When Grief Overwhelms You: How to Get Help

CALIFORNIA POPE ORLANDOOn the morning of June 12, America woke up to the news of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. At Pulse nightclub in Orlando, 49 people were killed, with more injured and still in the hospital. We are all struggling to come to grips with this tragedy and how to move forward.

Even if you are not directly connected to the victims, such a horrible crisis can significantly impact you. Many people feel ashamed or weak for feeling so sad about something far away, but it is completely natural to have empathy and compassion for others who are hurting.


Regardless of how you process your grief, it’s important to take care of yourself. Practice healthy self-care with the following tips:

  • Get Rest. It can be difficult, but try to get as much sleep as you can. Proper rest can help you process your feelings more effectively; if you’re exhausted, your emotions will only be exacerbated.
  • Eat Well. Make yourself good meals with fruits and vegetables. You might not have an appetite, but your body needs fuel to get through the grieving process.
  • Give Yourself a Break. Don’t overburden yourself with ridiculous expectations. You are hurting and need time to heal. Take it easy on yourself, and if you need it, take a day or two off from work to rest and reflect.
  • Avoid Alcohol or Drugs. When dealing with depression or sadness, it can be tempting to dull your feelings with alcohol or drugs. But substances will just make it worse later on — suppressing normal emotions that will erupt and worsen over time, harming your health and potentially damaging relationships with your loved ones.
  • Reward Yourself. Be gentle to yourself and give yourself little rewards for getting through the day, like picking up a special treat or watching a silly movie.

The Process of Grief

It’s important to understand what is “normal” grief versus what is unhealthy and where to go for help.

Grief is not something you get over; it’s a process where you learn to adjust to a new reality. During the grieving process, it is normal to feel depressed, frustrated and overwhelmed. You may feel isolated from everyone and unable to talk with others about how you’re feeling. You might be preoccupied with what happened, reading firsthand accounts from survivors and seeing the crowds gathered at vigils around the world.

These are all normal reactions, but if they persist for more than a week, or if they inhibit your daily activities, you may need to seek out grief counseling to help you through the process. If you find that you cannot enjoy life, are distracted by tragedy and just feel numb, seeking assistance can help you navigate through your feelings.

Where to Go For Help

If you don’t know where to turn for help, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Employee Assistance Programs. Many employers offer employee assistance programs (EAPs), which provide staff with free or subsidized care for everything from mental health care to substance abuse aid. Services are anonymous and confidential; your EAP can make sure you get the counseling you need.
  • 2-1-1 and Crisis Helplines. 2-1-1 is a crisis helpline available in most states. By dialing 2-1-1, you get connected to a specialist who can provide emotional support and connect you to free or low-cost therapy or grief counseling. Communities who do not have 2-1-1 usually have another crisis helpline available; just search online for free community assistance helplines.
  • Hospitals. Many hospitals offer support groups for people grieving the loss of loved ones or for community members grappling with a local tragedy. You can get care while meeting other people going through the same struggles. Most hospitals have support group information on their website; just search for “support groups” on their main page, or call the visitors’ information line and ask to be connected to the support group administrator.

Grief is a long and difficult process. As you go through the different emotions, be aware of how you’re reacting. If you feel like you’re overwhelmed and are struggling to cope with tragedy, don’t hesitate to seek out help.

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