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Coping Compassionately: Navigating the Intersection of Behavioral and Physical Grief Reactions

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Managing Behavioral Reactions

Grieving is an intricate journey, and when behavioral reactions take center stage, understanding them as a form of communication is key. Behavioral reactions are a language of their own, expressing the intricate nuances of grief. As you recognize the potential for behavioral reactions to become unhealthy coping mechanisms to process grief, consider any of the following strategies:

  • Facing Reminders. Transform avoidance into empowerment by proactively facing reminders of the loss. Create a structured schedule to gradually confront and process the emotions associated with different triggers. Emphasize the importance of reconnecting with family, friends, and the community for support.
  • Linking Items. Harness the therapeutic power of belongings by displaying or sharing certain items associated with the person who died. Wearing a sentimental item can serve as a tangible and comforting connection, aiding in the grief process.
  • Accepting Support. Recognize the significance of connection and safety when you are grieving. Overcome feelings of loneliness by leaning on loved ones, friends, and professional support. Attend a bereavement support group or consider seeking guidance from a grief counselor.
  • Ignoring Support. Some people do not know what to say and say the wrong thing. They offer misinformation about grief, are uncomfortable talking about feelings, or want you to get over it. Acknowledge that some individuals may struggle with expressing empathy or providing meaningful support. Encourage open communication about feelings and educate others on effective ways to offer comfort.

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  • Spend Time at an Animal Shelter. Volunteer at an animal shelter as a therapeutic outlet to walk a dog or socialize a kitten. Channeling your energy into helping animals can provide a positive and uplifting experience.
  • Honor the Person Who Has Died. Commemorate your loved one’s birthday with acts of kindness, such as volunteering or creating a scholarship fund in their name. Engage in volunteer work to foster a sense of connection and purpose.
  • Memory Quilt. Transform cherished clothing items into a tangible memory quilt, waving together fabric such as t-shirts, jerseys, and jeans. Creating a physical representation of memories can be a comforting and creative outlet.
  •  Prioritize Emotional Self-Care. Cultivate self-awareness in nourishing your body and mind. Engage in activities such as enjoying a healthy meal, getting a massage, or immersing yourself in soothing music.
  •  Avoid Addictions. Recognize the importance of seeking professional help when negative coping mechanisms, such as alcohol, drug use, overspending, or binge eating become a concern. Prioritize healthier alternatives to manage emotional pain.
  •  Create a Memory Jar. Foster a sense of shared remembrance by inviting others to contribute your cherished memories. The memory jar serves as a heartfelt reminder, allowing you to revisit uplifting moments whenever needed.

Managing behavioral grief reactions involves fostering communication, promoting self-awareness, encouraging healthy outlets, seeking professional support from a mental health professional, and prioritizing self-care. By combining these strategies, individuals can navigate the complex terrain of grief with greater understanding and resilience.

Managing Physical Reactions

Physical reactions can significantly influence your overall well-being. Targeted interventions become essential to address the physical facets of grief. The following practical guidance offers a roadmap for you during those poignant moments when your body’s natural response to loss impacts your physical health. At the forefront of these strategies is the paramount importance of prioritizing self-care. Recognizing and attending to your body’s needs during the grieving process forms the cornerstone of holistic well-being.

  • Pursue Interests. You may have difficulty moving on. It is difficult to think about the future without them. If you are unable to plan, make sure that you are engaging in regular activities.
  • Get More Physical Activity. Harness the healing power of movement by incorporating physical activities like walking or exercising. Identify personal motivations for engaging in physical activity as a means of processing and channeling
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  • Relaxation Skills. Alleviate bodily tension through relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or yoga. Cultivate a mindful awareness of your body’s responses and actively work towards physical relaxation.
  • Moments of Awe. Foster emotional well-being by connecting with the beauty in your surroundings. Step outside to appreciate the sky, clouds, stars, trees, or the soothing presence of flowing water. Capture the beauty of nature through photography, creating tangible reminders of awe-inspiring moments.
  • Maintain a Garden. Establish a memorial garden or plant a tree in honor of your loved one. Gardening provides a therapeutic outlet and a tangible way to nurture living symbols of remembrance.
  • Do Something Creative. Channel grief into creative expression by embarking on art projects like memory boxes or collages. Draw an outline of your body, marking areas where you feel the impact of grief, and share this visual representation with a trusted friend.
  • Go to the Doctor. Prioritize your overall health by seeking professional medical guidance when intense grief begins to manifest physically, including loss of appetite. Physical problems linked to the grieving process may impact your well-being, and timely medical attention can prevent long-term health issues.

Barbara is a leading authority and best-selling author on managing burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. As a nationally recognized keynote speaker, she motivates audiences to build their resilience and create work-life balance. Her programs help leaders and teams manage workplace chronic stressors and get over burnout at work.

Barbara's newest book, "But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide", is available now on Amazon -

• Three weeks prior to giving birth to triplets, her father died by suicide. Her story was featured in the Emmy award winning documentary, Fatal Mistakes, Families Shattered by Suicide narrated by Mariette Hartley. Many employees are grieving personal loss. She offers programs for leaders on lost productivity and performance while managing grief at work.

• As a sought-after keynote speaker who has presented to over 500 groups since 1991, including corporations, state and national associations and non-profit organizations, Barbara offers work-life balance strategies for leaders to implement right away. With clarity and humor, her speaking engagements are designed to give audiences powerful and practical strategies of work-life balance, wellbeing, and self-care that can be implemented immediately.

• Barbara is a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She received a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Arts degree in community health, with a concentration in thanatology, both from Brooklyn College.


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