Coping with the loss of a loved one is arguably one of the hardest things one will ever face. Also inevitable is the grief that comes along with it. Grieving is an intensely personal process; despite the wide range of resources available—much of which can be helpful and comforting—therapists offering grief counselling know that there is no one “rule book” outlining the right way, or optimal timeline one must walk through in grieving the loss of a loved one. The road to recovery can be long and bumpy, but human beings are resilient, do recover, and move on to live well-adjusted lives.
There are times, however, when grief becomes overwhelming, even immobilizing. Depression can set in for a number of reasons, often leaving the sufferer “stuck” and needing help to move on: This is where grief counselling can prove to be immensely helpful in that it facilitates moving in a positive direction on the road to recovery. Grief counselling essentially supports someone being able to face, and work through, the many, complicated, and often conflicting emotions associated with the loss of a loved one by helping:
Identify feelings: The range of emotions that one goes through when grieving can itself make it difficult to isolate or identify what one is feeling from one day to the next—emotions can become muddled, leaving the person suffering to simply feel numb. Being able to “talk it out” in the context of grief counselling can be an effective way, with time, to identify both immediate feelings, as well as those significant enough to be holding one back from recovery; some studies have consistently linked being able to name emotions with feeling calmer.
“Normalize” feelings: Many suffering from loss may experience emotions they are not even aware they could—or should be! It is particularly important, especially for someone stuck in depression, to understand that there are no right or wrong feelings when it comes to grieving. Grief counselling helps walk people through their grief by normalizing and validating all feelings.
Express feelings: Expressing feelings can be difficult at the best of times. People are encouraged in grief counselling to express all their feelings, whatever they may be. While this can be verbal, sometimes other methods of expression work equally well: Writing letters, drawing, revisiting memories through photos, or physically visiting the final resting place of a loved one are all valid ways that people find release of emotions.
Move through feelings: People do move through various stages in the grieving process. While different variables determine the number or order of stages, or even the length of time spent going through a stage—denial, anger, guilt, depression, and so on—the ultimate goal is acceptance of a “new normal” and ability to move on in a healthy manner.
Promote positive feelings: Part of moving on is adopting habits and attitudes that both remember and honour the missed loved one, but also allow one to, in some ways, build an identity that is content and fulfilled without him or her. Exercise, eating well, and rest are the basics to positive feelings or self-regard; helping others, and “giving back” are also healthy ways that promote self-satisfaction and good-will, and long term contentment.
As painful as the reality of losing a loved one is, the remarkable strength that we hold inside of us can be surprising. That person you hold so dear to you will live on forever in your heart, but that doesn’t mean you have to remain stuck in the grieving stage. Tragedy is a part of life, but so is toughing it out through the storm to find the calm waves once again.