Although grief is an inevitable part of life, some people may find it more challenging to cope with and overcome situations, stirring up a myriad of complex emotions.
If someone feels completely knocked off their feet or is struggling for a prolonged period of time that may be a sign that they may need professional help to move on.
Grief counseling, also known as Bereavement therapy, is a type of talk therapy similar to (family therapy) intended to help the client understand and cope with the emotions they experience, grieve in a healthy manner, and ultimately find a way to move on. (Jordan, J.R. and Neimeyer, R.A., 2003)
Types of Grief:
The therapist will help the patient out using various approaches and techniques based on the type of grief.
With time, many overcome and learn to manage grief. But about 15% of the people who lose a loved one may experience complicated grief. It’s a type of grief wherein you may have intense symptoms like anxiety, depression, aggression or self-destructive behaviors, eating problems, and trouble sleeping that can last up to a year or longer.
While the intensity varies from person to person depending on the context of the loss, the symptoms you feel may be severe. Complicated grief can make it hard to function properly and get through their daily routine.
If an individual loses someone they care about a lot in a traumatic event such as an accident, or if they witness them become severely injured or die, they may experience traumatic grief. This type of grief mainly occurs when they’re not expecting and are completely unprepared to lose someone suddenly. Symptoms of traumatic grief may creep up on the sufferers for hours, days, weeks, or even months after the traumatic incident has occurred. The feelings of grief may be extremely disturbing and disabling to deal with. Grief counseling can help sufferers develop effective strategies to manage or deal with grief during the recovery process.
Broken Heart Syndrome
While grief is highly unlikely to kill someone, the intense stress and sorrow from living with it may affect the health of their heart, especially in situations of sudden shock.
If the grief is very intense, the body may secrete excess stress hormones that may cause part of the heart to pump blood unevenly and beat irregularly as well as swell up. It can cause chest pain similar to a stroke. This is called broken heart syndrome.
Most people who experience this sort of grief, generally recover in a couple of weeks and may not have to go through a similar event again. Women are more prone to broken heart syndrome than men.
Techniques used in Grief Therapy:
Grief counseling involves opening up and talking about the person you lost, your relationship with them, how you lost them, how their loss has impacted you, as well as how you’ve been coping with it.
Some of the techniques grief counselors often use:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT):
CBT is another form of psychotherapy. It involves identifying and modifying thought patterns that negatively influence your emotions and, thus, behavior.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):
ACT encourages people to accept negative emotions and circumstances so they can begin to develop and focus on healthier patterns that can help them reach their goals.
This form of therapy is implemented in a group setting. It can be comforting to share what you are going through and feeling with other people who are going through the same thing you are and help each other work toward recovery together.
Play therapy is commonly used to help gain insights into a child’s mind in order to help them process and understand unresolved emotions and build constructive behavioral patterns.
Art therapy adopts creative forms to express your emotions and promote healing. It can be quite helpful to people of all ages, including children, adults, and the elderly, who may struggle to communicate their feelings.
Benefits and Efficacy of Grief Counseling
Grief counseling can offer you several benefits, which can include:
- Fewer emotional and physical symptoms.
- Improved self-awareness, as the patient begins to understand what they are feeling and why.
- Development of coping skills that can help one to adapt to life without their loved one and move on.
- Acceptance of loss, including integrating it into their new reality and maintaining a healthy bond with the person they lost.
Research has proved that grief counseling can be an effective way to deal with and manage grief.
A study published in 2015 in the Counseling & Psychotherapy Research journal found that people who went for bereavement counseling felt that:
It was helpful to have someone validate and normalize their feelings and experiences.
It was much easier to talk to someone who wasn’t a family member or friend.
It was good to have unhelpful thinking processes and patterns challenged, such as those related to guilt or anger.
Another study published in 2017 in the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy journal found that those who participated in grief counseling after losing someone close to them reported fewer symptoms of grief in the long run. These results suggest that grief counseling can have effective long-term benefits.
Things to Consider
Not everyone necessarily requires grief counseling to get over the loss of a loved one. However, it can be helpful to help you cope with the circumstances, especially if you are struggling with intensely complex emotions for a long time or having a hard time moving on. On the other hand, if you are experiencing severe depression, complicated grief, traumatic grief, or other behavioral or physical problems related to your loss, you may hugely benefit from different types of therapy as well.
The contradictions between research and practices of grief counseling is thrown light on by Breen and Lauren J. "Professionals' in experiences of grief counseling: Implications for bridging the gap between research and practice." Omega-Journal of Death and Dying (2011).