When to Seek Help When Grieving
Updated: May 8, 2020
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Distinguishing between grief counselling and grief therapy can help with determining the type of support someone might be looking for. Most people will be able to grieve, mourn, and adjust with grief on their own. Sometimes a counsellor will be able to bear witness to this grief and help with finding a new balance.
Grief counselling can be helpful in that it can provide a safe place to talk about the loss, a different place to mourn, or simply to have a non-judgmental, caring witness to your experiences. Your grief counsellor can provide you this space to listen and allow for the experience to unfold.
Grief therapy is usually necessary when a person is suffering from complicated grief.
Complicated Grief (also called Prolonged Grief Disorder/Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder) was rejected for the DSM-V but is similar to PTSD. In general, people are very resilient and are able to use existing resources or supports to cope with loss and move to a transcending way of living with the loss. However, for some grief reactions go on for very long periods of time and prevent the person from living a life at all! They get stuck and often it looks similar to depression and trauma. If there is trauma involved that has impacted the ability to mourn, this can be addressed using trauma therapies.
Therapy can be helpful in helping the body, mind, and spirit process and adjust to the impact of complicated grief. I use a combination of somatic processing and expressive arts therapies to help a person connect to the body and then integrate the experience so that a person can grieve the loss. It’s possible to feel stuck or overwhelmed by the experience and it can be helpful to have a guide in exploring this to find a new balance. You can become more mindful and aware of what’s happening, even when it feels too big and powerful.
Maercker, A., & Lalor, J. (2012). Diagnostic and clinical considerations in prolonged grief disorder. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2), 167–176.