How To Deal With Grief: What Experts Say

Getty Creative

Whether mourning the loss of a family member or ending a significant life chapter, we all encounter grief. While the grieving process is unique to each individual, there are a number of strategies mental health experts recommend for coping with loss. Read below to learn more, including the signs and symptoms and ways to make it through the grieving process.

What Is Grief?

Grief is an emotional response to experiencing profound loss, such as the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage. While grief impacts everyone differently, common symptoms may include sadness, tearfulness and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms may persist for up to one year for adults, and six months for children and adolescents[1]. When the grieving process extends beyond that, clinicians may suspect prolonged grief disorder, a condition with symptoms so severe they impact daily functioning.

“Grief is an inevitable, deeply personal experience that everyone encounters at some point in their lives,” says Chanell Finley, a licensed professional counselor supervisor at CF Counseling and Consulting, who’s based in Monroe, Louisiana. “It encompasses a range of feelings, from deep sadness to anger.”

The 5 Stages of Grief

A common misconception is that grieving individuals follow the grief cycle model, a concept created by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, using case studies of terminally ill patients. Despite its lack of scientific evidence, the model has been widely adopted to describe an individual’s experience of losing a loved one, rather than the process of coming to terms with a personal diagnosis.

As outlined in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief include: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While culturally, many have accepted these stages as a prescriptive pathway through grief, Kubler-Ross noted that individuals may experience these stages in any order, or skip some stages completely. Understanding that this model is based solely on anecdotal evidence, it’s important to note that your experience of grief may look different altogether.

“The journey through grief is unique for each person, and there is no ‘right’ way to grieve,” notes Finley. “However, understanding common responses to grief, effective coping strategies and the benefits of seeking professional support can greatly assist those navigating grief’s challenging landscape.”

5 Expert-Recommended Ways to Deal With Grief

Time, social support and the right coping strategies may help many individuals process their grief. These steps, recommended by mental health practitioners, may help you reach healing:

  • Give yourself permission to grieve: When it comes to coping with the pain and sadness of grief, allow yourself to surrender to the experience, says Alex Dimitriu, M.D., a psychiatrist and the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in Menlo Park, California. “There is no easy way to overcome the heartache of losing someone close. Being open to the experience and allowing oneself permission to grieve, to cry and to long for the person is an important first step,” says Dr. Dimitriu, noting that there’s nothing shameful about the intense feelings grief brings to the surface.
  • Find an outlet for your feelings: Finley encourages her patients to openly express their emotions using whatever medium works for them, whether that’s talking, writing or engaging in a creative practice like painting or drawing. Channeling your feelings in this way may help you process your loss, she adds.
  • Prioritize self-care: While it can be difficult, it’s important to continue tending to your basic needs, says Dr. Dimitriu. “Be sure to get good sleep, get outside and spend time in nature, exercise, eat healthy and spend time socializing with whomever feels appropriate in the moment,” he says.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation: A meditation or mindfulness practice can be beneficial to anyone, but especially for someone experiencing grief, adds Dr. Dimitriu. While more research is needed, preliminary evidence suggests that practicing mindfulness may help alleviate the symptoms of grief and aid grieving individuals in processing their loss[2].
  • Seek support: Having a social support net can be critical for those who are grieving, says Finley. “Connecting with friends, family or support groups can provide comfort and understanding,” she says, also noting that speaking with others who share similar loss experiences may be helpful. There are many options for seeking support to process grief, including grief counseling, individual or group therapy or bereavement groups.

“The goal is not to sit indefinitely and alone in the pain, but to keep it ‘moving’,” adds Dr. Dimitriu, noting how important the support of family and friends can be to the healing process.

Symptoms of Grief

Everyone experiences grief in their own way, and they may have symptoms that are emotional, physical or psychological in nature. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • An initial period of numbness
  • Denial
  • Yearning
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Shock
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tearfulness
  • Sleep disruption
  • Exacerbated chronic conditions or illnesses
  • Physical aches and pains

When these symptoms occur for longer than 12 months, an individual may develop prolonged grief disorder, a condition that progresses from 7 to 10% of grief cases, says Dr. Dimitriu[3]. The symptoms of this disorder include, “an inability to accept the death of the individual, avoiding reminders of their loss, intense emotional pain or anger, emotional numbness, trouble getting back into one’s prior life and roles and most significantly, a sense that life is meaningless,” he adds.

Types of Grief

There are different types of grief that people may experience when mourning a loss. These include:

  • Uncomplicated grief: A type of grief that’s often referred to as “normal” grief. While the symptoms may feel painful and disruptive, uncomplicated grief does not typically require treatment, and symptoms are thought to ease on their own with time.
  • Anticipatory grief: The sense of grief an individual experiences when a loved one is given a diagnosis of a terminal illness, for example, and they begin to grieve the loss before it occurs.
  • Complicated grief: A type of grief that occurs when an individual is mourning the loss of someone with whom they’ve had a complicated or difficult relationship that others may not understand.
  • Ambiguous grief: The grief that accompanies a sense of loss that’s unrelated to death. This may include missing out on important life milestones, time with loved ones, events and more.
  • Disenfranchised grief: Individuals who experience this type of grief do not receive the support or sympathy that are typically afforded to those navigating loss. This may include individuals who have lost a loved one to drug overdose or suicide, for example.

