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13 signs you should seek grief counseling

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Feeling sad after the death of a loved one is normal, but when symptoms of grief persist, you may need grief counseling to help you progress

Many factors can shape the way you react to the death of a loved one, such as your relationship to the deceased, your religious beliefs, and your previous experiences with death. Most people are able to work through the acute stages of grief within the first year. But others struggle and the sorrow lingers, even if they have a solid support system.

If your symptoms of bereavement persist over an extended period of time, dominate your thoughts, and interfere with daily tasks, you’re experiencing complicated grief. It may be time to consider a more formal intervention, such as a grief support group or grief counseling so you can ensure your emotional well-being.

Recognizing you should seek grief counseling

Most people who’ve lost a loved one will benefit from talking with a qualified grief counselor, but if you’re experiencing severe emotional distress, grief counseling could be imperative. How can you tell if you need professional support? Here are 13 signs that indicate you should seek grief counseling:

  1. You’re having suicidal thoughts and/or persistent feelings of depression.
  2. You’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of distress, such as crying, insomnia, loss of appetite, increased irritability and anger, or panic attacks.
  3. You’re struggling to complete everyday tasks, including basic self-care.
  4. You can’t believe that your loved one is really dead.
  5. You frequent familiar places, hoping to see your departed loved one there, or avoid locations and situations that may remind you of your loss.
  6. You’re abusing substances, like alcohol or drugs, or engaging in addictive behaviors, like gambling.
  7. You’re worried about yourself, and/or others have expressed concern for your well-being.
  8. You’re withdrawn and avoiding social interaction.
  9. You don’t have family or friends to support you, or the people in your life can’t sustain the support you need over the course of a lengthy grieving process.
  10. You’re suffering from unexplained illnesses.
  11. You’ve experienced multiple losses in a short period of time.
  12. You’re feeling bereavement guilt, possibly blaming yourself for your loved one’s death or grappling with regret about your relationship with the deceased.
  13. You’re plagued with intrusive thoughts, such as reliving the circumstances of your loved one’s death.

Finding help

If you decide to seek grief counseling, you’ll find numerous grief support options, both in person and online.

In person

Grief counseling

In this form of therapy, you meet one-on-one with a counselor to talk about your feelings, and he or she will suggest coping strategies to help process your grief.

Grief support groups

Led by a trained facilitator, a grief support group can offer a safe place to work through your emotions with people who can empathize with your struggle. Our Grief Support Lookup on this page can help you find a group in your state.


Online support forums

For people with limited time or mobility, online support groups and forums provide access to help and information from home. They allow you to participate as much or as little as you wish, by simply reading posts or actively sharing your story and offering encouragement to others.

Grief counseling

Many therapists offer one-on-one sessions by phone, FaceTime, Skype, or similar technologies. Besides the convenience factor, a virtual grief counselor may be the best option if you live in a rural area or community with limited mental health resources.

Grief support groups

If you want more structure than a forum but can’t attend a group in person, search for a grief support group that meets by video conference. You can join in real time or view a recording later.

No matter which method you choose, look for a counselor or group facilitator who has the proper training, credentials, and experience in bereavement. Feel free to walk away from any group, forum, or therapist if you don’t feel comfortable. It’s okay to try another group or therapist to find the right fit. What’s important is to find what you need to move forward and enjoy life again, while still cherishing the memories of your loved one.
Photo credit: iStock

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Find grief support

Search for grief support resources, such as in-person groups, online forums, and phone hotlines, available in your area.

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