Coping Strategies for Dealing with Loss and Grief


Whether it is the death of a public figure like Kobe Bryant or of a beloved family member or friend, loss can stir myriad, and often difficult, emotions: disbelief, sadness, anger, loneliness, fear, guilt, sorrow, pain, regret and despair. For those experiencing these feelings, it is important to give yourself permission to express them with someone you trust, says Gina Kornfeind, MSW, MS, a pediatric palliative care social worker and bereavement counselor and coordinator at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. Doing so is not sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength, she says. Kornfeind offers several suggestions to help those who are confronting loss and grief understand and respond to their feelings.

  • Your feelings are normal. They are a part of the emotional reaction called “grief.” Grief is not linear. You may go in and out of many emotions and feelings.
  • Now and then your feelings of grief may be so intense that you may not understand what is happening or feel numb. This can be protective. You may consider professional counseling and support.
  • There is no “right way” to grieve. Grief is unique and individual.
  • Guilt is a normal part of grief (real or imagined).
  • Crying is a healthy expression of grief and can be cleansing.
  • Avoid making major decisions too quickly.
  • Medication should be taken ONLY under the supervision of your doctor.
  • Maintain a support system. Tell people, family and/or friends what you need — whether it is help or privacy.
  • Allow time and space for your emotional needs. Be compassionate with yourself.
  • Recognize stressful times within grief include holidays and anniversaries of your loved one.
  • Believe in yourself. The pain does lessen. You can find healing and hope for the future. Know that you will survive.