Grief is something everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It involves going through a deep loss of some kind. While we often think of grieving the death of someone, grief can come in other ways like the loss of a job, a move to another city, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a person’s identity. Each person experiences grief throughout their life and experiences it in their own way. Many people are often familiar with the stages of grief:
- Denial: When reality is too painful to accept, denial is a way to manage the shock of the loss and process what the new reality is.
- Anger: Once reality hits, it is easy to become angry about the loss, feeling like life is unfair and as if it has robbed you of something important.
- Bargaining: It is a process that looks at making compromises. It is the idea, “Maybe if I change my ways, [things will be better, we’ll get back together, I’ll get the job next time, etc.].”
- Depression: At some point, sadness enters the picture and people feel the pain of their loss. It might involve behaviors like isolating yourself and crying more than normal.
- Acceptance: Eventually, people get to a place where they are ready to move forward with their new reality despite the hurt they may still experience. They feel more hopeful and capable of moving forward.
It is likely that you have felt some of these emotions at some point when dealing with a loss. The term “stage” can be misleading because in reality, grief can be messy. You can move in and out of all these emotions within the week. The stages of grief can remind you that the messiness of grief is normal.
Because grief looks different for everyone, processing through the loss can be helpful. Grief counseling can involve talking to someone who can walk through those emotions with you. For grieving people, life might look completely different. As much as we wish we could press pause on life so we could take time to grieve, we cannot. Life continues as it is supposed to. Counseling can also help you figure out how to keep moving as life continues. Some days you might feel like you are barely treading water, but counseling can help you get to a place where you feel like you are thriving again. Much of that will involve providing a safe place where your feelings and experiences are validated along with giving you ways to help you cope.
Grief counseling is not about “getting over” something. Especially if the grief is from the death of someone close to you, it is not reasonable to say you ever “get over” it. Grief counseling might be about helping you get to place where the pain is not so overwhelming anymore. It can be very helpful to talk to someone while going through a difficult process like grief. It can also be complicated depending on your life experience. Maybe you experienced a miscarriage, were cut off by family, or knew someone who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Those losses are completely different from one another, but they are still a loss and they bring about their own complex questions. How do you grieve a child you never met? How do you grieve not being able to see or speak to someone who you know is living? How do you grief the impending death of someone still living? It can be valuable to process those types of complicated emotions and questions in grief counseling. While to some extent the pain may still remain from the loss, counseling can give you the opportunity and the confidence to continue moving forward in your life.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She also has a special interest in working with athletes and has been bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is in the process of becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant to further her expertise in sports psychology. Prior to her move to Abilene, Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.