A young woman goes to CBT to help her cope with grief.

Yes, CBT Can Help You Cope With Grief

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people challenge negative thoughts and beliefs related to loss and mourning.


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How CBT treats grief

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treats grief by helping people identify and challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs related to loss and mourning. It focuses on teaching people healthy coping skills and strategies to manage their emotions and behaviors in response to grief. By addressing the cognitive and behavioral aspects of grief, CBT aims to help people gradually adjust to their loss and ultimately find a sense of acceptance and peace. The therapy encourages people to process their emotions constructively and develop a more balanced perspective on their experience of grief. Through the therapeutic process, people can learn to honor their feelings while building resilience and finding hope for the future.

Skills taught in CBT for grief

Identifying and understanding emotions

In CBT for grief, people are taught to recognize and acknowledge their emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt, and confusion. By understanding and expressing these emotions, people can better cope with the grieving process.

Challenging negative thought patterns

People are taught to identify and challenge negative thoughts that may be contributing to their grief, such as self-blame or feelings of hopelessness. By reframing these thoughts, people can begin to find a sense of relief and acceptance.

Building coping skills

CBT for grief teaches people practical coping skills, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, and relaxation strategies. These skills can help people manage traumatic grief and reduce stress during the grieving process.

Setting realistic goals

People are encouraged to set realistic goals for themselves during the grieving process, such as reaching out to friends and family for support, engaging in self-care activities, and gradually returning to routine tasks. Setting achievable goals can provide a sense of direction and purpose during a difficult time.

Grief journaling

CBT for grief may involve keeping a grief journal, where people can record their thoughts and feelings about their traumatic loss. Journaling can be a therapeutic tool for processing an emotion and gaining insight into grieving.

Enhancing social support

People are encouraged to seek out and utilize social support networks, whether through a loved one, support group, or supportive counseling. Building a strong support system can provide comfort and validation during the grieving process.

Developing healthy coping strategies

This CBT intervention emphasizes the development of healthy coping strategies, such as physical activity, relaxation techniques, and seeking professional help if needed. By adopting healthy coping mechanisms, people can better navigate the challenges of grief and symptoms of depression that may arise.

Addressing guilt and regret

People are guided in addressing feelings of guilt and regret that may arise during the grieving process. CBT for grief is a therapy that helps people recognize and work through any complex emotion in a constructive and healing manner. 

Acceptance and moving forward

Lastly, this CBT intervention helps people work towards acceptance of their traumatic loss and finding ways to move forward with their lives. Through the skills learned in therapy, people can begin integrating their grief process into their lives and finding a sense of meaning and hope for the future.

Benefits of CBT for grief

People who have undergone CBT for grief report long-term benefits such as improved coping mechanisms, reduced feelings of isolation, and better overall mental and emotional health. By learning how to reframe negative thought patterns and develop healthier ways of processing their grief, people can experience lasting relief from the often overwhelming emotions associated with loss and death. Grief counseling can lead to a greater sense of peace and acceptance and improved relationships with others.

How quickly does CBT work for grief?

CBT can be effective in helping people manage their grief process in a relatively quick manner. Many people find that CBT techniques, such as cognitive restructuring and behavioral activation, can help them process their loss and develop healthier coping strategies. In some cases, people may begin to see improvements in their grief symptoms after just a few sessions of CBT, making it a valuable option for those struggling with their grief.

Coping skills for grief?

Talking to others

Speaking with friends, a loved one, or a therapist can help people process their emotions and feel supported during a difficult time. Sharing their feelings with others can provide comfort and validation.

Engaging in physical activity

Exercise or engaging in physical activities such as walking, running, or yoga can help people release tension and reduce stress. Physical activity can also help improve mood and provide a healthy distraction from their emotions.

Practicing mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or visualization can help people stay present and reduce anxiety. By focusing on the present moment, people can find a sense of calm and manage their emotions more effectively.

Engaging in creative outlets

Writing, painting, or crafting can provide a creative outlet for people to express and process emotions. Engaging in creative activities can help people find a sense of purpose and meaning during a difficult time.

Seeking support from a community

Finding a support group or community of people who have experienced similar experiences can provide a sense of belonging and understanding. Connecting with others who have also gone through grief can provide valuable support and empathy during bereavement.

Other types of treatment for grief

Support groups

Support groups involve a group of people who have experienced similar losses coming together to share their feelings and experiences. A supportive environment can help people feel less alone and provide a sense of community and understanding.

Art therapy

This form of grief therapy allows people to express their emotions and thoughts through creative expression, such as painting, drawing, or sculpting. It can help people explore their grief in a nonverbal way and is often used as a tool for processing and understanding their feelings of bereavement.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

MBSR incorporates mindfulness meditation and yoga to help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings surrounding their grief. Practicing mindfulness allows people to observe their emotions without judgment and develop coping strategies for managing their grief.

Pet therapy

Interacting with animals, such as therapy dogs or cats, can provide comfort and companionship for grieving people. The presence of a nonjudgmental and affectionate animal can help reduce feelings of loneliness and provide emotional support during difficult times.

Music therapy

Using music as a form of grief therapy can help people process their grief through listening, creating, or performing music. Music can evoke emotions and memories, and engaging with it in a therapeutic setting can help people reflect on and express their feelings about death.

IOP for grief

When people are struggling with grief, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) may be used to treat their symptoms. IOP is a form of therapy that allows a person to receive the support and guidance they need while still being able to maintain their everyday life. Through IOP, a person can participate in group therapy and individual counseling and learn coping skills to process their grief. This approach provides a structured and supportive environment for people to work through their grief and learn to manage their emotions.

Treatment for grief at Charlie Health 

If a young person in your life is struggling with grief, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for young people and families dealing with serious mental health conditions, including grief. Our expert clinicians incorporate CBT into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, managing grief is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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