Benefits Of Grief Counseling
By: Julia Thomas
Updated December 03, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Deborah Horton
It can feel overwhelming and isolating to cope with grief. There is no one exclusive cause for grief. It often accompanies the passing away of a loved one, but can also come with the end of a long-term relationship, loss of a job, and loss of a personal dream or goal. It can be attributed to the lose of anything that is very important to you. In this way, grief is very personal, but know that it is also shared among all people. If you or someone you know is coping with grief, you do not have to go through this time alone. If you seek guidance and advice, or just a listening ear, you may consider going to grief counseling with a licensed healthcare professional. This article aims to help you understand your grief and how grief counselors can walk this journey with you toward healing and acceptance.
The widely accepted Kübler-Ross model postulates the five stages of grief are listed below, but this model does not work for everyone. The stages are not necessarily linear nor predictable. Each person grieves in their own way and on their own timeline. Understand that listing these stages below is simply a way to provide context and a starting point to understanding major emotional arcs that are associated with grief.
- Denial: This first stage is your body's way of dealing with heartbreak. You can't believe your loved one is gone. In this phase, you might even deny that the death even happened. You call their phone, refuse to put their things away, and hope that soon you'll wake up from this horrible dream. You could be in this stage for several weeks, and it can even vary in severity.
- Common statements:
- “This will be over tomorrow.”
- “They’ll meet us next week.”
- “The results are wrong.”
- Anger: Denial itself can be coping a mechanism of coping, but anger is often used to mask many of the other emotions and internal pain a person has inside. You may harbor this anger for a long time without seeking aid, and this can be immensely damaging to yourself and to others around you. You may aim your anger at other people, both close individuals and strangers, or even at inanimate objects. While you rationally understand that these objects of your anger are not to blame, your emotions and feelings may be too overwhelming to put rationality to action.
- Common statements:
- “They will regret leaving me!”
- “I hope they fail.”
- “If they cared for themselves more, this wouldn’t have happened.”
- Bargaining: In this stage, you may think of everything you wish you would have or wouldn't have done with your loved one. You may feel heavy with guilt and unbelievable pain, or helpless and vulnerable. “If only” and “what if” thoughts often accompany this phase. These thoughts stem from the rational clarity that comes after your anger subsides and you are able to think more about your situation. Those who participate in a religion may also try to bargain with a higher power for some relief from grief.
- “Common statements:
- “If only we had gone to the doctor.”
- “If only I had called them that night.”
- “What if I was there?”
- Depression: During this phase, depression can be a heavy burden. Although it presents itself in different ways, many people turn inward and chose to isolate themselves from external and even internal behaviors and activities. Things you used to enjoy are no longer of any interest. You might prefer sleeping to going out with friends. If this goes unattended, you may be more vulnerable to developing self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse or eating disorders. During the depression phase, you want to get on with your life, but you feel lost because you're loved one isn't around to share the important milestones with you.
- Common statements:
- “I don’t feel like doing anything.”
- “I don’t want to get out of bed.”
- “I don’t want to see anyone.”
- Acceptance: Acceptance does not mean you have forgotten or no longer miss what you’ve lost. Instead, it means you have found a way to live with new reality in a way that not debilitating or unhealthy. There are certain smaller stages associated with acceptance, including but certainly not limited to:
- Upward Turn: These first four stages begin to dissipate. The heavy feelings start to pass, and the sun peeks out from behind the clouds. Everything isn't alright, but it is better than it was. The tide has already started to turn.
- Reconstruction: During this phase, you will begin to face reality and life without your loved one. You will make more practical decisions, such as financial ones. You might dip in and out of the earlier stages, but you will begin to move forward because you know that it must be done. Your life is now under reconstruction and grief is no longer your entire focus.
- Hope: You come to terms with your loss and look forward to your own future. There are still some good times ahead of you, after all. You may think of your future path and see potential friends, loved ones, hobbies, and goals still waiting for you.
It may be difficult to envision acceptance, hope, and healing while you are in the middle of grief, but it is more than possible to start moving forward again. You may find this stage by coming to the realization that doing it alone is a steep and long road. Grief counseling can help aid in the long and difficult process, so you are not on your own. Plus, there are so many benefits to seeking assistance with your personal healing from sorrow. Here are some of the most valuable benefits of grief counseling:
You will be able to focus on you and your journey again.
You don't want to forget your loved one, and you don't have to. But it is natural to want to reach the stage where your focus shifts from pain and grief to the good memories and legacies our loved ones left behind. You may recognize that it is a good thing to be able to replace your negative emotions during the grieving process with more sustainable and happy ones. In grief counseling, you can work through worksheets and other items to assess your grief levels. Having someone to talk to can make things a lot easier to process.
You can go at your own pace.
There isn't a set schedule for grief counseling. You can grieve in your own ways and in your own time. A grief therapist will work through you during each stage, walking this path right beside you. You can grieve freely and receive advice on how to better work through issues as they arise, one by one. For example, if you are angry, a grief counselor can help you focus on the sources of your anger and assist you in finding healthy ways to channel these feelings in a positive way. For example, when you feel the onset of anger, you can choose to take deep breaths, journal, or meditate instead of breaking things or lashing out.
You can make your own choices.
One final benefit of grief counseling is that you are in total control of the process. When you're going through the grieving process, the reasons for your grief may be prioritized in your mind. While, over time, you do not forget them, you will be able to start making your own choices. You may realize that your personal and professional lives will go on. Grief counseling can help you in this transition. All you have to do is find a therapist who is trained in healing grief, sign up for help, and commit yourself to the process of recovery.
You are not alone.
Grief is a very personal and specific process for each person. It may be difficult to determine the next steps to take when you are living with so many heavy feelings and intense emotions. If you are coping with grief and are interested in counseling, you may consider online therapy. In 2018 , there was a s study conducted on the therapeutic benefits of online grief support communities. The data collected showed that these communities contributed to a significant reduction in the severity of grief for individuals coping with psychological distress. On a 5-point Likert scale, with 5 being “strongly agree”, half of all participants reported a 5 or 4 as a result of their participation in one of these support communities.
Online therapy may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are handling grief, but it comes with an array of benefits. One is that you are able to attend counseling sessions based on your own schedule without needing to drive to a building far away. Another is that you can reach your licensed therapist in a number of different ways, such as live messaging and phone calls. It is important to evaluate getting professional treatment for your grief, and online therapy may be a good option to get you started.
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