Using Coping Mechanisms for Grief

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Monday, March 18, 2024

When you hear the term “Coping Mechanism,” it is often in a negative context. However, that is not always the case. Coping mechanisms can help you deal with the short-term effects of grief. When used healthily, coping mechanisms can serve as an outlet for stress relief, recuperation, or emotional release. Below, we will discuss healthy coping mechanisms, how to use them, and how to cope with feelings of grief. 

What is a Coping Mechanism?

To understand coping mechanisms, we first have to break it down. Firstly, coping refers to the thoughts or behaviors that you enact to manage stressful situations. Whether conscious or subconscious, these acts help mitigate the feelings and emotions that you experience to stop you from being overwhelmed. A mechanism, in this sense, is an action or activity. This can be something like watching a movie, taking a bath, or reading a book, for example. 
A coping mechanism is, therefore, an action taken to help focus your thoughts and behaviors toward coping. An example of this would be watching your favorite feel-good movie when you are overwhelmed after a hard day at work. Or eating a pint of ice cream after a break-up. Not every coping mechanism is “healthy,” but they help you handle the immediate feelings of the moment. 

Healthy vs Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

As with any action, there are certainly healthier or safer choices to be made. Drowning your grief in a bottle of whiskey is certainly not a healthy way to cope. Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is moderation. Coping mechanisms are meant to be a short-term solution to grief or pain. Relieving stress or disconnecting from your emotional pain is good for a little bit, but you still have to process it. Reading a book for some escape could be an example of a healthy coping mechanism, but staying home from work to keep reading instead of facing life is not.

Examples of Healthy Coping Mechanisms

  • Reading
  • Taking a bath
  • Watching a favorite movie/show
  • Working out
  • Going for a walk
  • Playing a video game
  • Journaling
  • Crafts

Examples of Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

  • Substance Abuse
  • Smoking
  • Avoidance or denial
  • Self-depreciation
  • Self-harm
  • Isolation
  • Excessive sleep
  • Overworking
  • Excessive screen-time
  • Hyperfixations

Balancing Your Time and Energy

Coping mechanisms are not supposed to replace grief with activities, but rather to ebb the flow of your emotions. You aren’t supposed to bottle up your feelings or pretend they don’t exist. But grief and stress are taxing, and focusing on something that makes you happy can be important too. One way you can avoid overusing your coping mechanisms is to set time aside for these practices. Read half an hour before bed, or journal on your lunch break. Scheduling and time management can be important in working through grief. But it is also important to not only spend your energy on what makes you feel good in the immediate present.

Taking Time to Feel Grief

While coping mechanisms help us control the flow of our emotions, we still need to feel them. When you are feeling immense grief, it can be important to process it. It's OK to cry. You shouldn’t always look for comfort in distracting yourself. Grieve, cry, and vent to a loved one. Healthily release those emotions. Take the time to feel your grief. If you do not take the time to embrace your grief, you will never truly accept it. 

The author of this post is not a professional therapist or counselor. For more personalized grief care, find a grief counselor that is right for you. For our Grief Resource Center, written by Dr. Bill Webster, click here
For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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