Counseling for Grief

I’ve provided counseling for grief issues many times in my career as a therapist.  Typical grief is related to someone we care about passing away.  But there are other types of grief that people have to deal with as well.  This could be considered more of a loss than a death.  This could be due to divorce, moving, a best friend moving, losing a job, and more.

Sometimes there are more complicated situations such as an impending death of a loved one with a terminal illness.  Here, though, I’ll stick to discussing counseling for typical grief.  There are a lot of resource available about dealing with grief, such as the four stages of grief:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining,  and Acceptance.  Actually a fifth element has been added called renewed purpose.  This is where once you’ve gone through the grief process, you might take on a new purpose.  

How Does Counseling Help?

People come in for counseling often wanting to get over their grief.  They want to stop feeling bad.  My experience is that it’s basically impossible to turn off these emotions and might not be healthy if we could.  it helps to accept the way we feel, but trust the feelings will start to dissipate with coming weeks. Eventually, you won’t have such gut wrenching pain.  

As a solution focused therapist, one thing I ask clients is how they will first notice their grief feelings going away.  They often state that the pain or loss wont be the first thing they think about when they wake up in the morning. And, it won’t be the last thing they think about when they fall asleep.  They will notice they might go fifteen minutes before those thoughts come flooding in.  But at least this is a sign they are getting through it and starting to feel some kind of normalcy.

Grief From Divorce

In dealing with grief of a divorce, there can be many factors to consider—loss of relationship, loss of time with kids, feeling betrayed, etc.  This can obviously lead to lots of negative emotions.  From my experience, you have to feel the emotions until you don’t—no shortcuts.  If you accept your emotions and stay aware of how they may your attitude and decision making, you will eventually find the new normal and start to look forward to new possibilities.  Sometimes this means finding a new purpose, or starting new traditions, hobbies, etc.  

There have been polls taken of people who went through grief and came out the other side.  They were asked what they found to be the most helpful as they went through it.  Most people said that talking about their situation (maybe venting is a better word) helped the most. Just telling your story, sometimes over and over seems to be very healing. This might mean feeling like a broken record, or feeling like you’re annoying your friends, coworkers, family, and even your therapist.  But it’s still important. 

Why Talking About It Helps

When my therapy clients have a stressful time in between appointments, they start talking immediately about the events that happened.  Their speech is faster than normal and they seem to be just getting the story out in one long breath without breaks.  I usually take this as my cue to just listen and let them finish.  I can tell when they start to slow down or start taking some deep breathes that they are about done and then I can interject with my own questions of comments.  But I can observe a sense of relief just in telling the story.  

Of course, just telling the story or venting isn’t what counseling is about.  My job is to help you gain some sense of what you can do to cope with the situation in a healthy way.  And later on to help you take more control of the situation so you control the situation instead of it controlling you.

If you are going through a situation, or change that involves struggling with grief, feel free to contact me and see if I can be of use.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, teenagers, and adults.  He can help with anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, relationship problems, and more.  For more information, please visit the website at