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Loss and grief and perhaps grief counseling are inevitable at some time in everyone's life.
From pets to close friends and family, from moving countries to changing schools, by death of a loved one or after community disaster.
It is present getting married (no longer single) and in divorce (no longer married).
The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.
Everyone experiences and expresses grief in their own way, often shaped by how their culture honors the process or not. It is not uncommon for a person to withdraw from their friends and family and feel helpless; some might be angry and want to take action.
One can expect a wide range of emotion and behavior. In all places and cultures, the grieving person benefits from the support of others .
Where that is lacking, grief counseling may provide an avenue for healthy resolution. Similarly, where the process of grieving is interrupted for example, by simultaneously having to deal with practical issues of survival or by being the strong one and holding a family together, it can remain unresolved and later resurface as an issue for counseling.
Grief counseling becomes necessary when a person is so disabled by their grief, overwhelmed by loss to the extent that their normal coping processes are disabled or shut down.
Grief counseling facilitates: expression of emotion and thought about the loss, including sadness, anxiety, anger, loneliness, guilt, relief, isolation, confusion, or numbness. It includes thinking creatively about the challenges that follow loss, and coping with concurrent changes in their lives.
Often people feel disorganized, tired, have trouble concentrating, sleep poorly and have vivid dreams, change in appetite. These too are addressed in counseling.
Grief counseling facilitates the process of resolution in the natural reactions to loss. It is appropriate for reaction to losses that occurred in the distant or recent past that have overwhelmed a person's coping ability.
There are considerable resources on line covering grief or loss counseling such as the Grief Counseling Resource Guide from the New York State Office of Mental Health.
Grief counseling may be called upon when a person suffers anticipatory grief, for example an intrusive and frequent worry about a loved one's whose death is neither imminent nor likely. Anticipatory mourning also occurs when a loved one has a terminal illness. This can handicap that person's ability to stay present whilst simultaneously holding onto, letting go of, and drawing closer to the dying relative.
There is a distinction between grief counseling and grief therapy.
Counseling involves helping people move through uncomplicated, or normal, grief to health and resolution.
Grief therapy involves the use of clinical tools for traumatic or complicated grief reactions.
This could occur where the grief reaction is prolonged or manifests itself through some bodily or behavioral symptom, or by a grief response outside the range of cultural or psychiatrically defined normality.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Model
I use the Kubler-Ross model frequently in my work with my domestic violence clients, who have many ungrieved losses.
Her model has five stages;
I teach this because I want my clients to have knowledge about the rhyme and reason of the grieving process emotionally. With that knowledge, they can understand that it has a purpose and schedule, and while it is strong at first, it will run its course and can be managed.
Lots of my clients are afraid that intense feelings will make then unproductive or will overtake their life. Some clients are overwhelmed when a new loss brings up the unfinished grief from an old loss and two losses are being grieved at the same time.
I explain that that is normal, and with a little attention one can tease out which pain to attend to currently.
The most important information that I want to communicate is that not completing this process will inhibit the ability to come close in a later relationship.
Grief is a vital part of the human experience, and teaches me about what is truely important. I can make changes in my behaviors based on that experience.
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