After losing a loved one, therapy can help you process your emotions. Read on to learn what to expect in grief counseling and whether it’s right for you.
Grief counseling is a specialized type of therapy that aims at helping people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Sessions focus on assisting people with working through their sadness, dealing with lingering guilt, and learning the coping mechanisms that can help them move forward with their lives.
Keep reading to learn what to expect in grief counseling and whether it’s right for you.
How Long is the Process?
While grief counseling doesn’t follow the same timeline in every person, it’s not a usually a permanent therapy. Grief counseling is recommended for anyone who has lost a loved one. Young or old, this form of therapy works for anyone working through loss–whether that’s a parent, sibling, spouse, or friend.
Grief counseling is also called bereavement counseling, but the latter term refers to loss through death only. Grief can involve the loss of a person through a breakup or divorce or some other situation.
Learning About Grief
Part of counseling is learning about the grief process and what to expect as you cope with a major loss. During therapy, people are taught the normal grieving process, including familiar feelings and thoughts.
Patients learn how to distinguish what normal grieving looks like, as compared to other mental health conditions normal grieving and other conditions, such as depression, that can develop from grieving.
Many therapists go through the five stages of grief, which are there to help you identify the various forms your grief will take as you cope with the loss.
Normal feelings associated with grieving include fear, anxiety, disbelief, anger, and sadness. Additionally, some people feel physical pain during this period of grief.
What You Can Expect to Do in Grief Counseling
Whether you choose group therapy, individual, or both, here are some of the things you can expect to cover in grief therapy.
1. Work on Expressing Feelings
In grief counseling, people learn to express what they are feeling, no matter what that looks like. Sometimes, this step is difficult for those who have trouble expressing emotions, but learning to talk about grief is an important part of the process.
In therapy sessions, patients may be asked to talk to the deceased, as though they were sitting right there. Or, they may be asked to write letters that express thoughts and feelings left unsaid.
Other ways to get in touch with feelings include looking at photos or visiting a gravesite, or and remembering the lost loved one or object or visiting the grave of a loved one who has died.
2. Becoming Open to New Relationships
This part of the counseling process is there to help people move forward with their lives. This element of counseling helps people view their relationship to the deceased through a different lens.
While the memories of a loved one last a lifetime, talking to someone can help people learn to how to incorporate the past with the changes that come in the future. Part of bereavement counseling serves to help the patient keep their hearts open to new relationships–romantic or otherwise.
3. Find a New Identity
During the duration of therapy, the patient must also work through their identity. People view themselves through the relationships they have. A woman may identify as a wife, but when her husband passes away, that identity changes.
Or a person who has lost both of their parents may feel that they are no longer someone’s son or daughter. In any case–part of the grieving process is understanding how these losses can affect our identity.
Patients may find new purpose in focusing their energy on other existing relationships–strengthening friendships after losing a spouse. Other may find doing volunteer work to helps fill a need to care for others.
When it’s Not Just Grief
Grief is not a mental disorder. Though it looks like depression, the pain is usually temporary, and something everyone goes through at one point or another.
When someone you care about dies, you can expect to feel sad, angry, confused, but if these feeling do not go away, you may need some extra support.
It’s not as if we go through all these stages and then come out the other side all shiny and new and ready to get back on with life. Loss stays under the surface of our lives and continues to permeate long after it first happened. Sometimes all it takes is a specific date, a place, or a song, for all of that grief to come surging back.
Symptoms of depression include insomnia, sadness, changes in appetite, weight loss, and fatigue. If you think you may be depressed, ask your grief counselor for a referral.
Grieving? Call Foundations Counseling Today
Ultimately, grief counseling serves as a way to help patients transition from a dark period marked by loss, to a new, productive path forward. And, arguably the best way to honor someone you love, is to live your best life, rather than continuing the bereavement process.
Of course, getting better takes work, and in many cases, a major time investment. In therapy, patients will uncover the deep emotions they are experiencing during the process. From there, they’ll learn to cope with those emotions and live a normal life.
There is no need to grieve the loss of a loved one alone. If you need help getting through this difficult time, contact us today.