The death of a loved one can be one of the most difficult things we experience in life. Humans form intense, emotional bonds and the loss of someone we care deeply for can be intensely emotional and draining.
Having the comfort of friends and family is paramount, but sometimes you need support that goes beyond bereavement and sympathy gifts. In some instances, the loss of a loved one is intense enough that it’s best to seek professional help. Grieving and bereavement counselors can provide the guidance we need to work through the stages of grief and loss.
What Are The Stages Of Grief And Loss?
There are five stages of grief that we all experience—denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While people do not necessarily experience all of the stages or move through them in the same order, these steps are universal across all walks of life and cultures.
The first reaction we often have when learning about the loss of a loved one is denial. During the denial and isolation phase of grief processing, we deny the reality of the loss and block out the world to protect ourselves from the facts. This stage is a temporary response to loss and typically carries over into the anger stage. This is when our intense emotion is redirected and expressed as anger. The fury of emotion can be directed towards our deceased loved one, the doctor who couldn’t cure them, or even other family members or friends trying to help us cope.
Bargaining is another stage of grief that finds us trying to regain some control. This generally broadcasts itself as guilt through “if only” statements, where we think about the ways that we could have saved our loved one. Thinking about how seeking medical help sooner, getting a second opinion, or being there for them might have made a difference is another way of processing the loss.
Another stage of grief is depression. The first type of depression centers on practical aspects of the loss, like paying for funeral expenses or neglecting other grieving family members. The second type of depression is more private. This is our preparation to bid our loved one goodbye and is generally subtler than the other phases.
Unfortunately, acceptance is not a stage of grief that everyone is able to reach. Some of us can never get past denial or anger, especially if a death was sudden or unexpected. For those of us who are able to reach acceptance, it is often marked by calm or withdrawal.
It is important to note that when going through bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each stage of grief, and everyone experiences the stages in different intensity. No matter what stage of grief we find ourselves in, a bereavement counselor can always intervene and provide support and tools to help us work through our loss.
What Is Grief Counseling?
Grief counseling can take many forms. Typically, a professional counselor will guide us through the stages of grief and help us understand and cope with the intense emotions that we are feeling after the death of a loved one. Navigating through grief alone can be difficult, even with touching condolence notes or bereavement gifts from our surviving loved ones. Using psychotherapy, meditation, journaling, spending time in nature and other techniques, grief counselors can help us channel intense emotions so we can cope with the loss of a loved one.
What Are The Signs That I Might Need Grief Counseling?
Everyone deals with a loss differently. While there is no right or wrong way to process grief, sometimes we need a little help to cope with our emotions. If you are exhibiting any of these signs, it might indicate that you need to seek the professional help of a grief counselor:
Loss of Enjoyment
Our life does not end just because we have lost someone. If grieving and bereavement start preventing us from pursuing new opportunities or partaking in activities that we enjoy, we might need help.
Numbness to Emotion
After the loss of a loved one, it’s normal to feel angry, sad or even happy. However, if we’re feeling nothing and have no emotional response to the loss, it might be time to seek out a grief counselor.
Avoiding Friends and Family
It’s normal to want to process grief alone, but if this feeling persists, we need to consider why. If we start avoiding spending time with our family and friends, there could be something else going on.
Engaging in Busywork
Staying busy is one of the most common ways of dealing with a loss, but staying busy to avoid emotions is not a good solution. We need to process our grief and work towards acceptance, not bury it under piles of work.
Sudden Behavioral Changes
It’s normal to experience mood changes when working through grief, but if we start acting in ways that are very unfamiliar it could be cause for concern. Excessive drinking, drug use, toxic relationships and irrational anger are some behaviors to look out for.
Thoughts of Hurting Yourself
Thoughts about hurting ourselves should never be ignored. These feelings should be addressed by a professional grief counselor who can guide us through the bereavement period.
Where Can I Go To Get Bereavement Counseling?
If we start experiencing any of the signs above, it’s time to look into getting professional help through a grieving and bereavement counselor. These professionals can offer support beyond bereavement gift cards and sympathy notes, by providing us with the tools necessary to understand and process our grief.
For those of us who think it’s time to reach out and seek professional help, finding a qualified grief counselor is as simple as talking to our regular primary health provider and asking for references. By taking that step and meeting with a grief counselor, we can finally begin to process our loss and move forward.