Unfortunately, we will all experience grief at some point in life. Loss is universal (whether we like it or not) — but the grief process isn’t. While we might share similar emotions or responses to loss, the journey through our grief is an incredibly individual experience.
That said, there is a key ingredient to eventually accepting a tough loss and moving forward: support.
The Grief Process: Stages and Emotional Impact
Grief is a deep sorrow that occurs after loss, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. Again, it can look drastically different from one person to the next — ranging from sadness to anger and every feeling in between.
That said there are five popularized and common stages of the grief process:
1) Denial and seclusion: The last thing anyone wants to hear is that a loved one has passed. Instead of accepting this news, we reject it and insist that it can’t be true. This is our way of avoiding the devastating feelings that come with a difficult loss.
2) Anger: Many also respond to loss with anger or other “negative” emotions because it’s easier to lash out than to feel the pain.
3) Bargaining: Another emotion that often takes over after a devastating loss is guilt. We start to wonder if and how we could have prevented it from happening or what we should have said before “it was too late.”
4) Depression: When those painful feelings flood in, they often overshadow everything else. When we enter this stage of grief, it’s important to lean on our support system.
5) Acceptance: In this stage of grief (which often marks the end of the grieving cycle), we accept that we’ve lost this person and find the peace that we need to move forward.
We tend to enter and exit these stages throughout our grief process — they don’t always follow a linear path.
Effective Coping Strategies for Grief
As mentioned previously, grief comes in many different presentations for different people and at different times; as such, coping strategies should be matched to the individual’s needs and abilities at the time. These might include 1) practicing self-care, 2) connecting with others, or 3) seeking professional help.
Self-Care and Grief: Taking Care of Your Mental Health
There are many different self-care practices that can help you cope during grief and loss. Consider:
- Spending time in nature: This has been proven to help with mental health problems like depression and anxiety, which can accompany grief. Spending time in nature can also boost mood and enhance overall health.
- Spending time with pets: Like spending time with friends, spending time with your pets can offer relief during your grief – doing so increases opportunities to exercise and get outside, which we already know are beneficial. In addition, pets help us feel less lonely and soothe depressive thoughts and feelings.
- Exercising: Exercise offers an outlet to channel all of your emotions into – your sadness, anger, frustration. It can also help to reduce stress as well as symptoms of mental health conditions like those we mentioned earlier, depression and anxiety.
- Journaling: If you have thoughts and feelings that you want to get out but you don’t want to talk them out at this moment in time, consider journaling. Put it down on paper. This can help you process those thoughts and feelings.
- Listening to your favorite music: Another effective coping strategy is putting on your favorite music, which can help to soothe you during this difficult time. As with previously listed coping mechanisms, doing so can help to reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
- Preparing or enjoying healthy meals: It’s always important to eat healthy foods, but it’s particularly important that you continue to prioritize this while grieving your loss — as many people neglect to eat or maintain a well-balanced diet throughout their grief. Not to mention that cooking can serve as a therapeutic exercise, too.
- Maintaining a steady sleep schedule: Sleep is important to your overall health. It’s important that you prioritize your sleep (getting at least 7-8 hours a night) while you grieve – doing so will help to improve your mood, reduce stress, think more clearly, and more.
Connecting with Others: Group Grief Support
Confiding in trusted loved ones about your loss can help you feel supported during this tough time. Alternatively, if you don’t want to talk to them about your loss, that’s okay – simply spending time with them can help to boost your spirits and take your mind off of your grief, which can be helpful, too.
You might consider finding and attending grief support groups as well. These can be especially helpful if you don’t feel comfortable talking to those close to you about your loss, especially if they can’t relate to what you’re going through right now. Grief support groups offer that safe space for opening up about your grief and loss with others who truly understand your pain.
Seeking Help: The Importance of Professional Grief Counseling
In addition to practicing self-care and connecting with others, talking to a professional can be incredibly beneficial, too.
Professional grief counseling can help you effectively manage your grief and loss, providing you with coping strategies that are tailored to your experience, needs, and goals. Here at Thriveworks, we have therapists who specialize in grief counseling who would be more than happy to partner with you.
What Is the Best Cure for Grief?
While there is no cure for grief, getting appropriate support and treatment is the best thing to do when experiencing grief. This can look different for everyone, as mentioned previously – see which coping strategies above appeal most to you and consider partnering with a grief counselor for personalized support.
What Is Grief Counseling?
Grief counseling is counseling that is specifically focused on grief and loss. It focuses on either an existing or upcoming loss, and can occur during the period of immediate grief and loss or even years later.
How Does Grief Counseling Work?
There are a number of modalities to support the grief process, but most will focus on a few key topics:
- The impact of the grief and loss
- Coping with the symptoms of grief
- Understanding the changes that grief and loss can cause.
Time can be spent exploring the relationship with the deceased, both previously and how to continue it into the future, changes to the client’s sense of self, purpose, or future, reviewing coping skills, and more.
What Is the Difference Between Grief Counseling and Bereavement Counseling?
Bereavement refers to the state of having experienced a loss, while grief refers to the changes to and experience of the person experiencing the loss. So in a nutshell, grief counseling and bereavement counseling usually refer to the same thing.
When Should Someone Attend Grief Counseling?
Any time one experiences a loss or if one is expecting a loss, like with a loved one on hospice, grief counseling can be helpful.
If a loss has occurred a long time ago and the sadness is still present, or if you feel unable to move on from a loss, those are good signs that grief counseling would be useful then, too.
How Soon Should You Attend Grief or Bereavement Counseling?
You should attend grief or bereavement counseling as soon as necessary and helpful for you. As I mentioned, we can have anticipatory grief, which happens before a loss, prolonged grief, or delayed grief, all of which can determine when you might access grief counseling.
Any time you have symptoms that are getting in the way, see someone!
Thriveworks Grief Counseling Services
Here at Thriveworks, we can help individuals, couples, and families with their unique mental health challenges – one being grief and loss. We have 2,000+ therapists and psychiatric nurse practitioners here, many of whom specialize in supporting people with this very problem.
These experts are well-equipped to help you process your loss, whether it’s a loved one, a pet, or even a beloved job or relationship. Your grief experience is unique and your therapy experience should be, too.
Why Choose Thriveworks for Grief Counseling?
Thriveworks grief counseling services are personalized to each individual. When you start working with one of our grief counselors, they’ll get to know you as well as your needs and goals for your time in therapy. Then, they’ll create a treatment plan for your subsequent sessions that’ll work to meet those needs and goals, and ultimately support you along your grief journey.
Booking Your Grief Counseling Session Today
You can quickly and easily schedule grief counseling services with us online. In addition to receiving a personalized treatment plan with a grief expert, you can meet with them as soon as this week and cover the majority of the care cost with your insurance (we accept 575+ plans).
We wish you well as you work through your grief and hope to help you along the way.