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Grief Counseling and Treatment

Grief Counseling and Treatment

Out of all the colorful emotions that you go through during the human experience, grief can be one of the most complicated and difficult to handle. It’s something that everyone will experience at some point, and it can sometimes creep in or it can sometimes come as a complete and total surprise. Grief is such a multifaceted emotion that most people who deal with it in a healthy manner will work through a five-part framework of emotions. Not everyone will experience these stages in equal measure, and sometimes they don’t even happen in the same order. If you’re having particular trouble with grief, you sometimes won’t even be experiencing these healthy stages.

No matter how you experience grief, it always helps to talk to someone about your feelings and work through them. With an expert online counselor, you can have someone you can turn to and talk to as you deal with this harrowing emotional endeavor. As you work with someone, you’re likely still going to go through these stages, so it helps to know what to expect. We outline these stages in more depth below.

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What are the Stages of Grief?

Grief is always a unique experience for everyone. With that being said, these five stages of grief are by no means a rule. They’re merely something to help you better understand what you might be feeling. You may experience all of these stages or you may miss some of them. You may follow them in this precise order or you may feel some emotions before others.

No matter how or when you go through these stages, it helps to be familiar with them. By understanding what emotions you’re feeling, you’ll be better equipped to handle life-altering experiences like the loss of a loved one. Let’s take a look at each stage in a little more detail.

Denial

Denial is often an individual’s initial response. Grief is an incredibly overwhelming emotion, and there’s only so much emotion you can process at once. Thus, your mind goes to a place where the loss feels less than real. You’re in a borderline state of shock and your mind is preparing itself to be able to handle the bigger emotions as time goes on. Once you work past the denial stage and the numbness begins to recede, you’ll slowly start working through the reality of the situation with the other stages.

Anger

Although anger is sometimes a dangerous emotion, in the case of grief it can often be a healthy one. Typically, we keep our anger bottled up. You might get angry at someone cutting you off in traffic, but you don’t let that anger run wild. When it comes to grief, your anger gives you some direction and wakes you out of the initial shock of the denial phase. It’s important to deal with this anger and feel it fully. Learning to manage this anger will help you along in the healing process, as you begin to face some of the more nuanced and complicated emotions to come.

Bargaining

Bargaining can be synonymous with a feeling of helplessness. You feel like you would do anything to prevent what happened. You come up with scenarios in your head that would change inevitable outcomes. In this stage, you’re trying to come up with things you could have done differently. You may even experience another complicated emotion -- guilt -- during this phase. Bargaining is what helps us realize that these scenarios aren’t realistic and that the past isn’t movable. It helps us gradually make our way toward acceptance and the realization that nothing could be done.

Depression

This stage may be the easiest to understand when going through a loss, and it also tends to last the longest before final acceptance. Many of the previous stages can even be felt before you lose your loved one, if they’re going through something like a terminal illness. Depression is when you understand the loss, know there’s nothing to be done, and feel empty inside from it. Depression in the long-term is something to be concerned about, but depression in regards to the loss of a loved one is normal, and to be expected. Depression may be one of the most painful parts of the grieving and healing process, but it’s one of the most necessary as well.

Acceptance

Finally, once you’ve fully dealt with the tragedy of losing a loved one, you move on to acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your loved one or that you’re alright with what happened, it just means that you’ve faced the reality of the loss and are now prepared for what life is like beyond that person. You’re sure to still remember them, think of them fondly, have other emotions associated with them, and feel pangs of that loss throughout your life. But by reaching acceptance, you’ll learn to continue to live your life to the best of your ability, grow as a person, and learn to live in a healthy state of mind. There will always be a bad day here or there where you miss your loved one, but the good ones will outnumber them by far.

Healing From the Loss of a Loved One

Healing from the loss of a loved one is no easy task for anyone. It takes an emotional and sometimes physical toll on an individual. Running through this gamut of feelings while continuing to live your everyday life can feel impossible at times.

It’s important to remember that healing is possible and that everyone experiences grief, albeit in different ways. If you’re dealing with grief, you too can come out the other side a happy and healthy individual.

The Physical Symptoms of Grieving

It’s important to keep in mind that although it is a largely mental experience, it can manifest physically too. Stress is an inherent part of the grieving process, and stress is able to cause a wide variety of physical symptoms. It’s good to know these symptoms so you can identify them as you’re grieving.

Some physical symptoms might include:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Insomnia
  • Change in eating habits

In some rare cases, you may even experience shortness of breath, panic attacks, and chest pain. In these instances, it’s important to call for medical attention. Dealing with physical symptoms is just as important as dealing with the mental aspect. Making sure to get proper rest, a proper diet, and exercise will help you stay as healthy as possible throughout the healing process.

Dealing with Death Through Psychotherapy

If you’re having trouble dealing with the loss of a loved one and the grieving process, it never hurts to look for outside help. Talking to a psychotherapist can be an incredibly helpful tool to help you process your emotions in a healthy way and work through healing. Psychotherapy allows you to talk through everything and get a better understanding of how to deal with death. If you’re ready to talk to a counselor and start dealing with your grief in a healthy manner, then get in touch with 7 Cups. You can speak with a licensed therapist online who is ready to listen and give you the expert advice you need to cope, heal, and become mentally healthy. And if you aren’t ready to take the step to talk with a therapist, you can chat or text with one of our listeners. Sign up today for free for more information about therapy and treatment options.

Featured Contributors

Jamie Rautenberg, LCSW

Jamie is a licensed clinical social worker and holistic life coach with 10 years of experience blending her background in the arts with her education to best meet her clients needs.

Lisa Meighan, MBPsS

Lisa is a licensed mental health counselor with an eclectic style of therapy to fit every client

Melissa Muller, LMHC

Melissa is a licensed mental health counselor and supervisor in the state of Florida.

Rachel Cherry White

Rachel Cherry White has a degree in Family & Community Services and is a strong proponent of psychological well being, truly believing that everyone can and should live their best life.