Grief touches us all. How each person faces and manages their grief can be complex and unique. No two losses are the same. The pain and shock of losing a loved one can be overwhelming mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Grief counseling is a vital tool for those navigating the wide range of emotions that come with enduring a loss. Through grief counseling, people can process their loss in a healthy way and move forward with a full and balanced life.
What is Grief Counseling?
Some people are able to process grief on their own, while others may struggle to find a way to absorb and manage loss. Grief counseling is a form of professional therapy that supports people by working through the many stages and emotions of grief following a loss. For those struggling to cope with their bereavement, professional grief counseling can stabilize and scaffold them. In this new world, without their loved ones, counseling helps individuals to find their footing and reclaim their lives. Grief is a personal journey, and everyone expresses and experiences it in different ways.
There is no telling when or how long it can take to acclimate to life without a loved one. It simply can’t be rushed or labeled with a time frame. Absorbing and processing loss has its own timeline for each person. Grief counseling can be a wonderful, soothing tonic for individuals during their journey of bereavement.
How Grief Counseling Works
According to renowned psychologist William Worden, grief counseling focuses on four primary objectives:
Accept the Loss
One of the first and most important steps a grief counselor addresses with an individual working through grief is facing the loss and coming to terms with it. It’s natural to feel denial after a loss. The mind and heart can’t reconcile why their loved one is no longer here. In order to truly heal and cope with grief, individuals must learn to acknowledge their loss.
Work Through the Pain of Grief
Ignoring or suppressing the pain of loss is a common reaction for people experiencing grief. In some cases, people resort to alcohol and other substances to numb and dissolve the pain. This only adds to more suffering. An important step to processing grief is allowing the pain to be experienced.
Adjust to Life without The Departed
For the bereaved, grief is a result of losing someone who was a big part of their life. Contemplating a world without a loved one can be quite challenging. It’s brand new territory. A wide range of feelings can spring up. The absence of a loved one can even feel like a betrayal. Sorting these feelings out can leave an individual stuck in neutral with no way forward. Grief counseling is designed to help people navigate through these blocks and adjust to their new lives.
Maintain a Connection and Move Forward
As bereaved individuals adjust to life without a loved one, it’s important to still maintain a connection to what was lost. A lot of pain and suffering can be endured upon the death of a loved one. Remembering the happiness and joy the departed loved one brought into their life can be very helpful. It's a meaningful way to celebrate the life and impact of the departed.
Grief Counseling Techniques
Grief Counselors use several techniques to guide the bereaved through their grief journey. Much of a counselor’s support centers around creating a safe space for grieving individuals to express their feelings and find ways to adjust to their new life. Some approaches may include:
- Guiding the bereaved to talk about the loss by focusing on who the departed was, their relationship, and describing the events that led to the loved one’s death.
- Asking the bereaved to describe emotions or feelings that come up
- Providing coping strategies to deal with milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays
- Demonstrating how to normalize the grief process and guiding the bereaved to accept and expect it
- Helping to identify triggers or unhealthy behavior that can be difficult to navigate in everyday life
- Offering ways to create new relationships: The departed is gone but not forgotten. Counseling can offer techniques for reclaiming life post-loss.
How Does Grief Counseling Help?
Although grief counseling can be a significant support for the bereaved, it will not dissolve grief completely. Grief is something that stays with us forever. Counseling is designed to process our grief in a healthy way in order to manage and live our lives to the fullest. The therapeutic benefits of grief counseling can be quite bountiful.
Reduces Anxiety, Guilt, and Depression
With so many overwhelming feelings and emotions, therapy can help individuals manage their anxiety. Keeping anxiety in check opens the door to participating in life more fully.
It’s common for the bereaved to have guilt over unresolved issues with the departed. This could include a number of things, such as a disagreement, how they treated the departed, or the circumstances surrounding the death. There is also “survivor’s guilt.” The bereaved can have trouble processing why they are alive while the loved one is gone. Counseling can help the bereaved process these feelings in a healthy way.
Depression can be a scary experience. Grief counselors can help recognize the pitfalls of depression and guide the bereaved away from them. There are several strategies a counselor can utilize to help individuals avoid depression.
Embrace the Grieving Process
Experiencing the vast array of emotions that accompany loss is not a bad thing. These emotions should not be suppressed because it only leads to more suffering. Therapy allows individuals to come to terms with their loss, process it, and come through the storm all the more healthy. By understanding the grieving process, individuals are empowered in their grief journey.
Permission to Grieve
Counseling offers the bereaved the opportunity to grieve in their own way. There is no right or wrong approach. It can be easy to feel judged for how one grieves. Each person’s grief is unique. By accepting this, individuals can learn to heal.
Return to Self-Care
The grief journey can leave people feeling like they’ve climbed a mountain. It’s an exhausting experience that can deplete them emotionally and physically. Counseling can provide patients with self-care strategies to recover and rebuild their strength. This can include finding ways to get better exercise as well as maximizing quality sleep.
How to Get Started with Grief Counseling
Whether it’s been a few days or several years, it’s never too early or too late to begin grief counseling. There is no need to suffer grief alone. The sooner you seek counseling, the sooner you can be on the road to receiving helpful and healthy coping strategies. There are several things you can do to begin the process. One helpful option is to check with your health insurance provider to see what coverage you may have for therapy sessions. For your convenience, there can be in-person sessions, virtual sessions, or even phone sessions.
There are also support groups available for those experiencing loss. This can be a beautiful way to process your grief. Whichever therapy you choose, know that you are not alone.
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