Coping with Grief: Healthy Ways to Navigate Loss and Bereavement

Written By Jonathan Rom, MD MPH RP (Qualifying).


Figuring out what types of grief are “healthy” is a topic still debated by experts1. You may not be surprised to read this, given that each culture has different norms around grief. Most of these norms are hard to define and, sometimes, even harder to adhere to depending on the circumstances of a loved one’s death. How a parent grieves the loss of a young child, for example, may be completely different from how an adult child copes with the loss of their elderly parents. It is challenging to make sweeping statements on what encompasses healthy grief, given the wide range of ways grief manifests.

That is why, for the purposes of this post, let’s take a moment to examine what is “healthy” through a lens of what is helpful. Helpful grief is “healthy” insofar that it is healing. It encourages grief away from the potentially dark depths of clinical, complex bereavement. Helpful grief is a step towards resilience, alleviating pain and suffering to allow life to continue on, even when that seems unfathomable. When a grounding, defining presence in your life is gone it can feel like pieces of your own self are lost with it. Helpful grief is the growth into who you become from processing that loss.2

The following is a partial list of promising strategies for helpful grieving:

Allowing Time to Process

Grieving is a process that may be felt physically, emotionally, psychologically,  behaviourally, spiritually, and/or socially3. Sometimes all of these happen at once or in some combination. The time that is allowed to grieve gives each person an opportunity to process these reactions in their own time. Some begin to infuse everyday events with meaning after the loss. They see it as a challenge to overcome. Others spend time figuring out how to adjust their lives to the new situation. This is often a mix of emotional/behavioural adjustments and practical/financial ones. Allowing time to attend to these internal and external callings to a new normal is important and necessary.3

Social/Spiritual Supports:

Friends, family, and community are a fundamentally vital way of supporting one’s own recovery throughout the grieving process4. In fact, many cultures and societies have built-in rituals around this very purpose because of how universally important it is to share grief with others2.

Of course, this process will look different for the various circumstances the bereaved find themselves in. Group therapy and support groups have been shown to give people a feeling of external, communal support as those who participate can relate to/support each other through shared experience3.


For some, the decision to go to therapy on their own is a deciding factor in how effective it is for their grief3. Whether you choose to try therapy for yourself or are encouraged to go by others, there is research to suggest that CBT is helpful for preventing complex grief in the context of suicide5, perinatal loss6, and for general bereavement7.

This is because CBT is an approach to creating a “coherent, meaningful autobiographical narrative about the loss; challenging negative beliefs and catastrophic misinterpretations through cognitive restructuring; gradually confronting [the] avoided aspects of the loss (e.g., places, objects, memories) through exposure techniques; and/or helping people to set new life-goals and engage in new, meaningful activities.”7

If you or anyone you love is struggling with grief, help is available. Roles & Associates Psychotherapy Services Inc. has licensed psychotherapists ready to guide you through a helpful, healing bereavement. To get matched with a therapist please call 705-929-1612; ext. 6 or email us at [email protected].


  1. Public Attitudes About Normal and Pathological Grief
  2. Love, Grief, and Resilience
  3. Darian, C. D. B. (2014). A New Mourning: Synthesizing an Interactive Model of Adaptive Grieving Dynamics. Illness, Crisis, and Loss, 22(3), 195–235.
  4. Koblenz, J. (2016). Growing From Grief: Qualitative Experiences of Parental Loss. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 73(3), 203–230.
  5. Linde, K., Treml, J., Steinig, J., Nagl, M., & Kersting, A. (2017). Grief interventions for people bereaved by suicide: A systematic review. PLoS ONE, 12(6), e0179496.
  6. Navidian A, Saravani Z. Impact of cognitive behavioral-based counseling on grief symptoms severity in mothers after stillbirth. Iran J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2018; 12(1):e9275.
  7. Doering, B. K., & Eisma, M. C. (2016). Treatment for complicated grief: state of the science and ways forward. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 29(5), 286–291.