Grief therapy is offered at our Downtown Chicago office and Northside Ravenswood Chicago location.
The purpose of this type of counseling is to help you learn to cope more effectively with pain after loss. This may include helping you learn more about the process of your mourning, find purpose in your life, adjust to a new reality, assess for potential depression or self-harm, and explore ways to move past intense and paralyzing feelings. Grief counseling’s aim is not to forget, but to help you come to terms with the missing part of your life and learn to live again.
Group therapy is another option for those experiencing grief. This can help people learn about ways that other people are dealing with their struggles and shows them they are not alone in their feelings. Family therapy can be helpful for families who are struggling to learn to connect with each other and adjust to new patterns after a loss.
The main goal of any type of grief therapy is to help create a space to remember and respect your loss, while looking towards the future and learning how to experience happiness again after sorrow.
Helpful information on understanding the grieving process.
What is grief?
Grief is the distress, anxiety, or sorrow that occurs when we lose someone or something important to us. It is a shared human experience, as most of us will lose someone or something that matters a great deal to us during our lifetimes. Although it is often associated with the death of a loved one, grief can also occur after any type of loss, including the end of a relationship, diminished function due to illness, or lingering trauma from a difficult experience. We may grieve to lose a sense of security, an ability to trust other people, or a belief in a particular tradition or religion.
No matter the root cause, grief can produce deep feelings of sadness, helplessness, or depression. It can be helpful to learn more about how to recognize a normal grieving process, how to spot complicated grief, how to cope with grief, and how to know when grief counseling is appropriate.
What are the symptoms of grief?
An important thing to remember about grief is that not everyone experiences it in the same ways. Differences are present due to cultural traditions and values, family customs, personality traits, and communication styles. For example, a person who tends towards practical action may grieve by planning a memorial service, going for a run to release emotional energy, or working to carry out everyday tasks. A person who tends towards emotions and relationships may grieve by crying and talking about their loss with friends and family or investing in the lives of others who have experienced grief. Either of these styles of coping is fine as long as the person grieving is able to deal with their pain and work towards a point of functioning regularly.
Some people experience grief that seems to knock them down. It leads to habits such as not eating enough, eating too much, having a hard time getting out of bed, forgetting to take care of personal hygiene, shirking work or other responsibilities, lashing out in anger, or constantly crying. People may have intense feelings of shock, numbness, guilt, lethargy, or yearning. Loss can be devastating and initial reactions such as these can be normal parts of the grieving process. This process may last different lengths of time in different situations, but there is a point when it is no longer healthy for a person to remain unable to move forward in their process. This is an indication of complicated grief.
What is complicated or prolonged grief?
As mentioned above, it is important for people to be able to grieve in the way that is most healing for them. However, if grief becomes complicated or prolonged, it is important to seek out professional help to receive extra support in working towards recovery and health. If gone unchecked, this type of grief can disrupt a person’s ability to function emotionally, socially, physically and vocationally. It can also lead to mental health conditions, such as major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The following is a list of some symptoms that could be a sign of complicated grief:
- Inability to experience interest in things that used to be pleasurable or interesting
- Prolonged avoidance of reminders of loss or inability to talk about loss
- Intense anger
- Incapability to have happy memories or thoughts
- Feeling empty or meaningless
- Continued preoccupation with thoughts of suffering or death
- Extreme change in appetites or sleep patterns
- Reckless or violent behaviors
- Excessive drinking or drug use
- Suicidal thoughts
Not all of these symptoms mean that a person is experiencing unhealthy or complicated grief, but if they persist in intensity, completely governing a person’s life for an extended amount of time, it is important to seek professional counseling to work through the grieving process therapeutically.
Coping With Grief
When we say that we are coping with grief, we do not mean that the grief will disappear entirely. Those who have lost an important person or integral part of their lives know that they will always miss that previous part of themselves. Coping with grief does not mean forgetting or never suffering from this particular loss again, but it does mean accepting the experience and learning how to live beyond it. It means the agonizing longing for the person or thing lost does not remain consistently a part of every moment. The following are some ways that people have learned to cope with their grief.
Letting go of pride and independence can be difficult, but during hard times, we often need to draw on strength outside of ourselves. Sources of support can include friends, family members, religious organizations, prayer, support groups, and grief counseling.
Take care of your physical health.
This is something often neglected during times of stress and sadness, but taking care of your body can influence your emotional health. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising helps you have the strength you need to deal with emotional pain.
Don’t let grief triggers surprise you.
For those who have lost a loved one, anniversaries, holidays, or other specific dates can be exceptionally difficult. Each type of grief has its own triggers that intensify old memories and feelings of loss. Ways to prepare can include talking with loved ones about expectations and making space on certain hard days to honor your loss.
Face your feelings.
Covering up the sadness and grief only postpones the inevitable eruption. Ways to resolve feelings and face them include talking to supportive loved ones, grief counseling, writing a letter saying the things you never got to say, keeping a journal of your feelings, and expression through art or music.
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Note: Submission of contact form does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship with Bergen Counseling Center. All information contained on this page is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for treatment. If you are in acute distress or crisis, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.