Everyone is going to lose a loved one, and if you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you have lost someone close to you, are about to lose someone, or have lost someone recently. The grieving process that comes with loss can be intense, and it doesn’t always go in the linear five stages that it’s depicted as.
If you or a loved one is suffering from intense grief, it’s not something you can just “get over.” You should seek grief counseling if it becomes uncontrollable, or if you feel like you should have moved on a long time ago. Let’s first discuss the reasons why you may seek the help of a grief counselor.
Reasons You May Need a Grief Counselor
Everyone is going to lose someone and have to go through the grieving process. Losing someone isn’t automatically going to require you to need help from a counselor. However, there are some reasons you may need to talk to one. These include:
A Loss That Has Caused a Great Change
Losing a family member you weren’t too close to, such as a distant uncle, can make you depressed, and you may go through the grieving process, but it usually doesn’t cause a big change in your life.
However, losing your spouse, a parent when you’re still dependent on them, or someone similar can. Your finances may be strained, you may have to move as a result of the death, or you may be going through another significant change that is hard to adjust to. With any significant life change, talking to a counselor is beneficial, but this especially applies during the grieving process.
Your Grief Has Severely Impacted Your Mental Health
If you’re unable to sleep, feel depressed all the time, or have had strong emotions for longer than you believe you should have, then you may want to speak to a grief counselor about that. Depression, if left untreated, could become chronic and make the process a whole lot worse.
You Have Had Thoughts of Self-Harm
If your grief is so strong that you’ve had thoughts of self-harm, have self-harmed, or have thought about suicide, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Talking to a suicide hotline can help you while you seek the help of a counselor, especially if your thoughts have become strong.
There’s Extreme Guilt
We feel a slew of emotions when we grieve, but if there is persistent guilt, it could be a sign that you need help from a grief therapist. Many of us, when our loved ones pass away, have our regrets. Maybe you regret not spending more time with someone you love, or perhaps you wish you could have seen your parent one last time.
However, if that guilt persists, it needs to be resolved, and a therapist can help you do that.
You May Have Trauma
Sometimes, you may not be experiencing grief, but trauma. This especially applies if you saw your loved one die in a gruesome way, or you always saw them suffering. Having flashbacks and having intense anxiety when you see something that reminds you of your partner may be a sign of PTSD. A grief counselor can help you separate your trauma from your grief and help you to work on both.
You’re Trying to Make Sense of Your Emotions
Sometimes, you may have mixed emotions about someone’s death, such as a relative you loved, but who was abusive. Or, you may not feel as sad as you should be. If that’s the case, a therapist can help you make sense of your emotions and sort them out. There is no wrong way to grieve, but if you feel like you’re not grieving properly, then talking to a counselor can help you.
You’re Not Weak for Doing So
No matter who tells you otherwise, it’s not weak to seek the help of a counselor or therapist. Showing your emotions when you grieve is strong, and so is seeking grief counseling if you realize that you need help making sense of your emotions or moving on.
How a Grief Counselor Can Help
Grief counselors can use various techniques to allow you to move on. These include:
First, a grief counselor needs to be a good listener. Having the client talk about their deceased loved one can be relieving in of itself. Many therapists will be active listeners, where they will listen and offer advice, but their words won’t overpower the client’s.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This is a common technique in therapy. Our thoughts can influence our behaviors and vice versa. A therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you ways to change your thought patterns and habits to improve yourself. For example, depressive behaviors can make your thoughts of grief worse, and by doing more, you can lessen that.
Sometimes, having a client act out what they wanted to say to their deceased relative can help them move on. Some grief counselors may use a form of role-playing to help make that a reality.
Another technique a counselor may teach is mindfulness. Mindfulness involves living in the moment and not letting regrets of the past overwhelm us. Obviously, someone should grieve for their loved ones, but regrets of the past are going to hold them back. Mindfulness can help the client learn to move on from their grief by being in the here and now.
Sometimes, a person can cope with grief by using writing to their advantage. Writing out their thoughts about their loss, or writing down their memories, can be useful to both the therapist and client.
Improving One’s Life
Finally, a grief counselor can help a client by teaching them ways they can improve their life. Sometimes, losing someone close makes you aware of your own mortality, and by learning to live your life and fulfill one’s bucket list, a person can learn to move on.
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