How Different People Deal With Grief

Bare, exposed tree and root system

Grief can leave us feeling bare and exposed

Losing a loved one, losing a job or going through a break up are all incredibly hard processes to go through, and ones that many of us would rather avoid if we could. Of course these are also the experiences that forge our personalities and define us, and unfortunately are necessary if we are to form meaningful attachments during our time on Earth.

However while they’re unavoidable, the way we deal with them can vary greatly from person to person, and the way one individual deals with grief can be very different to the way another person does. Understanding this is key to getting through a difficult period emotionally intact, and it’s key to helping others get through it and understanding where they might be coming from.

Here we will look at a few of the ways that people deal with grief, to help you better understand the process and hopefully maybe prepare.


Denial is a common way to deal with grief and is something that we’re all familiar with. The person in denial is the person who refuses to accept things the way they are and who insists on looking for answers.

If you’re faced with a terminal illness then, someone who reacts by showing denial will potentially not believe what they’ve been told and will be constantly looking for ways to prevent what’s happening. Of course this can be adaptive if it leads to an actual solution, but when no solution is forthcoming it can be destructive when others need you to help them face and deal with what’s happened.


In bargaining we have given up on trying to deny what’s happening or prevent it, and instead will try and bargain and offer trade offs.

In the case of a breakdown of a relationship this can be very literal as we find ourselves literally pleading with our ex partners to come back to us, but in other situations it might mean pleading with God or a chosen deity.


Sublimation means directing your distressed energy towards something else and absorbing yourself in that.

For instance if you are having a hard time dealing with a recent loss, you might try to compensate by cleaning the house erratically, or by doing a workout.


While most of us will show sadness following a personal tragedy, others will react with anger and will lash out at things around us and look for something to blame.

This might mean taking legal action, or it might just mean ‘blaming’ God or punching a pillow. Of course this isn’t the healthiest way to work through emotions, and sometimes you just need to stop fighting and let go so that you can begin the healing process.


Many of us will try to ‘escape’ reality in one way or another.

This might mean reading a book or delving into our imaginations (the latter is a common coping mechanism for children), but more dangerously it can mean drinking or using drugs. Again it’s important to deal with the emotions and to face them, even if this requires professional help or hypnotherapy.

Helplessness Response

Sometimes we react by simply shutting down and retiring to our beds to cry and weep.

This can be a good way of dealing with the event in that it means we vent our emotions, but of course we eventually need to return to the world, and we need to be there for others around us.


The article is written by health counsellor and blogger, James Swansea. He also writes numerous posts on health and self development.
Photo courtesy of 123rf

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