When to Seek Grief Counseling

Grief is an inevitable part of life. Some think there is a cure for grief and they treat grief like a disease.

Grief counseling may or may not be beneficial to you. Most people are able to deal with most grief with their social network of family and friends. If you’re functioning normally, able to get out of bed, sleep, work, etc., you might not need grief counseling. However, if you’re having suicidal thoughts, can’t sleep, can’t eat, you require medical intervention. If there is any doubt, get to your doctor.

Some red flags are: Your mind speeds up. Your brain fixates on bad things. Your thoughts torture you. You think you’re a burden. You start to believe that no one cares about you. You’re convinced your family would be better off without you. You think you would be better off dead. You contemplate violence against yourself. SEE YOUR DOCTOR. You may even need medication.

Is Counseling Desirable?

Studies have shown that grief counseling is less beneficial than other types of mental health counseling. I don’t say that to discourage you from getting counseling. It can be quite beneficial.  It’s likely the studies show grief counseling to be less beneficial because, for most grief, grief is something that people naturally progress through. Grief counseling must be done at the proper time to have a positive impact. In some cases, grief counseling can even have a negative impact. This is particularly true with men. The message here is, “Do what works for you.”

Grief counseling is normally indicated in “complicated grief” which would include trauma (for example witnessing a horrific scene of a death), the loss of a child, or guilt associated with the passing of someone. If your 100-year-old grandma dies a natural death in her bed, chances are you will be able to deal with it on your own. If your child completes suicide, that might be a completely different story that demands some help.

How Grief Counselors May Help

Counseling can be providing a listening ear and nothing more. Friends can provide this.

Counselors cannot “fix” you, but they are trained listeners, and you might not feel as “needy” talking to someone you are paying to listen, rather than “burdening” friends and family. Also, counselors are not going through the grieving process like a friend or family may be with you. If your friend shared a special relationship with your loved one, they might not be in a position to help you while they are grieving themselves. When you are with a counselor, you can comfortably focus on you because that is what the counselor is being paid to do.

The Myth of Five Stages of Grief

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ famous five stages of death are stages of acceptance of death by the dying. They were never intended to describe to the grief process. Applying these stages to grief is a common mistake, even among many grief counselors. Misapplication of these stages can be harmful, setting people up to think their grief will have an orderly, linear progression. Your grief process will be unique. You may or not go through these stages.

Grief will most likely be a part of your life, in one way or another, for the rest of your life. The pain may or may not subside. It almost certainly will become more bearable.

Some say it recedes. I think this is a matter of perception. I believe for most of us what happens is we will learn to live with it. We make room for it. Our capacity to carry the pain increases. When you are weight lifting, a twenty-five-pound weight always weighs twenty-five pounds. But, working out every day with that twenty-five-pound weight strengthens your muscles, making that weight seem lighter. You eventually lift it with ease.

This is excerpted from Brian Smith’s book, Grief 2 Growth: Planted, Not Buried. How to Survive and Thrive After Life’s Greatest Challenges – Kindle edition by Smith, Brian D. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Read more by Brian Smith on Open to Hope: Crisis is a Chance to Address the Big Questions in Life – Open to Hope


Brian Smith

I am a Grief Guide, Life Purpose Coach, and Small Business Consultant. My mission is to help people rediscover who they are and why they are here. In those two questions lie the secrets to not only surviving this life but thriving.   If you're feeling "stuck", it's most likely because you have forgotten the answer to one or both of these questions.   My vision is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose and fulfillment. If we know the "why", we can endure any "how'. I want to remind everyone of their true nature and their reason for being.   I became well acquainted with grief in 2015 after the sudden passing of my fifteen-year-old daughter Shayna. After Shayna's passing, I felt my life was over. I had to learn to survive for the sake of my wife, Tywana, and my daughter, Kayla. I have studied the nature of life and death and how to progress through grief of all kinds from a job loss, divorce, illness, or the death of a loved one. I speak from experience of all of the above.   I provide a safe space where you can safely share what you are experiencing. I share techniques that I discovered and developed after my devastating loss. Perhaps most importantly, I can help you understand that death is not goodbye and that your relationship with your loved one can continue. Any ending is a new beginning. My understanding is not a religious-based belief, but a position arrived at based on reason and evidence.   Shortly after Shayna transitioned, I discovered Helping Parents Heal, a non-profit peer-to-peer support group for parents of children who have passed. I volunteer with Helping Parents Heal and I am on the Board of Directors. I have worked with hundreds of parents who have lost children. I am also a volunteer and Vice President of the SoulPhone Foundation.   I am the author of "Grief 2 Growth: Planted. Not Buried." I am the host and creator of the Grief 2 Growth podcast.

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