Five Signs You Might Need Grief Counseling
Grief over the loss of a loved one is not always something that happens right away. While most of us can recognize the signs of depression, grief, and mourning immediately after a death occurs, the symptoms that continue on in the weeks, months, and even years that follow are much less identifiable. No matter how long it has been since you lost an important person in your life, these five signs of grief might indicate that it is time to look into professional counseling or a support group.
1. Social Isolation/Spending Too Much Time Alone: Some alone time to reflect on your loss is important in working through your feelings and finding a way to move forward in life without your loved one. However, long-term and persistent isolation can be a warning sign. If you find yourself turning down invitations, avoiding social interactions, and refusing to see or talk to family members, then it might be time to revisit your motivations. Even if it is painful to be around others right now, social support is a vital step in moving through grief.
2.Too Busy, Too Many Activities: Just as too much time alone might be a sign that you need grief counseling, so too might the opposite reaction. Throwing yourself into work, personal projects, volunteer opportunities, sports and activities is a good way to fill your time and not dwell on your loss. However, you do still need down time. You should occasionally take it slow, reflect on your loss, and find balance. A packed calendar might work for a little while, but it won’t be sustainable for the long-term.
3. Lack of Emotional Response: It is very natural to feel numbness, to glean enjoyment from activities that used to bring you joy, and to avoid situations that bring out the pain of your loss. However, this is a feeling that should—and will—pass. If it has been some time since the death of your loved one and you find yourself unable to experience either joy or sorrow, or if you cannot take any pleasure in the things that used to make you happy, then you may need professional help.
4. Substance Abuse: Heavy drinking, drug use, and other forms of substance abuse can be a very damaging way to deal with the loss of a loved one. Although temporarily numbing your feelings might seem to help in the short run, this will have a lasting impact on your health, finances, and relationships over the long haul. There are many different types of substance abuse counseling programs to help, many of which are rooted in grief recovery.
5. Inability to Move On: A part of you will never recover from your loss. There is no “getting over” a death. There is no “healing” that will make you feel whole again. However, you can—and should—be able to live your life. If it has been several months since your loss and you haven’t made any strides in finding a way to move forward, then a grief counselor may be able to provide assistance.
These are not the only signs of grief, so do not be afraid to reach out even if you do not recognize these symptoms. There is no time limit on grief counseling, and everyone reacts to loss in different ways. Help is there no matter what shape your grief takes.