Many people struggle with deciding whether or not to see a grief counselor.
Crying, wanting to isolate and stay in bed, feeling depressed, and feelings of guilt and remorse are all common reactions when someone is grieving a loss.
There is a lot of overlap of these reactions with symptoms of depression. It’s common and expected for someone to experience these symptoms during grief, while in the context of depression, they are considered a mental health issue.
Most people can agree that depression is helped by therapy and medication management. So, if grief is normal, how can you tell when you need professional help?
It’s a tricky question, because there is no exact right or wrong answer. Only you know best what will benefit you. Sometimes the only way to find out whether something will be helpful is to try it.
To get your wheels turning, here are three indications that you may need grief counseling.
#1. Prolonged Difficulty Regulating your Emotions
If you are experiencing crying spells or angry outbursts in excess of how you usually feel, that’s normal. But if over the weeks and months you continue to have a hard time managing intense sadness or anger, a therapist could help you talk through your emotions.
Sometimes, just processing your emotions out loud can help you work through grief. Additionally, therapists can teach you specific skills to help increase control over your emotions.
#2. Excessive Guilt or Regret
Guilt and regret are very common feelings that grieving people experience. That said, they can be incredibly difficult feelings to work through on your own.
Although talking to family or friends sometimes helps, many people are uncomfortable talking about grief. Some don’t know what to say, or accidentally end up invalidating your feelings (i.e. “Don’t feel that way!”).
Also, family members may be too close to the loss themselves to be of much help to you. A grief counselor is a neutral person who has been trained in how to support people, and can help you understand your feelings.
#3. Difficulties Returning to your Daily Life
If weeks or months after the loss, you continue to have problems getting motivated, concentrating at work, completing your daily responsibilities, or increased forgetfulness or clumsiness… well, that’s no surprise, considering what you’re going through.
A therapist could help you understand and work through these difficulties. We can’t make any guarantees, but we can help you take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself often decreases likelihood of negative consequences, like write-ups at work or forgetting to pick up your kids from school.
How can grief counseling help me?
- Learn skills to cope with grief and related, strong emotions
- Adjust to life without the person or experience you’re grieving
- Talk through remorse, guilt, sadness, loneliness, and other intense emotions (which can help decrease their frequency and intensity)
- Bounce ideas off of a neutral supporter, who can provide a different perspective than friends and family
- Reflect on the person you are grieving – what you’ve learned from them, and what they meant in the context of your life
- Re-focus on your future and move forward with confidence
Rebecca, are you a grief counselor?
So glad you asked 🙂 Yes, I am! During my second level social work internship, I helped facilitate a grief support program for children. Although I now provide services to adults, my internship experience taught me so much about how people grieve, and what’s “normal” across the lifespan.
During my 5+ years as a clinician, I have had the privilege of helping many grieving clients. I’ve been able to sit with them during times of struggle, and share in their joy during times of resilience.
Rebecca Ogle is a licensed therapist who practices online counseling in Illinois. Rebecca empowers millennials to cope with anxiety, depression, life transitions, grief, and more, using their strengths and inner wisdom.