Grief following the death of someone close is one of the most painful and stressful life events. It is experienced in many ways–emotionally, physically, spiritually–and everyone grieves differently. Shock, anger, sadness, guilt, and anxiety are common feelings during the grieving process, and they can be overwhelming. Occasionally there are no emotions, there is only numbness. Some people find it difficult to cope with their loss and believe they’ll never be happy again. One of the benefits of grief therapy is that this kind of counseling offers support at this challenging time. It is a form of therapy that helps the bereaved to explore and process distressing and confusing feelings.
Loneliness and isolation are also common feelings after a loss, and the support of family and friends can be invaluable. However, it isn’t always possible to grieve freely and openly among them; after all, they are grieving too. Some families and cultures insist grief is endured stoically and resolved quickly, while others come together for support until the funeral, after which everyone is left to find their own way. For people who are facing grief alone, counseling sessions validate their feelings and provide a safe, non-judgmental space to fully express emotions. Several family members or couples can attend counseling sessions together if they wish to learn how to support each other more effectively. A grief counselor explains the grieving process and helps the person forge a new relationship with their lost loved one, replete with healthy memories. Counseling facilitates the journey to a state wherein the bereaved can cope, make choices and move on.
How will grief counseling help you? In a culture that often avoids talking about loss, grief counseling give you the opportunity to share your story openly and guilt-free. If you are looking for a support system in your grief journey, you should consider grief counseling. You will find the following things there:
- Learning about grief and what to expect when grieving. In grief counseling, people are taught the normal grieving process, including expected feelings and thoughts. They are also taught how to tell the difference between normal grieving and other conditions, such as depression, that can develop from grieving.
- Expressing feelings. People are encouraged in grief counseling to express all their feelings, whatever they may be. Sometimes people who are having trouble expressing their feelings are encouraged to talk about their loss or to use other means of expressing themselves. For example, they may be asked to speak with the lost person as though he or she were there. Other techniques that help people express their feelings include writing letters about their loss or writing to the lost person, looking at photos and remembering the lost loved one or object, or visiting the grave of a loved one who has died.
- Building new relationships. This component of grief counseling helps people develop a new relationship with the lost person or object. Memories usually linger for years and can sometimes be troubling, so emphasis is placed on learning how to incorporate memories of the past into the present.
- Developing a new identity. During grief counseling, people are taught how to develop a new sense of self after a loss. For example:
- A man who loses his only sibling strengthens his or her self-perception as a grandfather and a volunteer instead of as a brother.
- A widow who has lost her husband of 45 years begins meeting with other women in her building for tea every morning.
- Emotional and physical support in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
- Support and understanding.
- The opportunity to begin the healing process through sharing your own story.
- Coping skills to help you through the most difficult days of your grief journey.
- The opportunity to discover new traditions and ideas to keep loved ones present in your hearts and in your memories.
- Increased understanding of how children and other family members react to loss.
- Permission to grieve and permission to live a happy productive life.