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How to Cope with Grief and Loss

A man with his arms around another’s shoulders with heads bowed in deep conversation.

iStock/digital Skillet

In this Article:

  • Any major life event can cause grief.
  • There are five common stages to grief.
  • Taking care of yourself can help you through the grieving process.

It’s hard to lose someone or something you care about. Grief is a natural and healthy response to loss, tragedy, and sadness. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make coping with loss a little easier.

Causes of Grief

Any major life event, significant loss, or traumatic event can cause grief. Some examples include the loss of a:

  • Loved one
  • Life role, such as change in career (e.g., transitioning out of the military)
  • Relationship due to divorce or separation
  • Home or friends due to moving

For Guard Soldiers grief may also be caused by the loss of a:

  • Battle buddy
  • Sense of closeness that was experienced with other Guard Soldiers
  • Sense of identity as a member of the National Guard
  • Physical ability (e.g., disability acquired during service)

Stages of Grief

If you experience loss or tragedy, it may be helpful to know the reasons behind your feelings. The five common stages of grief are:

  • Denial—You may be shocked or numb. It is normal to deny the loss happened.
  • Anger—As reality sets in, you may feel frustrated, helpless, and angry.
  • Bargaining—During this stage you may focus on what could have been done to prevent the loss.
  • Depression—As you begin to process the loss and how it affects your life, sadness may set in. Signs of depression include crying, sleep issues, and/or decreased appetite.
  • Acceptance—Although you may still be sad, you begin to accept the reality of your loss and start moving forward with your life.

Coping with Grief

Everyone responds to loss differently. Some people show grief openly, while others do not. It’s important to not automatically assume that something is wrong if you or someone you know isn’t open about their feelings. It just means they are handling it in a different way.

Taking care of yourself can help you cope with grief. Here are some tips:

  • Give yourself time—Accept your feelings and know that grieving is a process.
  • Talk about it—Talk to the people close to you and let them know how they can help support you. Don’t isolate yourself.
  • Take care of yourself—Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep.
  • Return to your hobbies—Get back into the swing of doing activities that make you happy.
  • Get help—Join a support group, reach out to a Guard Chaplain in your area, or talk to your Medical Readiness NCO and/or medical health professional about managing your grief.

Dealing with a loss is tough, but there are resources to help you get through it. Grief is a natural process of healing, and you are not alone.

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