Grief is an emotion that is common to all humans and is often associated with a devastating loss, such as the death of a loved one. However, we might feel grief after the loss of nearly anything that we loved dearly, including our relationships, homes, jobs, or even pets.
It is quite normal for us to feel some sort of negative emotion after losses such as these. Grief is a normal process that all of us will experience at some point in our lives. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the author of On Death and Dying, theorized that there are five stages of grief that each of us go through. These stages might last anywhere from a few minutes to several years. In fact, many people may not even realize that they are going through these stages. However, these "stages" were developed while she was working with terminally-ill patients, not the families of deceased people. Though many people know and use these "stages" to help in their own grieving, they fall short for many as a means of conceptualizing and understanding how they are progressing through their own grief process.
In more recent years, Psychologist J. W. Worden created a stage-based model for coping with the death of a loved one. He called his model the Four Tasks of Mourning:
- To accept the reality of the loss
- To work through the pain of grief
- To adjust to life without the deceased while maintaining a connection to them
- To begin reinvesting in your own life apart from the deceased.
As an alternative to the linear stage-based model, Margaret Stroebe and Hank Schut developed a dual process model of bereavement. They identified two tasks associated with bereavement:
- Loss-oriented activities and stressors are those directly related to the death. These include crying, yearning, experiencing sadness, denial, or anger, dwelling on the circumstances of the death, and avoiding restoration activities.
- Restoration-oriented activities and stressors are associated with secondary losses with regard to lifestyle, routine, and relationships. These include adapting to a new role, managing changes, developing new ways of connecting with family and friends, and cultivating a new way of life.
When we lose someone we love, navigating the stages or successfully accomplishing the tasks of grief can be difficult. This is where grief counseling comes in.
Grief counseling is also sometimes referred to as bereavement counseling and it's typically used to counsel and comfort those who are dealing with loss, usually the death of a loved one. This type of counseling can help some people adjust to and cope with loss and the grief that comes with it.
Usually, grief counseling is recommended for individuals who are having trouble grieving, or moving through the different stages of grief, after a loss. Generally, most people who seek grief counseling do so because their grief is
- interfering with their daily activities,
- causing relationship problems,
- making it hard to go on with their own lives, or
- causing intense guilt or depression.
Even individuals who are not experiencing these types of problems, however, can often benefit from grief counseling. If you have lost a loved one and feel "stuck" like you can't move on, grief counseling may help.