Grief Multiplied: Coping with Loss Amid Global Tragedies

person receiving sad news on phoneExperiencing grief and loss can have a profound effect on the way you experience your life, think about your future, and know yourself. It can be an intense and dismantling process, often running its own course on its own timeline. Because of this, individuals in mourning are rightly advised to be as loving toward themselves and practice as much self-care as possible.

However, it can be difficult to soothe yourself when you are constantly alerted to seemingly unstoppable news of horrible events taking place in the world. It can be especially overwhelming to experience personal loss juxtaposed with heartbreaking global tragedies. Grieving personal loss is challenging in itself and can push you to your edge; trying to simultaneously cope with upsetting events elsewhere in the world can easily seem like more than you can bear.

If the feeling that things are “all too much” is relatable and you find yourself especially sensitive to happenings around you, here are some things you can do to manage this trying time and the overwhelming emotions:

1. Trust and Respect Your Pain Limit

Your mind and body will tell you how many emotions you can healthily hold. It will let you know when you have reached a point where your psyche is overwhelmed in a way that is not productive, healing, or good for your well-being.

Experiences such as anxiety; self-medicating with food, alcohol, or other means; disassociating through social media or television; forgetting things more easily; out-of-character experiences of irritability, hostility, and anger; and emotions that feel unpredictable, out of proportion, or explosive are cues that you have reached your emotional limit. These are your psyche’s friendly warning signs—they may be unpleasant, but they are there to help you by alerting you that you are reaching maximum capacity. This means you need to take a step back, process, and discharge.

2. Give Yourself Permission to Unplug

It can feel wrong or cause guilt to stay away from news or world events, but it is critical you put your mental health first. The world is not going to be served by an informed yet emotionally spent or hysterical human, and taking in too much bad news may not be good for you.

Pain is informative, healing, and useful, and—like almost everything else in the world—too much of it can be destabilizing, damaging, and overall ineffectual. If you are experiencing grief, you already are carrying sorrow. You do not have to hold the weight of the world on your shoulders as well. You must take care of your own pain before you will be useful in supporting the pain of others.

3. Put Yourself First

You may often hear “put your oxygen mask on first” as an analogy to the credence of self-care. While it may seem trite, you have to take care of yourself in order to have the resilience you need to handle the present moment and navigate the future.

It can feel wrong or cause guilt to stay away from news or world events, but it is critical you put your mental health first.

Dealing with grief is loaded as is; when violence and sudden loss appear to be the norm in society, it is critical you prioritize your health. This means placing sleep at a premium, saying no to things which require energy you do not have, focusing on nutrition, and doing things that feel regenerating and empowering. Often, putting yourself first requires discipline. While at face value it may seem like a luxury (and it is), it requires saying no to other parts of yourself and to others, which can be triggering and difficult. Work with yourself on this, knowing your mental health and ability to remain grounded amid chaos makes all the difference.

4. Find Ways to Discharge

If you are carrying many emotions and experiences, you need to process them and most likely let them out. Therapy is an extremely useful vehicle for creating the space in which you can unload. Support groups are terrific for this as well.

Non-therapy activities—exercise/yoga, meditation, time in nature, dance—can also be therapeutic, so long as they allow you to process and serve as an outlet.

Events in the world can be frightening and intimidating, and it is normal to feel like your sense of control and safety is shattered. You may experience a heightened sense of fragility in yourself and those around you, and while this realization can be meaningful, it can also be devastating. Adding grief and personal loss into this equation can be a recipe for emotional burnout, high distress, and impaired functioning. In light of this, it is imperative you acknowledge that you are feeling dangerously overwhelmed, and then facilitate actions which reduce your stress and allow you to cope.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jake

    August 10th, 2016 at 9:26 AM

    It’s not like I bury my head in the sand but there are quite literally those days when I don’t read or listen to anything because it all gets to be a little too much at times.

  • Simon

    August 10th, 2016 at 1:55 PM

    You cannot allow the collective grief of the world to rest solely on your shoulders, nor does it in reality, and you should not feel like it does. One person cannot handle that amount on their own, this is a change that we have to work on creating together.

  • Leni

    August 11th, 2016 at 7:28 AM

    I feel a little guilty putting myself first at times, but to retain any sanity there are always going to be those times when you have to do just that.

  • Renee

    August 12th, 2016 at 2:08 PM

    Life can always be a little overwhelming but with a good person to listen to you, anything is possible

  • Lindall

    August 15th, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    The biggest mistake that so many of us make is that we have this tendency to try to keep on going through the pain. I understand that this is important at times but there are other times that you need to stop and pay attention to that pain that you are feeling. If you continue to just ignore the pain, you may be able to bury it for a while but eventually it is going to come back to bite you. I think that there are other and more productive things that you can do to manage that pain and grief, acknowledge that it is there and that this is what you are feeling. If you need to take a little break, then do it. But honor what you are actually feeling, I think that we are much better off in the long run when we do that.

  • malory

    August 16th, 2016 at 7:14 AM

    I see all of these suggestions but they are all about putting me first ultimately which is what I most struggle with doing in the first place!

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