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Coping with Grief

Coping with Grief

Al Waller: Grief and loss are difficult experiences that will affect all of us during some point in our lives. Dealing with grief is a difficult process, and everyone copes in their own way. Grief can disrupt daily life, making it difficult to focus on loved ones, work, and other responsibilities.

Welcome to ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & WealthSM. I'm your host, Al Waller. Joining me today is Mihaela Vincze, public health expert, for nonprofit Transamerica Institute®. We will be delving into some strategies to cope with grief.

Before we get started – a reminder that we would love to hear from you and learn what topics you would like us to cover or give us feedback on this episode. Please drop me or Mihaela a note at [email protected].

So Mihaela, what is grief?

Mihaela Vincze: Grief is a natural response to loss, which is often associated with the death of a loved one. However, grief can also be experienced in context with losing a relationship or sense of identity. It can include feelings of sadness, guilt, loneliness, and anger. It can even affect our physical health—our appetite, energy, and mental health can be affected by grief.

Al Waller: Yes, grief can be hard to experience, however, why is it important to allow yourself to grieve?

Mihaela Vincze: You may have heard the saying, “you have to feel it to heal it”. It’s really important to allow yourself to feel your emotions during the grieving process to get through them. It's natural to feel a range of emotions when you're grieving. Allow yourself to feel sadness, confusion, or any other emotions that come up.

Al Waller: Yes, grief takes time to process. With this being said, are there certain stages that people will go through when they experience grief?

Mihaela Vincze: You may have read psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s 1969 book On Death by Dying, which delves into the different grief stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some people may go through these stages, however, grief is now thought of to be an unpredictable and individualized experience.

Al Waller: It’s helpful to know that having your own experience with grief is normal. The emotions that come up while grieving are hard to experience but important to process. What do you recommend for those who are grieving?

Mihaela Vincze: When we’re grieving, it can be tempting to want to withdraw. However, it’s important to reach out for support. Grief can be isolating, but you don't have to go through it on your own. Reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for support. It’s also important to be patient with yourself. Grief doesn't have a set timeline, so allow yourself to grieve at your own pace.

Al Waller: That’s a significant point—we all experience grief differently and it’s important to keep that in mind as we grieve or are supporting someone who is grieving. What’s another important step in navigating grief?

Mihaela Vincze: Take care of yourself. Grief can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. During this time, it can be especially beneficial to reach out to friends and family who can provide support and lower your burden by helping out in practical ways, such as by watching the kids, picking up groceries, walking the dog, etc. There are also self-care undertakings you can engage in, such as getting enough rest, eating well, exercising, and engaging in hobbies that bring you joy. Check out our episode Prioritizing Self-Care during Stressful Times for more ideas on self-care.

Al Waller: That was an informative episode on ways that we can care for ourselves, even when we feel too overwhelmed to prioritize it. Now, this brings me to my next point. We can all agree that navigating grief and loss is a personal journey that takes time and patience. What can those who are grieving do so that they can honor this process?

Mihaela Vincze: Practice self-compassion. It’s imperative that we be kind and gentle with ourselves during times of grief. Putting pressure on ourselves doesn’t help the pain go away, it can actually make it worse. It’s important to be nonjudgmental and patient with ourselves.

Al Waller: Yes, practicing self-compassion is very important. Now, do you have any advice for those who want to support someone who is experiencing grief?

Mihaela Vincze: That’s a great question, as I have recently faced this in my personal life. One of the most impactful things you can do for someone who is grieving is simply to be present. Simply being with the person, fully, can really make a difference. If they want to talk, active listening can really make the person feel cared for and validated— also do not offer advice unless they’re seeking it. And lastly, try not to place expectations on the grieving process—it’s important to encourage the person to work through their emotions on their own timeline, without any added pressure to “bounce back”.

Al Waller: Everyone grieves differently, so it’s important to be mindful of cues and adjust your approach accordingly. Where should those experiencing grief turn to for support?

Mihaela Vincze: There are lots of resources you can turn to—it’s important to find what works best for you, so I recommend checking out a few.

Support groups offer grief support and are often led by mental health professionals. GriefShare is an online grief recovery support group, where you can find help after losing a loved one.

Some other online resources include What’s Your Grief, and The Grief Recovery Method. What’s Your Grief is a grief website and online community for those who are grieving. The Grief Recovery Method is an evidence-based grief program that helps people heal from the pain of loss. This program is more “action oriented”.

Al Waller: It’s nice to know that there are so many options available at our fingertips online. What else?

Mihaela Vincze: Many people turn to their faith after a loss. Religious or spiritual leaders can provide emotional support to individuals who are grieving, as well as help them connect with their spiritual practices.

Al Waller: I’m sure many people find comfort in that. Now, I can’t help but wonder—what options do those who are employed and have limited time to seek out support have?

Mihaela Vincze: Many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide support for employees experiencing grief. EAPs may offer counseling services, referrals, and educational resources for employees who are grieving.

Al Waller: That’s not a bad idea. Now, we all know that grief can sometimes become overwhelming, leading to mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Where should those who are having a hard time with their mental health in the aftermath of a loss turn to?

Mihaela Vincze: They should turn to professional help. If you're struggling to cope with your grief, it's important to seek professional help. Grief counselors and therapists specialize in helping people process and work through their grief.

Al Waller: Thank you again, Mihaela. Don’t forget that everyone’s grieving process is different— don’t be afraid to reach out for help as you navigate this difficult time.

If you’d like to check out any of the source materials mentioned today, visit transamericainstitute.org/podcast to review the episode’s transcript.

If you have comments, feedback, or topic ideas, please reach out to [email protected]. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button so that you don’t miss an episode of ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth.

Until the next time, I’m your host Al Waller. Stay safe, be well and thanks for listening.

ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is brought to you by Transamerica Institute, a nonprofit private foundation dedicated to identifying, researching, and educating the public about health and wellness, employment, financial literacy, longevity, and retirement.

You can find our weekly podcast on WYPR’s website and mobile app, wherever you get your podcasts, and at transamericainstitute.org/podcast.

ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is produced by the Transamerica Institute with assistance from WYPR.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical, or financial advice or guidance.

Al Waller is a long-time Baltimore native and employment expert with a 30-year career in leading and advising locally and globally based corporations on matters including: Talent Acquisition and Retention, Employee Relations, Training and Development.
Mihaela Vincze is a public health expert and experienced health care educator. Serving as Transamerica Institute’s health care content developer, she shares insights on health and wellness on ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health and WealthSM. Mihaela earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in public health at California State University, Northridge.