How Do I Know If I Need Grief Counselling?

Grief is a part of life and something we all go through. It is among the most difficult and complex emotions to deal with, often leaving us feeling deflated, lost, hopeless and alone. There is no right or wrong way to grieve or deal with bereavement. Many people say that grief doesn’t ever truly go away, but over time, it shrinks as life expands around it. If you feel you need support to help process your grief so that you can move forward with your life, grief counselling can help,

In this blog, we’re going to detail some of the key signs that might suggest grief counselling is suitable for you, no matter how recent your loss is.

What is Grief Counselling?

Before we explore why you might benefit from grief counselling, it’s important to first understand what it is and what it involves. We all know that death, loss and bereavement are a part of life, but this certainty doesn’t make them any easier to deal with when the time comes. Lots of people find that they experience a myriad of mental and physical side effects when they experience a loss, especially when the loss was sudden, of someone close to you, or with someone whom you had unresolved issues with.

In these instances, you may find that you engage in hurtful and maybe even harmful behaviours as a way of suppressing your feelings and processing your grief. For example, you might feel overwhelmingly angry and frustrated and have aggressive outbursts that are verbally or physically elusive to other people or yourself. You might hyperfocus on work or the gym in a bid to distract yourself from what you’re feeling, but to a point where suppressing your feelings in this way may help in the short-term, but in the long-term the effort it takes to continue to push those feelings away can become all-consuming and can lead you to withdrawing from other areas of your life. In some cases, you might not acknowledge the grief immediately and go months or even years without processing the emotional effects of your loss, after which you might experience prolonged grief. This often entails longing for the person you’ve lost and going through intense grief on a severe scale that disrupts your quality of life and wellbeing.

Grief and bereavement counselling aims to help you process your loss and your emotions and confront your feelings in a healthy way. With the guidance of bereavement experts, you can Learn about grief, what it means to you and how to process it in an environment that feels safe and comforting. You can learn coping mechanisms to help you to regulate your grief so that it doesn’t overwhelm you while you are healing. At a pace that suits you, you’ll go through the stages of grief, processing it as you go along, and eventually be able to move forwards having come to terms with your loss.

Oftentimes, people think grief counselling is only for those who have lost an immediate relative or experienced a sudden loss, but this isn’t the case. Everyone can benefit from bereavement counselling, but if you’re experiencing any of the following effects, you may find it to be particularly useful.

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1. You’ve experienced a loss of any kind

Everyone can benefit from grief counselling if they’ve experienced loss, and this doesn’t just apply to family members or close friends. Loss can include:

  • Relationships ending (romantic and otherwise)
  • Health issues (e.g. the loss of a limb or independence)
  • Pets
  • Life changes (e.g. losing your home or job)

Loss in all its forms can have a significant effect on your mental and physical wellbeing.

Loss also doesn’t need to be recent to make you eligible for counselling. Whether you experienced a loss last month or 10 years ago, if you feel like you haven’t or can’t move past it – or if you feel like you haven’t been able to process your emotions in a healthy way – grief counselling can help.

2. You are struggling to move on

There isn’t a predetermined period of time in which you should ‘heal’ from or stop grieving. Everyone is different, with some people being able to resume ‘normal’ life fairly soon, and others taking longer to get back to it. But, if you feel like you’re stuck in a perpetual cycle of grief and like there’s no way out, grief counselling could be beneficial to you.

There is no specific timeline, but if you find that a year or so has passed since your loss and you and you feel your loss has caused a significant barrier in your life where you feel unable to move forward, this might be a sign that counselling could be beneficial for you. It can be difficult to imagine a future without the person or thing you are grieving, and over time, if this feeling stays stuck, it can lead to developing signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, counselling can help you to build a life around your grief, to continue to move forward with your plan and to feel more hopeful again about the future.

It’s common to feel like there’s nothing to look forward to after a loss, but if these feelings persist for more than a year, it can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing and on how you interact with those around you. Grief counselling can help you refocus on what is good in light, even at times when you feel like there is no more good.

3. You haven’t grieved at all

Whilst some people get seemingly stuck in a pit of grief, others don’t seem to grieve at all. If you’ve experienced a significant loss but seem to have moved on without it really affecting you too much, it might not be a good sign. It is natural to push feelings of grief away; many people might push their feelings away because there is so much work to do after loss through death, e.g. taking care of other people grieving, organising a funeral, arranging inheritance etc. Conversely, some people might be used to pushing away difficult emotions as they may never have learned how to process them, and some might feel their life circumstances simply don’t warrant the time to grieve etc. Whatever the reason, if grief or any difficult emotions are pushed away and not processed, it is likely that emotion did not go away but got temporarily buried.

