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DepressionGrief & Loss

What is Grief Counseling?

By September 15, 2021No Comments

Coming to terms with feelings of loss and making sense of it can be a painful process. Grief is a common emotional and sometimes physical response that you feel when you experience loss after a disaster or a traumatic event. Bereavement is a type of grief you experience when you lose a loved one.

Grief occurs across all ages, but adults, adolescents, and children may process it differently. Feelings can range from deep sadness to bursts of anger. Everyone grieves in their own way and time frame depending on the personal attachment to what was lost.

If the loss is too overwhelming to perform your day-to-day tasks, it can take a significant toll on your mental health. You may need to reach out to a professional therapist, psychologist, or a counselor to help you work through the grief.

Understanding Grief Counseling

Grief counseling is a type of professional therapy designed to help you work through the various stages and range of emotions you may feel after a loss.

How you experience grief can vary from person to person. People commonly refer to the five familiar stages of grief, initially coined in 1969 by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. They are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

When you’re grieving, you may go through at least two of the five stages. But it is important to note that there is no common pathway for grief. Everyone experiences it differently. Your grief reactions and signs may include:

  • Shock
  • Disbelief and denial
  • Anxiety
  • Distress
  • Anger
  • Periods of sadness
  • Loss of sleep
  • Loss of appetite

Counseling will help you address some of the reactions as you process your new reality. Some people recover from grief usually within 6 months, but for some others, it may take up to a year or longer.

What Are the Different Types of Grief?

Depending on the type of loss and the belief and relationship you held, it may affect the type of grief you may experience.

Complicated Grief

With time, many overcome or learn to manage grief. But for about 15% of the people who lose a loved one, they may experience a “complicated grief.” It’s a type of grief in which you may have symptoms and signs that last for up to a year or longer.

While the intensity may vary from person to person depending on the context of the loss, the symptoms you may feel may be severe. Complicated grief may make it hard to get through your daily routine and function properly.

Severe symptoms can include:

  • Intense sadness and emotional pain
  • Feeling empty and hopeless
  • Yearning to be reunited with your loved one
  • Constantly thinking about the deceased person or how they died
  • Difficulty engaging in happy memories of the lost person
  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the loved one
  • A reduced sense of identity
  • Detachment and isolation from friends and family
  • Lack of desire to make plans or have interests

Traumatic Grief

If you lose someone you care about in a traumatic event like an accident or if you witness them die or become severely injured, you could be experiencing traumatic grief. It mostly occurs when you’re unprepared to lose someone suddenly.

Symptoms of traumatic grief may creep up on you hours, days, weeks, or even months after the traumatic incidents. The feelings of grief may be very strong and frightening to deal with. If this happen to you, reach out to your doctor and seek help.

Broken Heart Syndrome

While grief is highly unlikely to kill you, the severe stress from living with it may affect your heart health in situations of sudden shock. If the grief is very intense, your body may release stress hormones that may cause part of your heart to swell and pump blood unevenly and beat irregularly. It can cause chest pains similar to a heart attack. This is called broken heart syndrome.

Most people who experience this type of grief recover in a couple of weeks and may not have a similar event again. Women are more prone to broken heart syndrome than men. Grief counseling can help you develop strategies to deal or manage grief during the recovery process.

Depression and Grief

Grief’s symptoms like lack of joy, anxiety, or sense of despair, can look a lot like depression. However, they are different. But if you’re grieving, it could trigger a depressive episode and make the process of grieving worse. Talk to a therapist or a counselor. They can come with strategies to manage depressive symptoms.

What Are the Techniques Used in Grief Counseling?

The goals of grief or bereavement counseling can include four main stages such as:

  • To accept the reality of the loss
  • To work through the pain of grief
  • To adjust to life without the deceased
  • To maintain a connection with a loved one you’ve lost while finding ways to move on with life

Psychologists or therapists may use techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy to help you through the grieving process.

Techniques used in grief counseling can include:

  • Guiding you to talk about the loss, who the person was to you, and the circumstances surrounding the death
  • Asking you to describe your emotions and feelings
  • Building coping strategies to deal with tough days like holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays
  • Learning to accept that grief is a normal process and to be expected
  • Identifying unhealthy behaviors that may be harmful for day-to-day life
  • Building new relationships
  • Developing a new identity

If you’re grieving, it’s also important to take care of yourself. Pay attention to any physical, mental, social, or emotional stressors or signs. Don’t ignore them. Instead, let your doctor or therapist know about it.

Read the rest of the article on WebMD here.

If you are suffering from a recent loss related to the death of a loved, the loss of health, or self-esteem in these challenging times, call Dr. Barry Richman today to ask about Grief Counseling in NYC.

Barry J. Richman

Author Barry J. Richman

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Barry J. Richman MD Psychiatrist NY

Manhattan, NYC Psychiatrist
(212) 889-5463