When you lose a loved one, be it friend, family member or pet, you move through stages of grief. Many people choose to deal with the process on their own, not completely understanding the stages that they are going through. This can lead to feelings of sadness, depression and even anger at a level greater than which would normally be felt.
For others, dealing with grief is something that needs to be done with others who share the same feelings or one-on-one with a counselor that can help. Before you choose to partake in any type of counseling, it makes sense to understand a bit more about grief and its processes.
Understanding the Process of Grief
Grief is a process that is universal. People from around the world and from all walks of life experience mourning and grief in typical ways. First explored in the 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” the grief process is one that has been accepted as close to the same for most people. There are five stages to grief, but how long you experience or remain in each stage is as individual as you are.
Denial and isolation is the first stage of grief. During this stage, you may refuse to believe that your loved one has passed on. You enter and move through this stage as a defense mechanism. Your brain, it has been said, is trying to save you from the immediate shock of the loss.
The second stage of grief is anger. After you have moved through denial, you are not ready to immediately cope with the loss. Your stark emotions are redirected as anger. You may aim your anger at loved ones, lashing out for what seems like no reason. You may lash out at inanimate objects, strangers or friends. You know in your head that the person you are angry with is not to blame, and you begin to feel guilty for being angry.
Once your anger begins to subside, you move into the bargaining stage. This is your attempt to regain control over your emotions and of your life. You may make deals with the higher power that you believe in. You will most definitely ask yourself “what ifs.”
Depression is the next stage of mourning. There are two types of depression that are commonly associated with the grieving process. You will first become saddened by the loss you experience. You may find yourself overwhelmed with stress and worry. During the second phase of depression, you quietly prepare yourself to deal with the death of your loved one. You may withdraw from friends and family, you may become more introverted, or you may find yourself feeling tired during the day.
Once you have moved through these four stages of grief, you move on to the fifth stage which is acceptance. We say that “once you have moved through these four stages” because not everyone is lucky enough to do so. Some mourners find themselves stuck in one stage for years, never able to move on. If you do reach acceptance, you withdrawal from your grief. It is not to say that you are happy. It is simply to say that you have moved beyond depression and are working your way back to maintaining your normal life.
Typical Grief Counseling Process
During grief counseling, you will be given the tools that you need to move on with your life in a productive way. Once you have decided which counselor to visit or which group to join, you should be ready to share your feelings and listen to the words of others.
You will first be helped to understand the process of mourning. You will explore the stages of grief in order to determine which you are in. Your counselor or group facilitator will help you resolve any stages of grief that you find yourself trapped in.
One of the most important processes of grief counseling is the assistance in adjusting to the person you are now. Your counselor or facilitator will give you the means by which you can live a full life without feelings of guilt or depression. You are permitted to live your life; your time has not passed.
Ultimately, bereavement or grief counseling works to help you get to the point that you can return to normal function. You will be able to concentrate on your obligations and return to the life you had prior to your loss. It may not be the same life because your loved one is not a part of it, but it will still be a full life.
Benefits of Grief Counseling
The benefits of professional grief counseling are almost too numerous to list. Instead of trying to work your way through the process on your own, you gain knowledge about the way you are feeling and why.
When you participate in grief counseling, you are able to gain an acceptance of death, forgive yourself and others, and deal with the emotions that you are feeling. You are also given the tools that you will need to begin to adjust to a life without your loved one in it. You experience a renewed sense of hope that would otherwise be lost.
During grief counseling, you will set goals for yourself with the help of your counselor. This professional will also help you monitor your progress toward reaching those goals, giving you insightful advice along the way.
It’s not unusual for people to try to deal with their grief alone. Unfortunately, this leads to a deeper sense of isolation and loneliness. People who try to deal with grief without assistance may move through the stages more slowly.
If you have lost a loved one, be it human or animal, you can benefit greatly from professional grief counseling. Give words to your emotions and allow others to help you through the process. There is a life out there waiting for you; it’s up to you to take the steps necessary to find it.
Updated: October 2, 2014