Signs that your grief has not been processed but has been buried include avoiding places or things that remind you of your loss for fear of triggering the unprocessed grief. Over time, the thought of revisiting that grief can become more and more daunting and your avoidance behaviours can become more and more limiting. However, taking some time to gradually process that grief in a safe space with a counsellor can help you to finally move forward. The sessions are done at your pace and you will learn lots of techniques in the sessions to help you manage feelings that come up in the session in a way that feels controlled and manageable.

4. You’re exhibiting signs of depression

Sometimes, people conflate grief with depression and treat the two as if they’re the same, but they’re not. When you’re grieving, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed, but it can be common for people who are grieving to become depressed. If you are experiencing depression symptoms, bereavement therapy might be able to help you (along with a number of other therapies and treatments depending on your unique circumstances). If you feel the following, you might have depression:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Lack of pleasure or enjoyment
  • Low motivation
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Being hard on yourself
  • Feeling like you’ve let yourself or others down
  • Difficulties with your sleep
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Irritable and frustrated easily

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have depression, but many people with these symptoms will likely benefit from professional support. The treatment for depression varies, but if your depression is related to grief and loss, grief counselling can help you to better understand some of the emotions you’re feeling and how to cope with them.

5. Your work is being affected by your grief

In the early stages of grief, it’s natural to need to take some time off work or studying to be able to deal with what has happened. You might feel like you’re in a daze and like your emotions are unpredictable and intense. This is normal and is a good reason to take some time off following a loss, but if you find that after months have passed you’re still feeling unmotivated, distracted, and highly emotional, it might start to take a toll on your work or studies.

This can have a negative impact on your overall performance and cause issues later down the line. Grief counselling can help you process some of your emotions and ensure that your work and studies aren’t negatively impacted by your grief and that your grief isn’t holding you back in other areas of your life.

6. You feel guilty

There are lots of reasons why you might feel guilty after suffering a loss. If you’ve lost someone close to you, you might feel guilty if they died while you were on bad terms and you didn’t have enough time to rectify your differences. You might also feel guilty that you couldn’t prevent their death, or that you experience feelings of happiness even though they’re no longer here.

If you are grieving the loss of a relationship, you might feel guilty if you think you are the reason the relationship failed, or that you didn’t do enough to save it. This type of guilt can weigh heavy on your mind, so it’s important you deal with these feelings and understand why you might feel guilty and how to overcome them.

In these instances, grief therapy can help you tackle your feelings of guilt, explore why you feel that way, and overcome being guilt ridden.

7. You are struggling to do everyday things

In the first couple of weeks following a loss, there’s every chance you won’t be up to doing everyday tasks like cleaning, going to work, or socialising. You might even struggle with eating and sleeping. If you find yourself unable to eat, sleep, work, clean, or interact with other people like you normally would after a few months, bereavement counselling might be a good option. It’s important to take care of yourself, and if you begin to isolate yourself, stop eating properly, or stop sleeping well, you may find that you are dealing with a number of other issues, both mental and physical.

Seeing a grief counsellor can help you get back to your old self and learn to live again, despite your loss. This is important for your sense of identity and worth.

Grief Counselling at Psymplicity Healthcare

At Psymplicity Healthcare, we specialise in grief counselling. We have a team of 30 bereavement counsellors who are experienced in helping you come to terms with your grief. Our compassion-first approach has helped more than 8,000 clients through the darkest times in their lives.

We help our clients go through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), ensuring they are able to feel comfortable with their emotions and confront their feelings directly, and above help, making sure they can move on in spite of their loss.

If you’re struggling with grief and think you could benefit from bereavement counselling, get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help you.

Picture of Mavish S

Mavish S

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity. Since beginning undergraduate studies 13 years ago, Mavish has worked in various mental health settings within the charity, NHS and private sector. Mavish’s passion for learning and professional growth has led to a vastness of experience and accelerated growth in her career while delivering one-to-one therapy, group workshops, training and supervision for professionals and senior team management. Mavish is a keen writer and writes many of the articles on our website, as well of our self-help resources.

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