The decision to seek out counseling is always a wise one but when it comes to grief counseling, it is almost essential. Most of our friends and family members want us to be okay and while our support system can be there for us, they are often unprepared for the depth of emotion that we may express while stricken with grief. Let’s face it, grief can be a very messy process.
In the first session, the therapist may explain the five stages of grief which are denial anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. While you are probably aware of these stages have you ever given any thought to what these stages are about? Generally speaking, the stages of grief are really about our reactions to having to accept a loss. Grief is about the realization that we need to let go.
The therapist will more than likely ask you about the loss and about how your life is now. As you get into this conversation, you will begin to tap into the emotions connected to the loss. This means you will be in touch with your own anger and sadness as well as other feelings that will be more specific to your situation and loss. You may experience emotional outbursts like crying or yelling and these expressions should never be censored. Believe me, you are not going to be the first person your therapist ever counseled through an emotional expression and you certainly won’t be the last. There is a reason for that box of tissues on every flat surface in a therapist’s office!
Most individuals find it very reassuring to be allowed to express emotions – regardless of the size and scope – in a supportive non-judgmental guilt-free atmosphere and this is oftentimes one of the most helpful aspects of grief counseling.
You may find yourself needing to tell the story of your loss or of your experiences before your loss over and over again. Don’t be judgmental of this aspect of grief counselling, it is all a part of the letting go process. You may need reassurance or assistance in accepting life as it is now. Perhaps you will need help in accepting that life can still be enjoyable and exciting. A therapist trained in grief counseling will be able to help you navigate all of these emotions and fears associated with grieving.
At the end of the session, you will probably feel exhausted. Most people are not aware that processing deep emotions is a very strenuous process. Plan to take care of yourself and to treat yourself with as much nurturing and compassion as you can. Grief and letting go are some of the most difficult things to process. Don’t let yourself go it alone, you will find some relief after your very first session with a trained grief counselor.