What Is Grief Counseling And How Does It Help?

Grief Counseling

The loss of a loved one, whether expected or unexpected, may be a hard situation to deal with. It comes along with a lot of complex emotions and its reality generally camouflages what we’ve heard about grief. It is very hard and almost impossible to prepare oneself for grief. With the passage of time, some people do adjust to changes with loss, while others have struggles, leading to disrupted activities. 

Grief Counseling

The loss of a loved one is an inevitable part of life, and grieving is a response to loss. Grief is usually known as sadness, but it also includes guilt, disappointment, anger, regret, and other more complex emotions. Grief counseling helps people cope better with a loss. The counselors design and plan techniques in a way that makes them less painful for individuals grieving. It provides them with a free space to express their painful and complex emotions and experiences, helping them process the pain and make the process less stressful. 

Grief counseling is especially effective and recommended for those who struggle to do their everyday tasks due to grief, have a feeling of being depressed, and grief starts interfering with their current day relationships, and lastly, for those individuals for whom carrying on with their life becomes difficult and harder every day. 

Let’s Understand What Grief Is

Grief is basically a natural and general response to a loss. It could be a death or a loss of a relationship. It is not related to grief, but also includes other complex relationships such as doubt, guilt, wrath, or even disappointment. For some individuals, it may involve regret, confusion and other complex and difficult emotions. 

There is no common way to grief, and there is no set time frame for grieving. Grieving is a subjective and very personal experience. Each of us responds very differently and uniquely to a loss. Some people might take months while some take years to recover and heal. However, most people do recover from it, especially with the help of a healthy coping mechanism and good social support.

The nature of grieving generally differs from situation to situation. For example, the loss of an elderly loved one will provoke a different emotion than the loss of a kid. Grief manifests itself in a variety of thoughts and behaviors. For instance, some people like to sit with themselves and their thoughts, they like to be alone. On the other hand, some people like to go out and talk about it. Getting distracted works well for certain people.

Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and aggression are some of the symptoms that can come along with normal grieving. The condition known as “complicated grief” typically needs professional help.

Stages Of Grief 

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the 5 Stages of Grief theory. It suggests that after the death/loss of a loved one, we go through five distinct stages. It’s important to keep in mind that grief is unique to each individual. These stages may not be simply followed, or other emotions may emerge after you thought you had completed the stages of grief. Allowing yourself to grieve in your own unique way can help you heal after a loss. 

The Stages Include 

1. Denial 

2. Anger 

3. Bargaining 

4. Depression 

5. Acceptance 

Denial– The very first stage of the process, namely denial, is not about pretending that the loss did not happen, but rather about processing the pain and trying to absorb and understand the situation. Denial allows us to cope with the overwhelming feeling of loss. We are attempting to endure emotional turmoil while processing the reality of our loss. 

Anger- Anger is the second stage of grief. We are attempting to cope with a new reality and are most likely experiencing severe emotional distress. There is a lot to handle that anger may appear to provide an emotional outlet. Anger is often the first emotion we experience when we begin to express our grief. This can make us feel alone in our experience. It can also make us appear unapproachable to others in situations where we could gain from comfort, relationship, and affirmation. 

Bargaining- While coping with the loss, it is quite usual to do anything in order to reduce the pain that one is going through. For example, bargaining with God, “I will be this way if I bring back this person.” When this phase of grieving usually begins, an individual usually starts to pitch in request to a higher power, someone who has the power to have an impact on the outcome. Bargaining usually stems from the feeling of being helpless and redirecting our requests somewhat gives us the perceived sense of control over the situation which otherwise feels out of control. The focus of this stage is usually our own faults and regrets associated with the loss. 

Depression- When we are hurt, all conflict comes to a halt, and we are faced with the reality of the situation. Slowly and gradually, we start to look at the situation the way it is. This is the stage where we start experiencing the loss of our loved one and we feel the absence where all the panic attacks and the emotional fog which was there otherwise now subsides. During this phase, we start to go into our own shells, be reserved, and socialize less. It is a very natural response to a loss and generally involves isolation. 

Acceptance- Accepting the loss of a loved one doesn’t mean that we stop feeling the pain associated with the loss, rather we stop resisting reality and do not engage in making the present-day situation any different. Sadness and regret might accompany this phase but a bargain, anger and denial are generally not present.

Grief Counseling

Let’s reflect upon what actually happens during grief counseling 

When grief counseling is involved the first step is to develop a trusting relationship with the client in order to create a safe and comfortable environment in which the bereaved can openly share the details of their loss. 

Apart from actively listening to the grieving person, the second step entails the counselor asking specific inquiries about the nature of the client’s relationship with the deceased. If the griever’s relationship with the deceased was difficult, counseling would take a different approach than if the griever and the deceased had a healthy relationship

Techniques Used In Grief Counseling 

1. Talking about the loss- The person who is grieving needs a free and non-judgemental space to talk about their loss. At times, people do have a support system but they usually don’t find a space to talk it out. A grief counselor gives a space to talk about the loss. 

2. Differentiating between grief and trauma- The grief counselor can support a person in their grieving process if they are traumatized by the memory or events surrounding the loss of a loved one.

3. Dealing with feelings of guilt Some people feel bad about things they did or didn’t do when their loved one was present. A grief counselor must motivate the grieving person and let go of the guilt, or even forget their loved one for a short time so that they can recollect the person fondly at other times. 

Grief counseling helps an individual with trauma, and guilt, build a support system, and accept a new reality.

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