6+ Things to Know About Grief Counseling
Normal grief vs. complicated grief
While many researchers and therapists agree that grief is different for every individual, there is still a distinction between normal and complicated grief. Those who are experiencing complicated grief will often experience symptoms such as:
Extreme denial / refusal to believe loss occurred Self-harming or self destructive behaviors Unwilling to trust others Extreme anxiety Anger, resentment, and constant bitterness towards society Refusal to properly care for one’s self Suicidal ideation or attempting suicide
If you’re experiencing symptoms of complicated grief, it is important to contact your doctor or a mental health professional for help. Unlike normal grief, complicated grief is much more difficult to overcome without the assistance of a professional. It is important to note that even if you’re experiencing normal grief, seeking help from a professional is a good way to learn how to better cope with the loss of someone.
There are several factors that make someone more likely to experience complicated grief instead of normal grief.
Highly dependent, co-dependent, or isolated from community with the person who passed away Previous history of mental issues or trauma Witnessed the unexpected death of someone The death was shocking, unexpected, or traumatic
If you fit any of these descriptions and you’re having a difficult time dealing with the loss of a loved one, getting in touch with a professional is most likely a good next step. A professional will be able to give you tools and resources to help you in going through the grieving process.
Grief counseling may increase depression
Unless you're experiencing symptoms of complicated grief, going to grief counseling while experiencing normal grief can increase symptoms of depression. Grieving isn't easy and it's going to feel painful, that isn't something you can ignore or "not feel". That being said, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to go see a grief counselor specifically -- it may be worth going to a therapist and discussing your grief with them, but not necessarily one who is only focused on grief.
No two people grieve in the same way
If you’ve experienced a loss of any kind, or have spoken with someone who has, it’s likely that you’ve heard of or have referenced the “Five Stages of Grief”: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While these are all familiar emotions for those experiencing the grieving process, they shouldn’t be considered a hard and fast timeline. Experts have agreed that grief is not a linear experience and that every individual experiences grief differently. An individual’s experience of grief can depend on a multitude of factors, such as their personal background, religious views, relationships, and previous experiences.
Grief counseling is a way for you to experience and handle grief and deep grief in a safe setting with a professional. Talking with family and friends is important and can help many people, but going to grief counseling is a way to receive help in an environment that is tailored to your personal experiences.
There’s no timeline to overcoming grief
Whether it’s been a few weeks since you lost someone or it’s been a few years, there is no timeline to overcoming grief. If you’re struggling with the loss of someone and aren’t sure where to go or how to handle grief and loss, grief counseling can help. There’s no such thing as going to a grief counselor too early or too late and you shouldn’t avoid seeking help due to the fear that you should “already be over it”. Seeking help to overcome the loss of someone is a helpful step to take, regardless of the timeline.
Grief counseling does not “cure” grief
Going to grief counseling is not going to cure grief or eliminate the feelings associated with the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, grief isn’t something that can be cured or fixed by therapy or medicine. Bereavement counseling or grief counseling will show you healthy ways to cope with the loss of someone, will help you as you move through the different stages and emotions associated with grief, and is a place for you to feel supported in your healing process. Grief counseling should be viewed as a tool you can use to better navigate the loss of a loved one, not as a quick fix.
Group counseling is also an option
If you’re uncomfortable going to a counseling session alone, consider attending a grief support group session. Grief support groups are made up of individuals who have all experienced a loss in some way and are there to share their feelings, connect, and support one another. If you’re having trouble finding a group counseling session in person, you can also join an online grief support group. Our Grief Center offers a place for people to share their thoughts and struggles on living with grief. You can get started by viewing posts (or sharing your own) here.