What Happens When You Go To Grief Counseling?

Reviewed by Rashonda Douthit, LCSW

Published 01/08/2021

Grief is a part of life people struggle to come to terms with because it brings complicated and unwanted emotions. Whether you're dealing with expected or unexpected loss, there is no way to prepare for the feelings you'll experience. People cope differently, and some may not address their feelings or realize how they affect them moving forward. A person may go through grief and lack of improvement that affects how they complete daily activities. While it is essential to mourn a loss, grief, or bereavement counseling, it may help navigate this challenging time in life.

What Is Grief Counseling?

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People work with a grief counselor to learn how to cope with the loss of a loved one. Through counseling, people learn coping strategies for their grief. People dealing with their loss use counseling to confront their feelings and emotions while learning healthy ways to grieve. In counseling, people are introduced to the stages of grief. Learning about each stage is important while facing challenging emotions. People recommended to counseling for their grief may be in situations where their grief:

  • Makes it difficult to engage in daily tasks and responsibilities
  • Leads to feeling depressed or guilty
  • Makes it challenging to move forward with their life
  • Creates relationship problems with family members, friends, coworkers, etc.

Counseling sessions may vary, with some needing more sessions than others. Each session helps people work through their sadness and guilt by learning how to cope through grief stages. It is common to wonder how long the process will last. People grieve in different ways, affecting how long it takes to go through the grieving process. It is important to note that this form of counseling may also help with a loss through other situations such as divorce or a breakup. Counseling support through bereavement refers to the death of a person.

Grievance Counseling Purpose

How does this counseling help someone grieve? The sessions are designed to help people cope, but the sessions meet the situation's needs and loss. For example, an older person's loss may bring grief that is different from an infant or a child's loss. Any form of loss is significant because it creates hurt and unwanted feelings. Counseling sessions help address feelings and emotions associated with one's pain. The type of grief someone goes through isn't favored or downplayed by one over another. The sessions meet the emotional needs of the person grieving.

Counseling also addresses behaviors a person engages in as they are grieving. A person may choose to be with other people during their loss, but others may prefer to be alone or isolated. A person may show a form of grief known as instrumental grieving, where they help others with their problems to distract from expressing emotions. Others may share or communicate their feelings through intuitive grieving. A person may engage in unhealthy behaviors while grieving but for different reasons.

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Counseling helps people understand why a person developed unhealthy or destructive behaviors while grieving. Some develop mental health concerns, such as depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and substance abuse. Grief has a way of combining normal behaviors and thoughts with symptoms like lack of sleep, changes in appetite, mood changes, and other self-destructive behaviors known as complicated grief.

People are encouraged to seek professional support from a grief therapist or counselor if experiencing related symptoms as a reaction to a loss. You can get assistance learning to cope with any mental or physical effects experienced. If substance abuse is a problem, AA meetings such as alcoholics anonymous may be useful along with a treatment plan to address addiction.

What Is Grief And How It Works

A significant aspect of counseling for grief includes learning the process and how to cope with your loss. You understand what it looks like to grieve normally and affect your mental or physical health, such as a mental health condition. Individuals gain insight into normal feelings people go through when grieving, such as sadness, disbelief, anger, fear, and anxiety. People may also experience physical discomfort.

When a person experiences a loss, grief is a natural response to the occurrence. Some also feel guilty or confused, along with other emotions. People respond in their way, so there is no particular way to grieve. For some people, it may take months or years to accept the loss. Most people recover by learning healthy ways to cope and by having a stable support network. People gain support through counseling when they find it challenging to move on with their life.

Overall, counseling not only helps you learn how to cope with your loss, but it also provides a form of treatment for the trauma you're going through. You have a place to express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You can tackle feelings behind your guilt. You build a support system that helps you move on, and you learn how to cope with your new reality. Learning how to face your pain and address feelings related to your loss is significant. When left unaddressed, it may lead to complicated grief, and for some, it may last longer or become severe, making it more challenging to resolve.

What Happens During Counseling?

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The counselor works to develop trust with their client and create a safe place to share their thoughts and feelings related to their loss. The counselor listens to the grieving person upon asking questions about their circumstances. The questions may be challenging to answer, but it is crucial to answering them honestly to benefit each session. 

Counseling sessions may center on the type of loss. Sessions may help people deal with the loss of a coworker, a child who lost their parent, a spouse who lost their spouse, a couple who lost their baby or miscarriage, the loss of a pet or friend, or a traumatic event that ended with a loss.

Counseling sessions help people learn techniques for coping based on the type of loss. It includes talking about the deceased person, acknowledging trauma and separating it from grief, and facing feelings of guilt. The grieving person would talk about what they liked about their deceased loved one and share details about their life. The grieving person may talk about events surrounding the loved one's death. The grieving person may discuss feelings about their loss, such as talking about things they wished they could have done.

Counseling will help to grieve people focus their emotions and feelings toward what matters most. People learn to refocus and reframe their thoughts to encourage healthy grieving. People learn to let go of guilt so they can remember their loved one fondly without hurting.

Getting Into Counseling

The decision to go to counseling may not come easy, but it is a step in the right direction. Some people are skeptical about it, and that's normal. You don't have to be depressed, take a depression test, or experience severe grief to get into counseling. People talk to a counselor when they want advice or an opinion about how to deal with their loss. You can work with a counselor and not worry about being judged and get help analyzing your emotions.

If you're interested in getting counseling, you may wonder how to find grief counselors nearby or what grief therapy is available. It may help to find a counselor with experience providing support for the type of loss you're experiencing. A family therapist may specialize in providing grief support for the loss of a family member. Mental health specialists specializing in trauma provide support for traumatic losses. There are services and support groups for grief online and localize traditional therapy options to consider based on your needs.

Tips For Dealing With Your Loss

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Counseling provides tools and resources you can use anytime. You'll learn how to express your feelings, how to be open to new relationships, and learn how coping affects your identity. Besides practicing methods known through therapy or counseling, remember it takes time to adopt change. Be patient during the grieving process and allow yourself time to understand your feelings and how they affect you. Take advantage of opportunities to talk about your loss with people close to you. You won't feel alone, and it encourages healing. Accept your feelings. Spending time with people who care about you will make grieving easier. Celebrate the life of your loved one that helps you honor their memory while honoring their life.

Mourning the loss of a loved one is challenging, but you don't have to do it alone. Seeking help through counseling for a personal loss has benefits. You learn how to move forward by addressing the feelings behind your grief. The grieving process helps transform a part of your life from loss to being productive again. You can learn to unravel deep emotions so you can cope and live normally.