We live in a society where death is somewhat considered to be a taboo. Many people don’t know what to do or to say when someone they know has experienced a loss. Grief is a reaction to any form of loss. It is not only limited to feelings of sadness, but can include guilt, yearning, anger and regret.
Grieving the death of a loved one is entirely natural and a part of life. People say there are different types of grief and each person deals with grief in different ways and there is no particular set of emotions one necessarily deals with. Grief becomes a concern when it doesn’t diminish after some months and the grief-stricken person starts to believe that they cannot possibly have any meaningful existence in their future without their deceased loved ones.

Table of Contents

What is Grief?

Grief may be caused by the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a pregnancy, a pet, a job, or a way of your life. It may be due to someone leaving home or separation from friends or family. There are other causes that induce grief such as a romantic breakup, a dream, a way of life, miscarriage/ abortion, the grief of childhood, loss of physical ability, and loss of financial security. In each scenario, everyone experiences grief differently.  Whatever the cause there are often a healthy ways to cope with the pain that ease your sadness and helps to overcome the loss. 

What is Grief Counseling? 

It is a painful process to accept the loss and deal with the emotions. Some people can work through their grief on their own whereas others need professional assistance in the form of counselling. 

Liz Kelly, the therapist, who specialised in grief and loss says, No one can take away the pain of your loss, but therapy can give you a safe place to talk about what you are feeling, identify ways to honour your loved one who has died, and develop coping skills to take care of yourself while grieving.  

Grief counselling or bereavement counselling helps people cope with the loss of loved ones. In this context, grief counsellors also provide mechanisms for the people grieving to discuss their feelings and emotions in a manner to discover ways to overcome the grieving process. 

What are the different stages of grief? 

The five stages of grief were developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to describe the people with terminal illnesses facing their own death, but soon it was adapted into a way of thinking about grief in general. The stages of grief are non-linear. Perhaps one may experience the aspects of grief at different times with different feelings. These are the 5 types of grief-

  • Denial: It is the first stage of grief which helps to survive the loss.Initially, the person may feel meaningless and overwhelmed, being in a state of shock and denial. They simply try to get through each day. Denial helps to pace the feelings of grief, as it is nature’s way to let in only as much as one can handle. Thereupon, just by accepting the reality automatically, one can come out of the loss, even when the denial stage will fade off.  
  • Anger: Grief has different impact on each individual but the common emotion that arises is anger. Anger is a natural emotion for a person when they lose someone. It may be due to the reason when the person dies before their time or you had plans for them in future.  So it causes you to be angry towards the person died or angry on yourself for things that you did or did not do before their death.
  • Bargaining: Dr. Sabrina Romanoff a clinical psychologist says, Bargaining is a defense against the feelings of helplessness experienced after a loss. It happens when people struggle to accept the reality of the loss and limits of their control over the situation. 
  • Depression: Firstly the person should clearly understand the situation that leads to depression.  Depression is not a sign of mental health condition but its a natural and appropriate response of grief. By now the person might have come in terms with the fact  that the loved one lost is not coming back and it causes them to be more depressed by thinking about them.  During this stage, the person might have realised the present reality and the loss experienced. 
  • Acceptance: This stage is about accepting the reality that the loved ones are physically gone. Along with it, the person should learn to reorganize roles and re-assign them to others. In fact, if the person accepts everything, they make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies, etc.  Instead of denying the feelings, listen to your needs, move on, change, grow and evolve. Generally speaking, if they are not accepting the loss, it means they are avoiding reality.

What are the Different Types of Grief?

At some stage of life, we all go through the grieving process. There are many forms and types of grief, and understanding the difference between the types is a key to moving on. It becomes important to acknowledge the grief to lead a healthy life rather than staying with the grief for a long term which thereby has a negative impact on one’s life.

