13 Signs You Should Seek Grief Counseling
Feeling sad after the death of a loved one is normal, but when symptoms of grief persist, you may need grief counseling to help you progress
Many factors can shape the way you react to the death of a loved one, such as your relationship to the deceased, your religious beliefs, and your previous experiences with death. Most people are able to work through the acute stages of grief within the first year. But others struggle and the sorrow lingers, even if they have a solid support system.
If your symptoms of bereavement persist over an extended period of time, dominate your thoughts, and interfere with daily tasks, you’re experiencing complicated grief. It may be time to consider a more formal intervention, such as a grief support group or grief counseling.
Recognizing you should seek grief counseling
Most people who’ve lost a loved one will benefit from talking with a qualified grief counselor, but if you’re experiencing severe emotional distress, grief counseling could be imperative. How can you tell if you need professional support? Here are 13 signs that indicate you should seek grief counseling:
You’re having suicidal thoughts and/or persistent feelings of depression.
You’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of distress, such as crying, insomnia, loss of appetite, increased irritability and anger, or panic attacks.
You’re struggling to complete everyday tasks, including basic self-care.
You can’t believe that your loved one is really dead.
You frequent familiar places, hoping to see your departed loved one there, or avoid locations and situations that may remind you of your loss.
You’re abusing substances, like alcohol or drugs, or engaging in addictive behaviors, like gambling.
You’re worried about yourself, and/or others have expressed concern for your well-being.
You’re withdrawn and avoiding social interaction.
You don’t have family or friends to support you, or the people in your life can’t sustain the support you need over the course of a lengthy grieving process.
You’re suffering from unexplained illnesses.
You’ve experienced multiple losses in a short period of time.
You’re feeling bereavement guilt, possibly blaming yourself for your loved one’s death or grappling with regret about your relationship with the deceased.
You’re plagued with intrusive thoughts, such as reliving the circumstances of your loved one’s death.
If you decide to seek grief counseling, you’ll find numerous grief support options, both in person and online.
Grief counseling: In this form of therapy, you meet one-on-one with a counselor to talk about your feelings, and he or she will suggest coping strategies to help process your grief.
Grief support groups: Led by a trained facilitator, a grief support group can offer a safe place to work through your emotions with people who can empathize with your struggle. Our Grief Support Group search box on this page can help you find a group in your state.
Online support forums: For people with limited time or mobility, online support groups and forums provide access to help and information from home. They allow you to participate as much or as little as you wish, by simply reading posts or actively sharing your story and offering encouragement to others.
Grief counseling: Many therapists offer one-one-one sessions by phone, FaceTime, Skype, or similar technologies. Besides the convenience factor, a virtual grief counselor may be the best option if you live in a rural area or community with limited mental health resources.
Grief support groups: If you want more structure than a forum but can’t attend a group in person, search for a grief support group that meets by video conference. You can join in real time or view a recording later.
No matter which method you choose, look for a counselor or group facilitator who has the proper training, credentials, and experience in bereavement. Feel free to walk away from any group, forum, or therapist if you don’t feel comfortable. It’s okay to try another group or therapist to find the right fit. What’s important is to find what you need to move forward and enjoy life again, while still cherishing the memories of your loved one.
This article may contain links to third party websites, but Great Western Insurance Company is neither responsible nor liable for their content, accuracy, or security. Review our Terms and Conditions to learn more.
Photo credit: Raw Pixel
Free My Careletter Program Helps Families Cope with Loss
Great Western Insurance Company created the My Careletter® program to help families cope with bereavement. It features 12 free, monthly newsletters about grief support that are sent following a loved one's funeral. Sign up to receive the newsletters in the mail or through email.
Sign Up for Free
Find Grief Support
Search for grief support resources, such as in-person groups, online forums, and phone hotlines, available in your area.
Preplanning after a Loss: How Do You Want to be Remembered?
After losing a loved one, it's natural to start wondering, 'How do I want to be remembered?' Preplanning can help you record your answers.
How to Apply 5 Stages of Grief to Your Grieving Process
A new look at the stages of grief model can make the pathway to healing less rocky when you're mourning a loved one.
Complicated Grief: How to Cope with Death
If the loss of a loved one consumes your mind and causes your relationships to suffer, you may be experiencing complicated grief.
Understanding and Coping with Grief Attacks
If you’re struggling with unmanageable grief attacks during bereavement, this guide can help you understand what grief panic attacks are and how to cope with them.
Grief Support is Available in More Ways than Ever
Grief support groups try to connect you with others, but not everyone feels comfortable sharing their emotions. That’s why finding the right format to receive grief support is as important as seeking it in the first place.
Understanding Bereavement Guilt
As you’re working through the stages of grief, it’s common to stir up bereavement guilt. To help you avoid being stuck in that phase for too long, we’ll help you understand what you’re feeling and how to cope.
Grief Books and Blogs for Coping with Loss
If you don’t have time to attend in-person grief support groups or seek grief counseling, the following grief books and blogs can offer assistance on your schedule.