Each individual person reacts differently to the death of a family member or friend, according to the American Psychological Association. There is no template that all people must follow when it comes to grieving the death of an important person in your life. Extensive research on the subject of death and grief reveals that provided an individual has healthy habits and positive social support, most people eventually do recover from the death of a loved one. With that said, there are many individuals who find themselves truly struggling to effectively grieve the death of a family member or friend. In these situations, a person should give serious consideration to reaching out to a grief counselor for support, guidance, and assistance. 

In contemplating how a grief counselor may be of assistance to you following a loved one’s passing, three points of discussion are helpful:

  • Understanding grieving
  • Specific signs grief counseling is advisable
  • Five strategies for healthy grieving

Understanding Grieving: Five Stags of the Grief Process

In many ways, grief is an elusive thing. As noted previously, every individual has a singular, unique response to the death of a family member or friend. Simply, we all grieve differently. 

With that noted, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross conceived five stages of grief. The five stages of grief provide a conceptual framework through which we are able to consider how an individual is working through the grieving process. The five stages of grief are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

One common misconception about the five stages of grief is that they occur in the order just presented. In fact, even the manner in which an individual goes through the five stages of grief varies from one person to another. In addition, a grieving person might also experience more than one stage of grief simultaneously. 

A Dozen Signs Grief Counseling Is Advisable

While there exists a multitude of indicators that an individual may benefit from grief counseling, there are a dozen more commonplace signs that grief counseling is advisable. These are:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Difficulty in completing basic tasks
  • Persistent disbelief that the loved one is gone
  • Frequenting familiar locations thinking you’re loved one will be there
  • Substance abuse
  • Others express concern about your wellbeing
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of support from others
  • Unexplained illness
  • Bereavement guilt
  • Intrusive thoughts

Some individuals are so persistently overwhelmed with the loss of a loved one that they experience suicidal thoughts or even suicidal ideations. When this type of situation exists, a person is strongly advised to seek professional assistance, including from a grief counselor, immediately. 

Persistent anxiety represents another reason why grief counseling should be sought. Persistent anxiety oftentimes manifests itself as insomnia, anger, loss of appetite, irritability, or panic attacks. Problems with completing basic tasks can even include keeping up with basic hygiene. 

A prime indicator that grief counseling is advisable is a pervasive inability to accept the fact that a loved one is deceased. On a related note, the assistance of a grief counselor is wise if a person returns to locales of importance during the deceased loved one’s life thinking that the person who passed away somehow will be there. 

Substance abuse frequently occurs when an individual is unable to grieve the loss of a loved one in a healthy manner. In addition to a grief counselor, a person in such a position may also need to access professional substance abuse assistance.

 If people around you express concern about your wellbeing, professional grief counseling may be in order. Yet another indicator that professional grief counseling may be wise is if an individual becomes significantly socially withdrawn. If an individual disconnects from other individuals that historically had been important parts of that person’s life, grief counseling may be helpful.

Unfortunately, there are many people who lack support systems, even when a person has lost a loved one. When a person who has had a loved one die lacks another individual in his or her life that can provide support following that death, a reasonable alternative is to seek professional assistance from a grief counselor. 

Experiencing unexplained illnesses following the death of a loved one can be indicative of the need for grief counseling. What is known as bereavement guilt is an indication that grief counseling can be helpful. Finally, a person consistently plagued with intrusive thoughts about the deceased individual or death more generally can be in need of grief counseling.

In addition to individual grief therapy, there is another type of support option for you following the death of a loved one. Therapeutic grief groups have become increasingly more widely available in the past decade. In some instances, an individual who has lost a family member or friend can benefit by undertaking both individual grief therapy and participating in group grief therapy as well.