for them by expressing it frequently and early on.

Keep an open mind when it comes to what other people think is important. If a person believes in eternal life, that's fantastic. However, if they do not, it is perfectly OK. At this moment, it's not appropriate to criticise yourself or others for having a strong conviction.

It's okay to allow yourself to appreciate the beauty of nature, people, and life in the midst of loss. The therapist Mary Pipher commented, “As we walk out of a friend's funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues," perfectly describes this idea. “Grieve fully, then live fully," as Kessler put it.

Is it possible to utilise this information to better plan for and recover from losses? The ability to bounce back from adversity and loss can be achieved if we are resolved to live a life of purpose today.

We may sow the seeds for a spring of optimism in the midst of a winter of loss.


  2. Kessler, D. Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief (2019). New York: Scribner.
  3. Selig, M. Silver Sparks: Thoughts on Growing Older, Wiser, and Happier (2020). St. Louis: JetLaunch.
  4. Pipher, M. “The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s." New York Times, 1.12.2019.

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