Grief is the normal and expected reaction when someone perceives the loss of a loved one or situation. A loss could be experienced in a variety of situations such as a divorce, moving away, the loss of a relationship, job loss, and the death of a loved one. When you grieve a loss, you may experience a variety of symptoms such as deep sadness, loss of sleep, ruminating thoughts around the loss, and isolating from others. For the most part grief is transitory and will improve over time without the help of a professional counselor. So, when should you seek assistance from a professional counselor?
Thoughts of Harming Yourself or Others
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others then it is important to seek out professional support immediately. It is important to tell someone you trust and to make an appointment with a professional who you can talk to about these thoughts and feelings. You do not need to go through this alone. If you are in immediate need, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 where you can talk to a crisis worker who can stay on the phone with you until you receive more immediate support.
Your Grief feels Overwhelming and Unmanageable
It is normal to feel a wide range of emotions while you grieve a loss such as deep sadness, anger, guilt, and sometimes even relief. If you ever feel overwhelmed or these emotions feel unmanageable then seeking out the support of a professional counselor may be beneficial. A professional counselor can help you cope with all of the different emotions you may be having in a warm, non-judgmental atmosphere and will allow you to grieve in your own time and pace.
Lack of Emotional or Social Support
We all need someone to talk to when we have experienced a loss. Many of us can call a friend or family member when we need to talk to someone supportive. Unfortunately, not everyone has the social support that will allow them to seek that comfort. Maybe you just moved to a new city or your family is just not capable of providing the support you need. A professional counselor provides you a place where you can get support around your loss. Your counselor may even be able to provide you with additional resources such as support groups where you get support from others who are grieving a similar loss.
Unhealthy Coping Strategies or Behavioral Changes
If you have notice unusual behavioral changes or others have pointed out some unhealthy coping strategies such as drinking far more or more often, talking with a professional may help. Your counselor can help you learn healthier coping strategies and help you get to feelings that need to be expressed but may be too painful.
Changes in Your Relationships
Sometimes grieving a loss can start to interfere with relationships in your life. Speaking with a counselor can help you to learn new ways to communicate and to provide you the space to process your grief and relational difficulties.
Not everyone who is grieving a loss needs to seek grief counseling but there are some instances where seeking professional support can help you process your grief. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist and going to counseling does not mean you are “crazy.” Everyone needs a little extra support at times and a counselor can provide that when it is needed.
Sarah Netzky, MA is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a practice focus on grief and bereavement. She helps individuals navigate the perosal, relational and cultural challenges of grieving and also runs two grief groups; one for general loss and another specific to prenatal, perinatal and infant loss. To make an appointment with Sarah you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.