Grief counseling is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people cope with grief and mourning following the death of loved ones, or with major life changes that trigger feelings of grief (e.g., divorce, or job loss). Grief counselors believe that everyone experiences and expresses grief in their own way, often shaped by culture.
Five Stages to Rebuild A Shattered Life*
- Impact: shock, denial, anxiety, fear, and panic.
- Chaos: confusion, disbelief, actions out of control, irrational thoughts and feelings, feeling despair, feeling helpless, desperate searching, lose track of time, difficulty sleeping and eating, obsessive focus on the loved one and their possessions, agony from imagining their physical harm, shattered beliefs.
- Adapting: bringing order back into daily life while you continue to grieve: take care of basic needs (personal grooming, shopping, cooking, cleaning, paying bills), learn to live without the loved one, accept help, focus on helping children cope, connect with other grieving families for mutual support, take control of grieving so that grief does not control you, slowly accept the new reality.
- Equilibrium: attaining stability and routines: reestablish a life that works all right, enjoy pleasant activities with family members and good times with friends, do productive work, choose a positive new direction in life while honoring the past, learn how to handle people who ask questions about what you’ve been through.
- Transformation: rethinking your purpose in life and the basis for your identity; looking for meaning in tragic, senseless loss; allowing yourself to have both painful and positive feelings about your loss and become able to choose which feelings you focus on; allowing yourself to discover that your struggle has led you to develop a stronger, better version of yourself than you expected could exist; learning how to talk with others about your heroic healing journey without exposing them to your pain; becoming supportive of others trying to deal with their losses.
*Joanne Jozefowski in 1999 through The Phoenix Phenomenon: Rising from the Ashes of Grief summarizes five stages to rebuild a shattered life.
Helpful Links Grief Counseling
- Open to Hope - Open to Hope is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find hope after loss. They provide encouraging articles, books, and an online community to help people deal with difficult losses and continue to live happy, meaningful lives while working through grief.
- The Sweeney Alliance - The Sweeney Alliance is a non-profit organization that was founded by Peggy Sweeney to help families and professionals cope with grief and stress. The alliance offers a wide array of programs catering to both children and adults, as well as online resources and a regular newsletter.
- Scholastic children’s grief resources - Schalastic Children’s Grief Resources is an integral page for helping children who are experiencing grief and the various implications associated with the passing of a loved one. The content on the site illustrates how teachers can help, as well as advice on informing students.