Grieving is a difficult and challenging process. Its nature depends on a number of factors, such as the person’s coping style and personality, and the type of loss.5 However, regardless of the circumstances, losing a loved one can cause great pain and suffering. Most people learn to manage their grief and adjust to their loss in their own time. Maintaining self-care activities and routines,6 and having adequate social support available,7 can also be helpful during this time of adjustment. For people who experience prolonged or complicated grief reactions, a number of more targeted psychological interventions and strategies can be of substantial benefit.2, 8, 9
Sometimes loss and grief can make it harder for a person to look after themselves, which has been associated with poor health outcomes. Research has suggested that maintaining self-care activities and routines can benefit both the physical and mental health of a grieving individual,6, 16, 17 including:
- medical check-ups
- physical exercise
- healthy and regular meals
- limiting alcohol and drug use
- enjoyable activities
- normal sleep patterns
- relaxation activities.
Research has shown that, for some individuals, appropriate social support can reduce the psychological burden of grief.7, 18 However, it is important to note that individuals might require different types and/or quantities of social support at different times during the grieving process. Types of social support include:
- Instrumental support, such as assistance with funeral arrangements, help with housework and meal preparation, or help with insurance claims.
- Emotional support, such as providing comfort and reassurance, talking about the loss, listening with compassion, or sharing memories.
- Information support, such as financial advice, or helping the individual understand how and/or why the loss occurred.
Research has also supported the benefits of psychological treatment for more complicated or prolonged grief, including:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for complicated grief,8 which targets unhelpful thoughts and behaviours10
- Focused family grief therapy,11 which aims to enhance the functioning and communication within a family, in turn preventing the complications of bereavement12
- Complicated grief treatment,9 which addresses the symptoms of loss by helping individuals re-establish relationships and focus on personal life goals13
- Meaning reconstruction approaches,14 which help people to find meaning and significance in their loss and in their ongoing lives.
Online bereavement support groups may also be effective for people experiencing complicated grief.15