Grief and Loss Counselling

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Grief is a feeling experienced after a loss. Most commonly, it’s associated with the pain and trauma of a loved one’s death, but it can also take other forms. One definition describes grief as, “the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour.”

A person might grieve the loss of a job, a pet, a home, a relationship, or even an opportunity. What really defines grief is the pain associated with that loss, and the fact that it can seem totally debilitating. Grieving people often feel isolated, because loss is deeply personal. But whatever you’re grieving, dedicated counselling can help you to process and live with your grief – and get back your quality of life.

Types of Grief

There are plenty of types of grief, but some common ones are outlined below: Anticipatory grief is a sense of loss before the loss has actually occurred. ‘Normal’ grief, while not a very helpful title since there is no ‘normal’ way to grieve, refers to the natural grief experienced after loss. Complicated grief refers to grief that is prolonged and results in deeper psychological or emotional concerns. Disenfranchised grief is a grief that is experienced privately, unbeknownst to those around you – this might be the loss of a pregnancy that people didn’t yet know about, for example.

    The Difference Between Loss and Grief

    Loss is the absence of something you once had in your life, whether it’s a deceased person, a ended relationship, or a missed opportunity, possession, or ability.

    Grief is the emotional response tied to that loss, and it varies for each individual. Certain losses may elicit grief that others may not readily acknowledge. For instance, losing a job can bring about intense grief, but it can be challenging if others fail to grasp that this is what you’re going through, leading them to overlook or downplay your emotions.

    Common Responses to Grief

    Grief is different for everyone, and can present itself in many different ways. You might be experiencing feelings or behaviours that you don’t even recognise are part of the grieving process.

    According to the Department of Health – Health Direct, some of the most common reactions to grief are:

    • Feelings of disbelief, confusion, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, guilt and relief
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Loss of appetite

    Other common responses to grief can include:

    • Depression
    • Loss of concentration
    • Mood swings
    • Lack of interest in daily life
    • Numbness
    • Shock

    Grief can bring up confusing and complex emotions. For example, some people experience guilt or remorse about time not spent together, others might experience relief that a loved one is no longer suffering. Other people might feel irrational anger towards the person they’ve lost, for leaving them – even if they didn’t have a say in it.

    All of these responses can be bewildering, and make it harder to go about your daily life. To an extent, they’re a normal part of the grieving process, and some things take time to resolve. But if your grief is stopping you from living a full life it’s important to get help.

    The Process of Grief

    The Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel points out that, “grief is a process and not an event.” Grief is a very personal experience, and it’s a non-linear process, but there are common threads and themes that a lot of people experience. You may have heard of the “five stages of grief”, a theory coined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, that posits that grieving people go through a series of ‘stages’ on the path to acceptance of loss.

    In Kübler-Ross’s model, the stages are:

    1. Denial – A refusal to accept that the loss has actually happened
    2. Anger – Anger that the loss has happened to you
    3. Bargaining – An irrational process of negotiating
    4. Depression – Deep sadness
    5. Acceptance – Finally, a sense of acceptance that the loss has happened
    6. Finding Meaning – Meaning is in what we later do or realise as the bereaved people.

    While these stages may help to provide a benchmark for understanding some of the feelings you experience after a loss, it’s important to note that this model is very simplistic and incomplete at outlining and identifying the processes of complex grief.

    What to expect in a grief counselling session

    Grief counsellors will often ask you to talk them through the death – and the life – of the person lost, as well as your own emotions about it. Grief counselling will generally involve at some stage confronting what’s happened head-on. There are a number of techniques grief counsellors may use to help you.

    One of the best things you can do to help process grief is counselling. Professional mental health support, delivered by trained counsellors and therapists, is an evidence-based method for helping people process loss and regain quality of life. Grief counsellors can help you in all sorts of ways, including:

    • Working through pain
    • Coming up with practical strategies to manage suffering
    • Reframing memories so that you can think about your loved one without it being unbearable
    • Learning to enjoy life again

    What therapeutic approaches are used in a session?

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – is a type of therapy that focuses on reframing issues and emotions, so that they become manageable. CBT for grief is designed to help you reconcile the loss of a loved one with a new life without them. Some techniques involved in CBT include:

    • Graded exposure to avoided or feared situations – exposure over time, in a gentle and controlled manner, to confronting or challenging thoughts
    • Increasing pleasant events – cultivating moments of joy, happiness or simple contentment in life
    • Challenging unhelpful or irrational thoughts (termed ‘maladaptive’ in practice) –developing responses to complicated or unhelpful thoughts like anger, guilt or self-hatred.

    Other therapies and methods can include:

    Traditional talk therapy, which means building a trusted relationship with a counsellor and over time discussing your emotions and experiences of grief with that person

    Acceptance and commitment therapy is a type of therapy founded on the principle that suffering is a core part of the human experience, and focuses on reconfiguring your relationship with suffering so that you can come to accept it, and find some meaning and contentment while within it.

    Grief and Loss Counsellors

    Grief is deep and painful because love and care are profound and beautiful. Grief changes the way you perceive life, adding wisdom, respect for life, and the intricacies of human connection. This doesn’t mean you have to force a positive perspective on your loss, but grief counselling can assist in honoring the voice and memories of the departed while finding the strength to continue moving forward.

    One of the best things you can do to help process grief is counselling. Professional mental health support, delivered by trained counsellors and therapists, is an evidence-based method for helping people process loss and regain quality of life.

    At Melbourne Therapy and Counselling Centre, our qualified, experienced and skilled counsellors can provide grief and loss counselling and the necessary support that you require.

    For appointments or inquiries please contact us or make an appointment directly via our booking portal.

    We offer in-person grief and loss counselling in Melbourne at our counselling centre in Murrumbeena, or via telehealth for online grief and loss counselling.

    Areas of Focus

    • Anxiety & Depression

    • Cognitive Distortions

    • Trauma, Abuse & Self-Harm

    • Grief and Loss Trauma

    • Family Rejection and Conflicts

    • Hyper-arousal & Hypo-arousal

    • Addressing Shame and Guilt

    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    • Managing and Navigating Change

    • Loneliness and Social Isolation

    • Finding Acceptance and Validation From Others

    • Identity, Body Image and Self-Esteem Issues

    • Dissociation & Avoidance

    • Difficulty Dealing with Societal & Cultural Expectations

    • Trauma Triggers & Negative Thoughts

    • Adjustment to New or Difficult Life Events

    • Difficulties in Communication and Relationships

    • Anger Management

    • Fear or Losing Friends, Family or Job Opportunities

    • Traumatic Family Relationships

    • Difficulties in Forming Intimate Relationships