How does grief counseling help?
Updated: Mar 10
I’ve been working with clients in grief counseling for 25 years. Grief is one of the most difficult experiences we go through, and we all experience it many times throughout our lives. Grief is our natural psychological and physiological response to loss. Though we generally think of grief in relation to the death of a loved one (bereavement), we also experience grief around many other losses: the end of a marriage or romantic relationship the, loss of a pet, the loss of a job, retirement, or kids leaving home – the so-called “empty nest syndrome.” It’s not uncommon to even grieve the loss we feel when we relocate to a new city, missing and grieving the friends and family we left behind. And the intense, painful feelings grief causes are not limited to sadness. Anger, guilt and confusion are also common parts of grief.
The grieving process can be sped up with help
Usually, we heal from grief or bereavement on our own over time. But the process can be sped up and made less painful with the help of an experienced grief counselor. And the process isn’t terribly complicated. The more you let yourself talk and feel, and the less you avoid feeling your grief, the quicker you move through it.
People often avoid talking about their grief, fearing they might be overwhelmed with painful feelings if they talk about it. Or they fear that if they let themselves feel they’ll never stop feeling, never stop crying. In my 25 years of providing grief counseling, I’ve virtually never seen this. My clients almost always experience a deep sense of relief once they start opening up. Often the people closest to you might be grieving the same thing you are, so you may be reluctant to add to their grief by talking about it. It’s very common when grieving to not want to further burden those around you. But you need to talk. Grief counseling gives you the opportunity to discuss your feelings with someone who won’t be affected by them, who you don’t have to worry about burdening, and who you know you won’t have to interact with outside of the therapy room. And the fear that you won’t be able to turn off the feelings once you open the floodgates is usually unfounded. Though some people experience this briefly at first, most of my clients find that the more they let themselves feel, the less intense the pain.
Drug and alcohol can complicate grief
It’s normal for people grieving a loss to self-medicate for a time, and generally this stops after an initial period of self-medicated grieving. But this can sometimes turn into a drug or alcohol problem that actually prolongs the grieving process. If you always mediate your feelings away, you can never move through the grief. It’s also very common for addicts and alcoholics in recovery to relapse as a result of a major loss, especially bereavement. As an experienced grief counselor and a certified drug and alcohol counselor, I’m qualified to help you if this is part of the picture.
It’s also possible for normal grieving to turn into clinical depression. It can be hard to distinguish between clinical depression and normal grief because the two look very similar. Generally, what’s different is that normal grief tends to get better over time while clinical depression may persist. Also, normal grieving often gets triggered by memories of the dead loved one or significant anniversaries, wile clinical depression tends to be more stable and ever-present.
Though my opinion is that anyone experiencing grief can benefit from talking to a grief counselor, when grief turns into serious depression or ongoing substance abuse, it’s time to get immediate help.
For more information, visit my Grief Counseling page.