7 Skills for Coping with Loss

There are losses that rearrange the world. Deaths that change the way you see everything. Grief that tears everything down. Pain that transports you to an entirely different universe, even while everyone else thinks nothing has changed.” – Megan Devine

Steven Hayes, the founder of ACT (Action and Commitment Therapy) has outlined 7 skills for coping with loss. Skills that, ultimately, enable you to thrive, despite experiencing heartache and pain. This is based on the findings of 1,000+ studies, which were conducted over 35 years. They include:

1. Acknowledge that the loss has occurred, and that it has seriously affected your life.

2. Embrace all the emotions that the loss creates in you. This means feeling the feelings instead of trying to push them down, or trying to control them, or attempting to self-medicate with something like food, alcohol, busyness or work.

3. Accept all your thoughts, feelings and reaction. Even the “bad” ones, and the ones you are ashamed of. The unexpected, and inappropriate, ones.

4. Expect to have times when you feel overwhelmed, and you feel you can’t go on, and you cannot cope with life.

5. Be alert to judgmental, unempathic self-talk where you ask, and expect, too much of yourself. This is seen in comments like: “I should be over this by now.”

6. Let the pain and the trauma connect you to what matters, to the things that give meaning to your life. The things that you truly care the most about. These are your values – things you shouldn’t turn your back on. For example, the trauma of betrayal can be a powerful sign that you highly value love, and being truthful and trustworthy.

7. Recommit to your values in an active conscious way. The key important question to ask yourself here is: “How can I take the fallout and the pain and transform into something that reflects my values?” An example of someone who did this well is the writer Maya Angelou. As a child she was raped, abused, and repeated discriminated against on the basis of race. She took those experiences and turned them into powerful stories (stories such as “Why does the caged bird sing”). This had a tremendous affect on others who saw their own sorrow and longings in her works – and who were strengthened and inspired by her work.  In this way we become wounded healers who help others.

It should be noted that the last two skills on this list that are the most transforming, and freeing in the end. However, we need to work through the other five first in order to be healed to live these last two out.     

17 thoughts on “7 Skills for Coping with Loss

  1. I am a supporter of ACT therapy, ACT therapy helped calm my adrenal stress mechanism from firing

    I can agree with most of the steps but the last two are extremely difficult for people who suffer from PTSD from betrayals etc

    For example, the trauma of betrayal can be a powerful sign that you highly value love, and being truthful and trustworthy.

    My betrayal is not a powerful sign I appreciate love, never was, never was a positive anything in my life

    Betrayal changed trust

    Me being trustworthy did not stop the betrayal

    7. Recommit to your values in an active conscious way. I have no idea how to do that it what it means

    Abused kids are not clear about what our values are. Staying safe and avoiding danger are the values I learned as a kid

    Your post make me think and challenge my oath

    Thanks

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    • Childhood betrayal is quite different from intimate relationship betrayal trauma. Yes, there is some overlap; but there are many differences too. You’ve been through a lot Marty 😦

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  2. This is wonderful, and I love the quote.

    I did ACT. We call it Acceptance and Commitment Therapy here though.

    Steve Hayes’ work was the first that made sense to me. The first that allowed me to feel my feelings and have a toolkit that genuinely helped.

    Grief is such a multilayered emotion. Nuanced and with depths we can only imagine on an abstract scale.

    I thought I knew grief.

    I didn’t.

    I probably still don’t. But I am far more aware and empathetic to all the expressions, all the experiences of profound grief that individuals experience than I ever was before this chapter of grief in my own life.

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  3. I’ve seen it called both! Thanks for highlighting the name Acceptance and Commitment therapy. I’m really glad it helped you. It is such a gentle, self-affirming therapy. Yes, grief is multilayered. I sometimes wonder if w ever get to the bottom of it. Thanks for the comment Paula!

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  4. I know when my father died, I was 20, my whole world came to a stop whereas I saw cars on the road(business as usual). I had just started a new job and had not accrued time off yet but they gave me a week so I grieved hard that week, very hard, so I could return to work a week later.

    Liked by 1 person

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