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A young girl looks out a window in grief. She could use DBT to cope with grief.

Here’s How DBT Can Help You Cope With Grief

Although it is not a mental health condition, grief can cause intense emotions that are hard to regulate. That’s where dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) comes in. Learn more about the benefits of DBT for grief here.


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How DBT treats grief

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) treats grief by helping people to acknowledge and accept their feelings while also learning healthy coping strategies. Through skills training and one-on-one therapy sessions, people are taught mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills help people to manage their emotions and navigate the challenges that come with their grief. Additionally, DBT focuses on building a support network and fostering meaningful connections with others, providing a safe and nurturing environment for people to explore and process their feelings. By addressing the complex and often overwhelming emotions that come with grief, DBT helps people find a sense of balance and peace in their lives.

Skills taught in DBT for grief 

Skills taught in DBT that help people cope with grief are as follows:


This DBT skill teaches people to focus on the present moment and their thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. It can help people in grief to acknowledge and accept their emotions without becoming overwhelmed.

Distress tolerance

Distress tolerance helps people to cope with intense emotions and distressing situations without making the situation worse. It helps people in grief to manage the pain and discomfort that comes with loss without resorting to harmful or impulsive behaviors.

Emotion regulation

By practicing emotional regulation skills, people learn to understand and manage their emotions in a healthy way. This can help people in grief to recognize and cope with the wide range of emotions they may experience after a loss, from sadness and anger to guilt and regret.

Interpersonal effectiveness

This DBT skill teaches people to communicate assertively, set boundaries, and maintain healthy relationships. This can help people in grief to navigate their relationships and support systems during difficult times while also taking care of their own needs.

Acceptance and validation

When people in grief learn to acknowledge and validate their own experiences and emotions, it can help them accept their feelings and experiences as valid. This skill enables people to cope with grief without judging themselves or feeling guilty for how they are coping.

Radical acceptance

This skill encourages people to fully accept their current reality, even if it is painful or difficult. For people in grief, this can help them to let go of unrealistic expectations or hopes for the past and find ways to move forward in a healthier way.

Benefits of DBT for grief 

People who engage in DBT for grief can experience long-term benefits such as improved emotional regulation, increased distress tolerance, and a greater sense of acceptance and meaning in their lives. Over time, people may find that they are better able to cope with the ups and downs of their grief and develop healthier ways of processing and expressing their emotions. As a result, people may experience improved relationships, a greater ability to engage in meaningful activities, and an overall enhanced quality of life.

How quickly does DBT work for grief? 

Research has shown that DBT can be effective in helping people process grief, though the timeline is different for everyone. Many people have reported a significant reduction in their intense emotions and an improvement in their ability to cope with the pain of loss after engaging in DBT. The skills learned in DBT can help people navigate their grief more effectively and find ways to live a fulfilling life despite the pain they are experiencing.

Coping skills for grief

In addition to DBT, some coping skills that can help improve grief symptoms are as follows: 

Talk to others

Sharing your feelings and memories with friends or family can provide a sense of comfort and support during a difficult time. Connecting with others can help process emotions and provide a sense of community.

Engage in self-care activities

Taking time for yourself to engage in activities such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies can help alleviate some of the emotional distress that comes with experiencing loss. Self-care can provide a sense of relief and distraction from the pain of grief.

Create a support network

Surrounding yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or support groups can provide a sense of belonging and understanding during times of grief. Building a strong support system can provide a sense of comfort and validation for your emotions.

Seek professional help

Whether they specialize in DBT or not, speaking with a therapist or counselor can provide an outlet for expressing emotions and receiving guidance during the grieving process. Professional help offers a safe and non-judgmental space to work through the challenges of grief.

Other types of treatments for grief 

In addition to DBT and coping skills, some other types of treatments for grief are as follows: 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps a person identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to grief. It aims to provide coping skills and promote positive perspectives on the grieving process.

Group therapy

Group therapy involves meeting with a small group of people who are also experiencing grief. It provides a sense of community and support as individuals share their experiences and learn from one another’s coping strategies.

Art therapy

Art therapy utilizes creative expression, such as drawing, painting, or sculpting, to help people process and communicate their emotions about their loss. It allows individuals to externalize their feelings in a non-verbal way and can be a therapeutic outlet for grief.

Intensive outpatient program for grief 

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) can be used to treat grief when a person experiences difficulties coping with their emotions and functioning in their daily life after the loss of a loved one. IOP for grief typically involves providing counseling and therapy to help people navigate their feelings of loss, sadness, and hopelessness when grief becomes severe. This type of treatment works by offering structured support and coping strategies to help people process their grief in a healthy way and develop resilience in the face of grief.

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 complex mental health conditions, including those with severe grief. Our expert clinicians incorporate dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) 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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