At some point during their lives, most people will experience the loss of a loved one. Grief is a common reaction to this loss, and is felt by individuals in different ways.
Many believe that grief is limited to feeling a deep sense of sadness in the face of loss. However, grief can encompass a range of feelings and stages, depending on the individual. It’s not uncommon to feel guilt, anger, yearning, and regret when processing the loss of a loved one.
People in grief often find themselves switching between these emotions, and thoughts can be soothing one moment (“He’s in a better place now”) and guilty the next (“I should have visited her more”).
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is an effective way to process grief and handle loss in a healthy and constructive way. It is offered by psychotherapists, social workers, and other types of counselors.
During grief counselling, clients will work through feelings, thoughts, and memories linked to the loss of their loved one. With this form of psychotherapy, clients have the goal of positive adjustment following loss and developing strategies for self-care.
For some individuals, they might work with a psychotherapist to address feelings of isolation or extreme emotional responses in the wake of a traumatic loss. This can include the passing of a child or the loss of a loved one to an accident, homicide, or suicide.
Grief counselling can be addressed by either one-on-one session, group therapy, or family therapy, depending on the needs of the individual(s).
A psychotherapist might rely on a variety of techniques to help client experience, understand and navigate the grief process. These techniques could include:
Talking About the Deceased
It might seem like an obvious approach, but many clients find it difficult to talk about the deceased with other loved ones. It might be an awkward subject for their friends and family to approach, to the point where they might not even be able to say the person’s name.
Psychotherapy provides a safe place to talk about the loss of their loved one. This can include memories, what their relationships was like, and what they would say to them if they could.
Distinguishing Grief and Trauma
The feelings of grief and trauma are two separate emotions. Some clients might experience flashbacks to the moment they found their loved one dead, or heard about their passing, or attended the funeral. These memories might be traumatizing for clients, and a psychotherapist will help analyze those moments so patients can begin the natural grieving process.
As one of Canada’s top 10 best psychotherapists, Melissa Cutler has spent the past 20 years gaining clinical and research experience across hospital, community, and public sector settings, including as a social worker. With advanced training in cognitive behavioural therapy, trauma counselling, and chronic pain management, she helps patients navigate through the stages of grief and process the loss of a loved one. Book online for a psychotherapy appointment at her office on Yonge and Lawrence near the subway.