Grief is any reaction to loss. It is unique to each person with no “right” or “wrong” way of doing or feeling it. Grief isn’t just a single emotion that makes you feel sad or that makes you cry. Grief is actually a huge range of hundreds of emotions ranging from anger to guilt to relief to despair. Grief also includes dozens of other equally strong reactions that can be physical, mental, behavioral, and/or spiritual. Grief is most often thought of due to the physical death of a person, but grief can actually be triggered by any major life event such as divorce or retirement. Though this is true, at this time, Monarch only sees people who are experiencing grief related to the physical death of a person or a pet.
Grief counseling can be incredibly beneficial if you're experiencing intense emotions due to loss. It's normal to experience grief after a loss, but when it starts affecting your daily life, relationships, work, or mental health, professional support can be helpful. Grief counseling offers tools to navigate through this difficult time.
Absolutely not. Seeking grief counseling is a brave and proactive step. It takes strength to acknowledge and address difficult emotions. Asking for help is a sign of self-awareness and strength.
Grief counseling is a specialization within the counseling field. Just as significant physical health conditions require a specialist, significant grief issues require a trained and experienced grief counselor. The source of grief is much different than, say, Depression or Anxiety so the approach to seeking the source and how to process it is different as well.
This can be a tricky question that is best answered on an individual basis. The circumstances around a death can be as unique and varied as the grief itself. Immediately following the death basic tasks like showering and eating can take all of your resources. There may be legal issues; new financial concerns; time-consuming, estate-related tasks; or challenging family dynamics. Many grievers share they experienced a period of “grief brain” or “grief fog” that lasts months or even a year. With all of these circumstances at play it can be difficult to know what you need. At this point in your journey, grief counseling may be exactly what you need to face each day. Or, you may need time to let the reality of the loss settle in. Again, there is no right or wrong here.
It is never too late to seek grief counseling. Grief doesn’t have a timetable, and seeking support at any stage of your grieving process can be helpful in managing emotions and finding ways to move forward positively. Sometimes people aren't truly ready to face their grief until 10 to 20 (or more) years after the loss.
Monarch offers both individual and group sessions. Your participation in either or both is up to you and something we will talk about at your initial appointment. The two serve different purposes. Individual counseling focuses on your specific situation by diving into the details of your grief and the circumstances around it. Our specialized support groups are designed to help you feel less alone by knowing there are others in your situation who can come as close to understanding your grief as possible.
Grief counseling doesn’t eliminate pain, erase memories, or diminish the significance of the loss. Instead, it helps process emotions, adapt to the changes, and find healthy ways to remember and honor the person you've lost. Grief counseling offers coping mechanisms, emotional support, and tools to navigate life with grief as a part of your experience. The hope is that these coping mechanisms will ultimately help you manage and move through the pain of loss.
Grief is scary, which probably makes the thought of grief counseling scarier than it needs to be. Grief counselors are trained professionals who provide a safe, confidential space for clients to be vulnerable and express raw or intense emotions. Building trust takes time, and it's okay to take it slow. Though they can be exhausting, most people usually find the sessions to be an effective and often empowering outlet for their grief. You have the right to choose a counselor you feel comfortable with.
The duration of grief counseling varies based on individual needs. It can be short- or long-term, depending on the depth of your grief and your progress through the therapeutic process. Typically, when someone starts grief counseling, they come in weekly or every other week. Sessions drop to monthly when clients have learned and incorporated effective coping mechanisms and tools to navigate life with grief. Most people engage in grief counseling for a minimum of three to six months but it is common for sessions to continue for six months or up to a year and sometimes longer. This is something you can continue to explore with your counselor throughout your counseling journey.
The idea of the Five Stages of Grief come from a theory by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The theory asserts that grief includes five common stages including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While grievers often experience most or all of these feelings, they are only a sampling of the many emotions and reactions that came with grief. Further, there is no linear, minimal, or universal way to experience grief. The journey is as unique as the grief itself. Grief often changes day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes even minute by minute and leaves many people feel like they are going “crazy”. Don’t worry, you aren’t going “crazy,” that is just the nature of grief.
The most common preventable factor making someone’s grief worse is their desire to push it away until it goes away or gets better. However, the more someone tries to avoid their grief, the heavier it becomes to carry. Our clients have shared that one of the best ways to lighten the intensity of grief is to find a way to share or express it in some way with others.
Grief and trauma can happen concurrently, but they are actually very different. Grief is a reaction to a loss. Trauma is an alteration in the functioning of the brain and central nervous system due to a significant event or series of events (as in PTSD, as most people know it). Grief counseling involves finding a way to continue moving forward with life despite the loss or death. Trauma counseling involves strategies to try to calm the brain and central nervous system so that individuals aren’t as activated when experiencing similar “triggers” as the traumatic event. If the death causes a true traumatic response in the person who is grieving, they can be engaged in both grief counseling and most trauma treatments at the same time with different counselors. While Monarch does not currently provide any treatments for trauma, we have a number of local professionals we can refer to if specialized trauma work is needed.
People often think they can “get over it” by themselves or there is something wrong with them if they need grief counseling. We disagree. There is no “getting over” grief. Grief can be sneaky and complicated. Sometimes it takes a professional counselor who has worked with other people in grief to help you process your loss and situation.
Grief counseling really is its own methodology. It borrows strategies from other modalities, but we don’t get too caught up with modalities at Monarch. What we find more important for people is being able to tell your story, retell your story, and explore your recent life events in a safe space with a professional counselor who is completely removed from your life and who only sees your life and situation through your lens. For those wanting more specifics, we help:
· identify conscious and subconscious patterns within your coping strategies
· explore which coping strategies are serving you well and what ones are not as helpful
· navigate common themes with grief such as loneliness, guilt, the ‘what ifs’, anger, fears, life transitions, anniversaries since the death, etc
· provide alternative perspectives about yourself and others that you may not be aware of
· normalize the aspects of grief that most people aren’t aware of (such as extreme physical exhaustion, inability to concentrate, and sleep-related difficulties)
· offer insights into your social relationships/situations and how they may or may not be affecting your grief process
· dispel common myths about grief and other social norms that are reenforced in our society
With effective support, grief will change and get easier to live with as time goes on. As you move forward in your grief journey, the intensity and pervasiveness of your grief will decrease. But it is not uncommon for your grief to pop up and visit you quite profoundly even decades after the loss. The more you lean into your grief instead of trying to avoid it or stuff it, the quicker the intensity and pervasiveness will decrease. Grief counseling is one of the best ways to do this. Just because grief feels bad, it doesn’t mean that it is bad or wrong. It is as much a part of life as love. If we accept love as a part of our lives, we must also be willing to accept grief as a part of our lives too.