The pain of losing a loved one is a universal bond that all of us share. When the loved one is especially close to us—a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or most devastatingly, a child—the bereavement may endure for quite some time. When the grief becomes debilitating, counseling is often the best recourse for helping individuals come to terms with the absence of one they held so dear.
Let Yourself Grieve
Individuals typically will experience a range of emotions when grieving the loss of a loved one—shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, fear, emptiness, guilt, and even relief if the death occurs after an extended illness.
All of these emotions are normal and to be expected. Allowing yourself to express your grief with tears and an outpouring of feelings is a healthy outlet in the aftermath of your loved one’s death. Now is the time to draw together with those who share your grief—children, grandchildren, siblings, friends, and others—so that you may comfort each other in your time of sorrow.
Reaching Out for Help
There is no set timeline for grief, nor is there a right time or wrong time to reach out for grief counseling. In some cases, you may need grief counseling only in the days or weeks following your loved one’s death. You may seek short-term comfort from clergy at your church or those affiliated with your loved one’s hospital, long-term care facility, or hospice program. They may check in with you early and often to make sure you are doing well, and in time, you may let them know that the worst of your grief has passed and you’re able to move forward without their intervention.
Grieving over a loved one’s death may last months or even years, but the intensity should lessen over time. If months have passed and you’re still feeling intense grief that cripples your ability to manage your everyday life, consider grief counseling as an important step caring for yourself, both mentally and physically.
Some signs you may need to seek regular professional counseling include:
- You have trouble falling or staying asleep.
- You have no energy and find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
- You have difficulty concentrating at work or completely daily chores.
- You have no interest in activities that you previously enjoyed.
- You have no appetite and are losing weight—or conversely, you’re eating the wrong foods and gaining weight.
- You have turned to drugs or alcohol to alleviate sadness or depression.
- You find little joy in the company of others.
- You find yourself obsessively thinking of your loved one’s death and sometimes wish for your own death.
It’s also important to be wary of destructive emotions. For instance, it’s perfectly understandable to feel sadness or loneliness after the loss of a close loved one. However, feeling excessive guilt is not reasonable and actually can be quite harmful.
Unfortunately, losing someone close to us may make us susceptible to guilt over the circumstances of their final days. An adult child may regret that he didn’t visit his ailing parent more often. A wife may berate herself for placing her dementia-suffering husband in a memory care unit because she could no longer care for him.
If you are unable to control these feelings, counseling may be warranted as a way to relieve yourself from this burden of blaming yourself with the realization that your loved one would not want you to suffer in this way.
Caring for Yourself
Taking care of yourself is important at every stage of the grieving process. Grief counselors will help you express your feelings, alleviate stress, cultivate healthy habits, and adapt to a new life that is worth living. In time, you’ll learn to accept your grief as validation of the enduring love you felt for the individual you lost.
Beachside provides grief counseling as part of its mental health program. If you’d like to learn more, contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 for details.