Seeking Support

Symptoms that do not improve with time or impair day-to-day functioning may warrant professional support, says Finley. “A therapist can provide a safe, non-judgmental space to explore and understand grief,” she adds. “[They] can help in processing the loss and the complex emotions that come with it, allowing for a more adaptive integration of the experience into one’s life.”

If you need support to navigate through grief, grief counseling may be available directly through a hospice provider. Additionally, many hospitals list local resources for grief counseling, bereavement therapy and support groups.



  1. Mughal S, Azhar Y, Mahon MM, Siddiqui WJ. Grief Reaction and Prolonged Grief Disorder. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; November 14, 2023.
  2. Huang FY, Hsu AL, Chao YP, Shang CM, Tsai JS, Wu CW. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on bereavement grief: Alterations of resting-state network connectivity associate with changes of anxiety and mindfulness. Hum Brain Mapp. 2021;42(2):510-520.
  3. Maccallum F, Dawson K, Azevedo S, et al. Challenges in Grief-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Prolonged Grief Disorder. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. 2023.


  1. Grief. American Psychological Association. Accessed 1/4/24.
  2. Klurfeld Z.B., Bugo T, Sanderson W.C., et al. Comparing the nature of grief and growth in bereaved, divorced, and unemployed individuals. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2020;(274)1126-1133.
  3. Prolonged Grief Disorder. American Psychiatric Association. Accessed 1/8/2024.
  4. It’s Time to Let the Five Stages of Grief Die. McGill. Accessed 2/9/2024.
  5. Kubler-Ross Stages of Dying and Subsequent Models of Grief. StatPearls [Internet]. Accessed 1/4/24.
  6. Grief: Coping With the Loss of Your Loved One. American Psychological Association. Accessed 1/4/2024.
  7. Tidwell B. Integrative Meaning, Mindfulness, and Traumatic Grief Among Bereaved Adults. Clinical Psychology Dissertations. 2022.
  8. Maass U, Hofmann L, Perlinger J, et al. Effects of bereavement groups–a systematic review and meta-analysis. Death Studies. 2022;46(3):708-718.
  9. Zisook S, Shear K. Grief and Bereavement: what psychiatrists need to know. World Psychiatry. 2009;8(2):67-74.
  10. Kumar RM. The Many Faces of Grief: A Systematic Literature Review of Grief During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Illn Crises Loss. 2023;31(1):100-119.
  11. Bereavement and Grief. Mental Health International. Accessed 1/8/2024.
  12. Doka, K. J. (2008). Disenfranchised grief in historical and cultural perspective. In M. S. Stroebe, R. O. Hansson, H. Schut, & W. Stroebe (Eds.), Handbook of bereavement research and practice: Advances in theory and intervention (pp. 223–240). American Psychological Association.

Important Notice: This article was originally published at by Lizzie Duszynski-Goodman where all credits are due. Expert review by Olivia Verhulst, L.M.H.C.


The watching, interacting, and participation of any kind with anything on this page does not constitute or initiate a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Farrah™. None of the statements here have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The products of Dr. Farrah™ are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information being provided should only be considered for education and entertainment purposes only. If you feel that anything you see or hear may be of value to you on this page or on any other medium of any kind associated with, showing, or quoting anything relating to Dr. Farrah™ in any way at any time, you are encouraged to and agree to consult with a licensed healthcare professional in your area to discuss it. If you feel that you’re having a healthcare emergency, seek medical attention immediately. The views expressed here are simply either the views and opinions of Dr. Farrah™ or others appearing and are protected under the first amendment.

Dr. Farrah™ is a highly experienced Licensed Medical Doctor certified in evidence-based clinical nutrition, not some enthusiast, formulator, or medium promoting the wild and unrestrained use of nutrition products for health issues without clinical experience and scientific evidence of therapeutic benefit. Dr. Farrah™ has personally and keenly studied everything she recommends, and more importantly, she’s closely observed the reactions and results in a clinical setting countless times over the course of her career involving the treatment of over 150,000 patients.

Dr. Farrah™ promotes evidence-based natural approaches to health, which means integrating her individual scientific and clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. By individual clinical expertise, I refer to the proficiency and judgment that individual clinicians acquire through clinical experience and clinical practice.

Dr. Farrah™ does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of any multimedia content provided. Dr. Farrah™ does not warrant the performance, effectiveness, or applicability of any sites listed, linked, or referenced to, in, or by any multimedia content.

To be clear, the multimedia content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any website, video, image, or media of any kind. Dr. Farrah™ hereby disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental, or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.