Grief Counselling

Grief Counselling

According to the Webster’s dictionary, grief is defined as the pain of mind on account of somethingin the past; mental suffering arising from any cause, as misfortune, loss of friends, misconduct ofone’s self or others, etc.; sorrow; sadness. Grief is the mess of feelings we get when we lose someoneor something, feelings like: shock, numbness, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, fear, mixed with smallmoments of relief, peace, and happiness. While all these feelings can be overwhelming, they are

normal and they are needful; it is how we process loss.


There are different types of grief and are often labeled according to situation, duration, and severity

of symptoms. First there is normal grief that most people will feel at different junctures in their lives.

The second kind of grief is called by many names; complicated grief, persistent complex

bereavement disorder, separation trauma, traumatic grief or prolonged acute grief. The symptoms of

this type of grief are described as preoccupation with a loved one, excessive loneliness, longing and

yearning for the loved one, and difficulty doing everyday things without the loved one. The third on

is anticipatory grief which happens during the time that our loved one is sick and dying. This type of

grief helps prepare us for the impending loss.


Coping with loss can be painful, sometimes traumatic and is not limited to loss through death. Some

losses that can cause deep grief include:

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job and loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
  • Selling the family home or moving to another city/town


Grief is hard and it certainly is not fun. The truth of the matter is many people are not equipped or

“ready” to deal with grief, so they seek out information to help them cope and may come across

contradictory advice. Let me list the ones that do not work.


  • The pain will go away faster if you ignore it. The truth is that trying to ignore your pain will only

make it worse in the long run. For real healing to happen, it is necessary for you to acknowledge

your pain and actively deal with it. Just know that it is OK and very normal to feel sad!


  • It’s important to be strong for yourself and for others. It is normal to feel sad, frightened, or

lonely when faced with loss. Crying DOES NOT mean you are weak. It is not your job to protect

your family or friends by pretending to be brave. Showing your true feelings can help them and

you. This is especially important when there are small children involved. They need to know that

it is normal to feels sad and cry and chances are high that you would validate their feelings and

support them in their pain. YOU DESERVE THIS TOO!

  • If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss. While crying is a relatively normal

response to sadness; it’s not the only one. People show grief in different ways. What works for

one does not necessarily work for someone else. It is OK to grieve the way that feels right for


  • Grieving should last about a year. There is no time frame and length of time it takes differs from

person to person.

  • Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss. Moving on means you’ve accepted

your loss; not forgotten it. It is completely normal to move on with your life and keep the

memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you. The truth is these

memories can become the most important way that we define ourselves.


Other helpful things to remember while you move through your grief is:

  • First and foremost, acknowledge your pain and accept that you are in pain. It is OK!
  • Be aware that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions. It can feel like an

emotional roller coaster!

  • Your grieving process will be unique to you. There is no right way or wrong way.
  • Find support from people who care about you.
  • Support yourself by taking care of yourself physically. This one will feel hard but it is very

important that your physical self is maintained.

  • While this one is more difficult, try to recognize the difference between grief and depression

and if you don’t know, ask a professional.


There are 5 stages to grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While Kubler-Ross

created this to help explain grief, it was for the grief someone goes through when they find out they

are dying. Still, it is helpful in explaining what grief can look like and what you might expect when

experiencing grief.


Denial – The first reaction is denial. In this stage, individuals believe the diagnosis is

somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.


Anger – When denial of the situation is no longer an option, a person will become frustrated.

“Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”; “Why would

this happen?”.


Bargaining – This stage involves the hope that an individual will not have to experience

grief. An individual will attempt to negotiate for an extended life in exchange for something

important to them. For example, a person could negotiate with God to attend a daughter’s

wedding in exchange for a reformed lifestyle, or say things such as “If I could trade their life

for mine”.


Depression – Loss of hope, “why bother?”



Other emotional symptoms you can experience includes:

  • Shock and disbelief. This is part of the denial stage. It can be hard to believe that someone

you lost is gone; that it really happened. You still expect them to see them; to tell you it was a



  • Sadness. This is the stage of depression and is the most universally experienced symptom of

grief. Feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness may be experienced during

this time and you may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.


  • Guilt. You may feel regret or feel guilty about things said or not said, things you did or did

not do. You may also feel guilty about feeling relieved if the person died after a long, difficult



  • Anger. You may feel angry and resentful. Depending on the circumstances you may be angry

with yourself, at God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you.


  • Trigger fears about your own mortality and make you question your abilities to deal with

things yourself.


To help support yourself through your grief in the best way possible, remember to embrace your

feelings; it is ok! Try expressing them through journaling, writing a letter to yourself or loved one, or

scrap book a celebration of the life that was lost. Try to maintain hobbies and interests; there is

comfort in routine and doing the things that give us joy. Plan ahead for your grief triggers; this

includes all holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones. Talk to friend and family who

may participate in get togethers; let them know what you are comfortable with talking about.

Emotional symptoms can turn into physical symptoms over time. These can include feeling

unbelievably tired, nauseous, easily catching colds, weight loss or gain, aches and pains in

various parts of your body, and sleeping to much or too little.


Sometimes our grief can turn into depression and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference. Grief can

be a roller coaster of emotions and you will experience good and bad days. Symptoms that may

suggest that you have moved into a depression, include:

  • Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
  • Feel like life isn’t worth living
  • Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
  • Feel numb or disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Slow speech and body movements; feeling lethargic
  • Unable to function normally at home, work, or school
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there

If you question if your grief has turned into depression, consult with your doctor. I have had clients

ask if antidepressants can help grief. The answer is while medication can help relieve some of the

symptoms, it doesn’t treat the cause which is the loss. While numbing the pain sounds like a good

thing, the pain must be worked through and antidepressants will only delay the mourning process.


If you’re experiencing symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, talk to a mental health

professional right away. Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significantemotional damage, health problems, and even suicide. Treatment can help you get better.
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