In recent decades, various types of grief counseling have been developed to help individuals cope with the intense and complicated pain involved in losing a loved one. It has been accepted that loss involves many emotions which must be dealt with before the bereaved individual can successfully move on and adapt to the changes wrought by the death. For many people, assistance in the form of grief counseling is a necessary part of the process. Grief counselors, trained in the discipline, should have a deep understanding of the complexity of grieving.
Stages of Grief
In the late 1960s, Kebler-Ross, who worked with the terminally ill, postulated five stages of grief. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Individuals suffering a great loss sometimes pass through these stages, but it is more often the case, I have found in my practice, that one may get stuck in a particular way of thinking and feeling. In fact, many individuals respond to loss in a way that is similar to how they responded to other life changing events. Understanding that grieving is a complex process, involving a wide range of emotions, is important for individuals seeking to get their lives back in order. It is important to realize, and slowly begin to accept, that in addition to sadness and longing, it is normal to experience resentment, guilt, anger and relief after a loved one dies. Working through a variety of emotions in therapy, with an experienced therapist, is NOT JUST reassuring and helpful BUT should also help facilitate the grieving process so it does not turn into clinical depression.
Behavior of Grief
As people heal after the death or loss of a loved one, they may find solace in differing behaviors. While outbursts of tears may be the expected reaction, attacks of laughter also may occur. Grieving individuals may also:
- Obsessively clean or organize
- Withdraw socially
- Become absent-minded or forgetful
- Engage in ritualized behavior
- Eat more or less than usual
- Seek comfort in alcohol or drugs
- Experience sleep disturbances
- Become highly emotional or emotionally flat
Types of Grief Counseling
Several types of grief counseling are available, including one-on-one psychotherapy and bereavement groups. The dynamics of such therapies vary but may include discussion and sharing, meditative or relaxation techniques. If the loss suffered has taken place under particularly traumatic circumstances, a more intensive treatment may be warranted. In my practice, in order to overcome this initial shock, I sometimes need to see and work with individuals more frequently. When the grieving individual is found to be suffering from clinical depression, antidepressant medication is sometimes used as an adjunct to the psychotherapy treatment.
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