  • Normal grief: It is one of the normal experiences if a person suffers from loss. There is a huge range of effects such as behavioural (forgetfulness, confusion, absent-mindedness), emotional (anger, loneliness, irritability, and shock), and social (avoiding families and friends, increased substance abuse, and relationship difficulties).
  • Anticipatory grief: It occurs when one is expecting the loss of someone close to them in near future due to the terminal illness faced by the loved ones. The person will try to envision life without them. 
  • Complicated grief: The person might undergo certain dysfunctional behaviours and might experience irrational thoughts like the dead person coming back to life.  
  • Chronic grief: It lasts longer than normal grief which may take a longer time to work through. When the person doesn’t accept the loss that occurred and it’s impossible for them to proceed through the stages of grief, it is due to chronic grief.
  • Delayed grief: When the person realizes the loss after a month or even years. It affects everyone including the person who doesn’t seem to be grieving after the loss. 
  • Distorted grief: When there is a tremendous change in the behaviour of a person. Significantly this will lead to intense feelings of guilt, anger, hostility towards people, and self-destructive behaviours.
  • Cumulative grief: It occurs when one does not have time to process one loss along the way having the other. In particular, it is like the difficult emotions that come initially will be the experience of a second loss. Once the losses start to accumulate things become harder to handle.
  • Exaggerated grief: If the person undergoes several losses or traumatic events all at once within a short period of time.  As a result, the person doesn’t have enough time to resolve emotional conflicts between incidents and traumas.
  • Secondary loss in grief: When the loss affects the other aspects of life. It may be due to non-death losses like financial security, sense of self, sense of purpose, and support systems.
  • Masked grief: It is a form of complicated grief caused due to physical problems or behaviours that trouble the normal functioning of a person’s life. Unlikely the person will suppress the grief and mask it with what they perceive as normal behaviour.
  • Disenfranchised grief: It is also termed as sorrow, and grief that goes unacknowledged or invalidated by social norms. Even others don’t give much importance to the loss which makes it hard for that person to process it.
  • Traumatic grief: When a person is undergoing a grieving process and along with that when they get an additional horrifying, unexpected loss or violent death. It leads to the impairment of daily functioning in life.
  • Collective grief: It occurs in a large group or in an entire community mainly during war times and natural disasters that leave a long-lasting impact.  Sometimes even the loss of a public figure, terrorist attack, or national tragedy also leaves a huge impact on people.
  • Inhibited grief: It happens when one cannot express the forms of grief for a longer period of time, as a result of not being able to come out of the stages of grief.  The person might also experience physical reactions as the cause of their emotions.
  • Abbreviated grief: It happens when the loved one is being replaced with someone or something new in the person’s life. Sooner or later the person accepts the loss due to the fact that there might not be a strong connection to the lost one.
  • Absent grief: It does not show any signs of grief, in fact, the person will act as if they haven’t experienced a loss at all. Of course, this has happened because of complete shock or total denial as it is unexpected. Absent grief is normal but should be treated if it continues for a longer term.

How Grief Counselling can Help?

During the counselling session psychologists, therapists, or grief counsellors will help you deal with and manage emotions of your grief like anxiety, guilt, or fear that may be associated with the loss of a loved one. The therapist can also help to build resilience and coping strategies to deal with intense sadness as well as to find ways to move on in a meaningful way. Following are the 6 major things a grief counsellor can help you with.

  • Addressing your feelings: A grief counsellor helps in identifying, expressing, and productively managing all of the emotions you are feeling. In fact, they can aid in anxiety management also.
  • Identifying coping mechanisms and support systems: The counsellor will help to identify the unhealthy habits and replace them with healthy ones. Meanwhile, by doing this, you can identify the support systems and resources in your life.
  • Addressing your particular needs: In terms of grief issues that are more specific to a particular situation, they will be analyzed by the counsellor.  So it will help you to rectify the problems or losses. 
  • Dealing with the impacts of the loss: The impacts of loss might be higher, and it may lead you to some other changes in the plans or financial situations. Only the grief counsellor can access and guide you for your needs.
  • Set goals: The counsellor will guide you to set manageable goals which help you to move forward and focus on the regular tasks. 
  • Help you manage setbacks: During the grieving process, the counsellor will help you manage the setbacks by assuring that everything is normal.

Apart from analyzing the clients, the grief counsellors do follow up on certain psychotherapies to overcome the grief. These are the type of therapies they may use-

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): By accepting the negative circumstances and starting to focus on the positive and healthier patterns, it would help to reach your goals. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This therapy can cope to effectively overcome depression and anxiety in order to help in the healing process. 
  • Existential therapy: Grief may well be a manifestation of our reluctance to accept the quite painful realization that, in existential terms, we are truly and actually alone and must become self-reliant. The loss of significant relationships forces us, in time, to acknowledge the fact that we must “move on,” “do it alone,” and accept the transition and change brought to our lives. 
  • Group Therapy: You can even join a support group to learn about healthy grieving, and process your losses with other individuals. It is usually the groups with people who are recovering from similar experiences.  This in turn helps to deepen the sense of belonging and community.
  • Art Therapy follows different art forms to express your emotions and helps in healing.  
  • Play Therapy is mainly used among children to gain their thoughts and feelings to resolve their emotions and build good thought patterns.
  • Balancing the Chakra: The 4th chakra or the Heart chakra is associated with love and grief. Being mindful can provide emotional strength like letting go of fear and anxiety.  If one can find the imbalances in the chakra and fix them, then it brings harmony to one’s body, mind, and spirit.
  • Spirituality involves connection to something bigger than ourselves, typically involving a search for meaning in life.  Some find their spiritual life intricated to their association, others find a personal relationship with God or a higher power or individual connection to others. Still, others look for meaning through their connections to nature or art. Like the sense of purpose, deepening connections with loved ones, and restoring hope and optimism. All of these happen only when the person adapts to the changes and accepts reality.

Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect. It makes you human.  – Sarrah Dessen 

Grief is both a universal and personal experience which lasts for months or years to realise the process and emotional pain. You should understand that pain is tempered as time passes and the bereaved adapts to life without the loved ones. Meanwhile, if you are uncertain about the grieving process, consulting with a counsellor or therapist is beneficial for fast recovery.