Angie's LIST Guide to
Grief and counseling
Grief involves a set of emotions that follow a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or even following a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado. Grief counseling helps a bereaved person understand and process the stages of grief. The best grief counselors become a teacher or guide to people experiencing the mourning process. Rather than telling people how they should feel following a loss, the counselor helps them identify the emotions they are feeling.
A counselor provides information and support throughout the states of bereavement. Often a grieving person doen't understand the grieving process. Well-meaning people may try to convince the person that grieving won't help or suggest it's time to move on, but these approaches rarely help. To this end, the counselor becomes the compassionate companion that the bereaved needs to work through the process.
The grief counselor can help with practical matters such as giving advice about dealing with everyday tasks, which can be overwhelming during this period. The counselor may also refer the grieving person to a professional like a medical doctor or nutritionist if his or her health is suffering as a result of grief.
Finally, the grieving person learns how to express grief in a healthy way through counseling. Many people are confused and overwhelmed by the grieving process. Counseling helps the client understand that the feelings of sadness, guilt, isolation, numbness and loneliness associated with grief are very normal and that they fade with time.
When to seek grief counseling
Grief counseling helps people experiencing the five stage of grief as outlined by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. More specifically, this type of counseling can help a person work through the last stages of a divorce, try to move on after a loved one dies or help rebuild a life after it's shattered by natural disaster or even a violent event like an attack or a rape.
Additionally, counseling may help a person experiencing complicated grief. This type occurs when people experiencing grief cannot move past it, often in the aftermath of a sudden death of a loved one from homicide or the death of a child. Typically, a person in the throes of this type of grief lingers on the thoughts of the loved one for months and even years. He or she feels numb and often wishes to have died in place of or along with the loved one. The grieving person may consider suicide when dealing with complicated grief, and a counselor provides support for this and other issues.
Finding a grief counselor
Uou can find a grief counselor in different ways. Many of these professionals are associated with hospice organizations, hospitals, shelters, churches or funeral homes. Look to Angie's List for a listing of grief counselor in your area and peruse their certifications, affiliations, reviews and ratings.
As with most counseling situations, the bereaved should determine whether he or she is comfortable with the counselor and feels that that person is trustworthy. Grief is a deeply personal process, and even the grieving person may not feel comfortable with all the emotions that are emerging. To this end, find out what the counselor's experience is in helping a person through grief. Ask what kind of training and experience the counselor has in regard to grief.
The patient should also discuss fees and find out if the counselor takes insurance or has a fee structure that the patient can pay. If not, the patient can ask about financial aid. Additionally, the client should about initial sessions with the counselor to see if they are compatible. Sometimes a person can know whether a therapist is the right one only after a few sessions.
Finally, group counseling can also be helpful, and the bereaved can find groups at the same organizations in which he finds individual counselors. Hearing other people's stories of loss can be very healing because the grieving person learns that he or she is not alone.