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How Does Therapy Help with Grief

Michael Picco
Michael Picco

Hi, I'm a Psychiatrist. I help people who need help with mental health. Love hearing music and watching movies.

“It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward.” — Patti Davis

Suffering the loss of someone you love and grief is something most common to us. Everyone will experience the feeling of pain once or more in their lifetime. However, we don’t typically learn about grief or how to cope with our loss.

Grief is extremely personal, and everyone will experience it. However, how you grieve is unique to you. It might be hard to tell if what you’re experiencing is typical or if you could use extra help.

No matter how long it takes to get a grip over the demise of a loved one, grief support therapy can help you navigate through the most challenging situations of life.

What Is Grief Support Therapy?

People experiencing uncomplicated or normal grief go through a period of sorrow, anxiety, sadness, or even anger or grief. These feelings are lessened over time, and the bereaved person finds a new way to live life. The American Psychological Association defines this phenomenon as grief that might last for up to two years, depending on the intensity of the loss.

For some folks, the feeling of loss is really strong—it can be really tough and doesn’t seem to get better with time. It might make it hard to do everyday things like getting up in the morning or enjoying work, and life might not feel happy anymore. If you’re dealing with prolonged grief disorder, a kind of complicated grief, grief support therapy could be beneficial.

A licensed therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker are trained individuals well-equipped to offer grief therapy. Consulting a mental health professional will help you process your feelings, cope with your grief, and come out of the prolonged grief you feel.

Grief therapists will work with you to offer healthy grief support, recognize and deal with your emotions, and help you live a healthy future.

Grief Counseling Vs. Grief Therapy: Are Both The Same?

Grief support therapy and grief counseling, both involves interacting with a licensed mental health professional. The main difference is that grief counseling goes through continuous sessions to support uncomplicated or normal grief. Such counseling is sometimes offered free of charge by any local hospice. The treatment approach is generally short-term and does not involve specialized treatment.

On the other hand, grief therapy sessions generally support individuals in treating complicated grief. It also comes with resources to treat additional complicated situations like addiction, depression, or anxiety. Such conditions might arise as a result of grief, or there might be some existing situations intensified by the grief or pain.

What Is Grief?

Grief is the most common reaction to any kind of loss, mainly someone’s death. It goes beyond just sadness and evokes a feeling of doubt, confusion, guilt, anger, and various other complex emotions.

There is no specific way to grieve, and everyone reacts to loss in a different manner and grieves in their own unique way. Furthermore, there is no specific duration to grief; it might take several months to years to accept the demise of a loved one. However, many individuals can recover from loss with the help of social support mechanisms and healthy coping therapies. Grief counseling offers necessary support to people who find it hard to get better.

Let’s go through the stages of prolonged grief.

For most people, grief resolves with time, but a small percentage of individuals’ grief might be deep, prolonged, and persistent. Such situations are often accompanied by an inability to get back to normal life.

Some characteristics of prolonged grief disorder are:

  • Long-lasting and all-encompassing longing and thinking about the person who passed away for at least six months after the loss
  • Strong emotional pain like sadness, fear, or guilt makes it hard to do regular things.
  • Finding it tough to accept that the person has died
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Not feeling any happiness or being unable to feel good emotions
  • Pulling away from social stuff
  • Finding it hard to work
  • Feeling depressed or having thoughts about hurting yourself

How Can Grief Support Therapy Come In Handy?

Trained professionals and licensed grief therapists will ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis. That is crucial because some of the characteristics of prolonged grief, sickness, and depression might look the same. However, there are two separate diagnoses with totally different treatment processes. Depression might accompany your prolonged grief disorder symptoms, or you might experience depression separately and prolonged grief alone.

Grief support therapy comes with a multifaceted approach, and our therapist might use it depending on the severity of your condition. At its very base, the majority of grief therapy involvements are created on the four pillars of mourning. These are to:

  • Accept the fact that you have lost your loved one.
  • Experience and process the pain associated with your loss.
  • Adjust to the new reality where the deceased are no longer existing.
  • Look for an enduring relationship with the deceased soul as you embark on the journey of a new life.

