at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids
Are you or your loved one grieving over losing someone or something important to you?
Then you should know that grief is a normal response to loss. It’s a common emotional reaction of sadness, anger, and guilt, typically whenever you lose your loved one. Sometimes it might even manifest itself in physical reactions. But if grieving becomes too overwhelming, continues for a prolonged period without any improvement, and you notice that it disrupts your everyday functioning, it might become dangerous to your mental health.
That’s when you should consider reaching out to professional counselors who will help you get through your condition. Grief counseling was developed to help people handle one of the most challenging times in their lives. It’s considered the most effective type of therapy for people who struggle with grief or bereavement.
What Is Grief Counseling?
Grief counseling, which is also referred to as bereavement counseling, can be defined as a form of therapy that aims to help people get through loss and grief. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), grief counselors are focused on supporting people whose daily functioning has been impaired by the loss or death of their family members, partners, friends, or loved ones. The therapy helps people who struggle with bereavement work on their emotions, deal with their physiological reactions, and overcome the grieving process.
Nevertheless, not everyone who experiences loss requires help from grief counselors. Grief is an integral part of our lives. At some point in their lives, everyone experiences grieving over a loss. Most of the time, it leads to complex emotions such as sadness, confusion, frustration, guilt, or even anger. It’s especially hard if the loss of a loved one was unexpected. Still, some people manage to deal with these negative feelings without professional intervention.
However, experiencing the following signs and symptoms indicates that you might need to receive grief counseling:
- Disrupted routine
- Mood swings, feelings of guilt, or depression
- Having no desire to communicate with people
- Problems in social relationships
Grief counseling is an efficient method to cope with all of these signs of grief. Counselors who use this type of therapy help individuals realize their irrational thoughts and let go of their feelings of anger, guilt, or excessive sadness.
Understanding Stages of Grief
Identifying the current stage of grief that an individual is experiencing is one of the initial steps of grief counseling. The reason is that different stages of grief are accompanied by different emotions and require different types of counseling techniques.
Stages of grief were first proposed in 1969 by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying”. Even though the experience of grief varies from individual to individual, here’s the most common sequence of grief stages:
People who grieve over losing loved ones usually experience at least two of these stages. Still, these stages might take place in a different order depending on the unique situation an individual is experiencing. Most importantly, many people don’t go through any of these stages, while some people experience them in a different order.
Interestingly, some people undergo all of these stages of grief after a significant loss in their lives and experience a condition referred to as “post-traumatic growth” afterward (Hamilton, 2016). In positive psychology, this concept describes positive emotional and cognitive changes after experiencing serious trauma or an adversary. Several studies prove that dealing with trauma with adaptive coping mechanisms is a precondition to developing post-traumatic growth (e.g., Finstad et al., 2021).
Considering this, grief counseling often aims to help people develop positive coping strategies in order to adapt to their loss and avoid psychological problems in the future too.
How Does Grief Counseling Work?
If you experience grief, you probably understand that grief counseling or any type of counseling won’t make your loss disappear. However, the main purpose of grief counseling is to teach you how to live with your loss. Regardless of what kind of grief you’re experiencing or how intense it is, healing from grief always takes some time.
While some individuals adjust to a new reality more quickly, others might need years to realize that their loved one is gone. But if that’s the case, you should know that although grieving over the death is normal, it shouldn’t interfere with your daily functioning. Therefore, one thing you should expect from grief counseling is to accept your loss, realize it happened, adapt to a new way of living, and deal with your negative emotions of denial, anger, or sadness.
Here are some of the most common benefits of grief counseling:
- Grief counselors help you identify your negative emotions of guilt and realize that the loss of your loved one isn’t your fault.
- You will understand the stages of grief and learn how to manage your feelings whenever you think about your loss.
- You’ll learn how to express your thoughts and emotions without strengthening your trauma.
- Grief counseling will help you adjust to a new way of living and get back to your normal routine.
- You’ll develop healthy strategies to cope with your anxiety, depression, and stress.
- It will help you redefine your identity and live with your loss while focusing on different aspects of your life.
Still, you should understand that every individual is different and grief counseling has a different impact on everyone.
Effectiveness of Grief Counseling
A number of recent studies prove the effectiveness of grief counseling in healing after experiencing loss. According to a 2017 study, grief counseling has long-term mental health benefits. The reason is that people who receive grief therapy learn how to deal with their negative emotions and use their developed coping strategies in the future too (Newsom et al., 2017).
A 2013 study that examined the effects of grief counseling on children who experienced prolonged grief also proved this type of therapy to be effective with individuals who suffer from loss (Spuij et al., 2013). Recent studies about interventions for bereavement also prove that grief counseling techniques are helpful for individuals to deal with their loss (Andriessen et al., 2019).
Grief Counseling Interventions
Counselors usually use various techniques based on the specific situation in order to help people deal with grief. Sometimes grief counseling is even used in combination with other types of therapy, such as
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – helps people restructure their irrational thoughts and beliefs about loss.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – aims to help people accept their negative emotions and adjust to life without their loved ones.
- Group therapy – small groups of people share their unique experiences of trauma and understand how others cope with grieving.
Grief counselors tend to use 3 main techniques in the process of therapy:
- They create a safe space for people to speak freely about their emotions about the deceased.
- They help people understand that trauma and grief aren’t the same things. While it’s possible to develop skills to live with your loss, it’s not adaptive to deal with flashbacks or other symptoms of trauma repeatedly.
- They work on the feelings of guilt and develop effective strategies together with clients to overcome the grief.
How to Get Started with Grief Counseling
Making the decision to receive grief counseling isn’t easy. But if you realize that the process of grieving over your loss doesn’t go away and negative feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness don’t let you function properly on a daily basis, then you should think about contacting our professional counselors at Health for Life Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI and Ada, MI. Reach out to our well trained therapists in the West Michigan area or talk to them online to find the most suitable therapy based on your unique needs.
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