Thinking about the things you need to do when you’re grieving might seem overwhelming. It can be really hard to talk about death or imagine life without someone you care about. But it’s important to accept the loss and figure out ways to navigate through this difficult time.

This is where you need support from a grief therapist. They will create a safe place for you to discover and process the grief and support you in defining your future reality.

Grief Support Therapy

What Happens During Grief Therapy Sessions?

According to Dr. Robert A. Neimeyer, an expert grief therapist and clinical psychologist, a grief counselor must take his client through two major steps.

In the first step, the therapist needs to establish a trusting relationship with his client. He must offer the grieved person a comfortable and safe environment to help them talk about their loss openly.

In the second step, the therapist needs to ask the victim some specific questions about the nature of their relationship with the deceased soul. If the relationship was a difficult one, counseling will require a different approach.

Techniques of Grief Counseling

Once the circumstances surrounding the loss are established successfully, the grief counselor will move on to precise counseling techniques, which include the following:

  • Talking about the person who has passed away: Sometimes the grieving people need to talk about their loss but are unable to find a suitable place for it. It is the duty of the counselor to make the person talk about the dead person’s life: what were they like, whom they loved, and their hobbies? Particular qualities made the concerned person so special.
  • Understanding that trauma and grief are not the same When someone feels deeply affected by the memories or events related to a loved one’s death, a grief counselor can support them in changing how they see those memories. The counselor helps them create a healthier way to think about their connection to the person who passed away, making it easier to grieve.
  • Dealing with guilt feelings: Some people feel guilty for doing or not doing some specific things with their loved ones when they were alive. A grief counselor encourages the mourning person to cope with their feelings of guilt. They also make it easier for the affected person to forget about their pain for a while so that they can continue remembering the person tenderly at some other time.

When to Start With Grief Therapy

Deciding to consult a grief therapist is not an easy choice, especially when you are in grief. So it’s quite natural to be skeptical about your grief support therapy initially. As therapy deals with serious conditions, it doesn’t mean you have to be in severe sadness while you consult your therapist. You can even opt for a support session if you are looking for a space and an individual to talk about your emotions and grief. You can share your feelings with the therapist without fearing judgment.

Self-Care Tips for Mourning People

In addition to seeking professional help while experiencing complicated grief, there are numerous things you can try for your overall well-being.

Fix a daily routine.

Having external factors make you bound to move out of bed will help a lot in maintaining your normalcy. Think about goals that you dream to achieve and start to reach for the same position. Plan events in your calendar and try completing them.

Get enough physical activity.

It’s been shown that exercise triggers endorphins, making you feel good. Start with something simple, like a short walk around your neighborhood. You don’t have to run a marathon to feel the positive effects.

Opt for a healthy diet.

There is a strong connection between physical and emotional wellness. Fueling your body with healthy food will strongly support your emotional well-being. Furthermore, that will also offer nutrients to the body and mind.

Avoid alcohol

You can add variety to your diet by including teas, juices, and flavored water. Self-medication, like mind-altering substances like alcohol, will lead to addictions and other complications.

Think about what you need to do.

Think about getting some rest and its kind. Find out whether you should spend time walking alone or being with people. Figure out what you want to do, like reading a book, listening to music, curling up under the blanket, streaming a show, or going out and being in a new place. Listen to your heart and try to focus on your needs. That is an important part of the healing process.

Be a part of helpful social connections.

Friends and family can undoubtedly be the best support system. At the same time, you can be stressed out due to these close relationships. Find someone in your life who accepts you the way you are and offers you a supportive ear. It is okay to be in touch and focus on only those who support you and make you happy. Remember, you need emotional sustenance at this point in your life to continue your journey.

Perform activities in a day that bring you joy.

Try to figure out at least one thing in a day and perform that which brings you joy. It might not be something big. In fact, sometimes even the smallest of things give us the greatest joy. Think of an activity that makes you feel free, a food that you love to eat, a person you want to be with, or a place you like to pay a visit.

In the end, grief support therapy offers a helping hand during tough times. It’s a safe space to navigate the ups and downs of loss, offering comfort, understanding, and tools to cope with the pain. With the guidance of a grief therapist, healing becomes a bit easier, allowing you to honor your loved one while finding a way forward in your own time.

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