Losing someone we love can feel like waking up to another world. Everything we thought we once knew seems unreliable. We can feel physically, emotionally, and mentally knocked down.
So it’s absolutely normal to feel at a loss for several weeks or more, and to withdraw from normal life to recuperate.
But when is it time to seek help for grief?
Grief is a challenging and complicated experience. So we’d suggest that everyone can benefit from seeing a grief counsellor, or joining a support group, when experiencing a bereavement.
But when is bereavement support most recommended?
1. You have nobody to talk to who understands.
If nobody around you has experienced grief you can feel lonely and frustrated. Seeking support can mean you do not then lash out at those you love, pushing them away when you need them most.
2. You are unable to function in basic ways.
Grief can leave the best of us feeling legless. So it’s normal to have a few weeks off work and to just ‘check out’ for a bit. But if, after a few weeks, you are still unable to cope? It’s time to seek professional help.
3. Your grief is getting worse, not better.
Grief tends to come in waves. You can start to feel better, than get knocked down again. But with time, the waves feel smaller, and you feel stronger. If this is not your experience - if, as time goes on, you are retreating more and more from your life - then it’s definitely time to seek bereavement support.
4. Your grief just doesn’t stop.
For many of us, if it’s a close family member we’ve lost, we don’t ever feel quite the same again. But we are at least able to embrace life once more. If this is not you, if you are unable to escape your grief and it’s been over two months? Talking to a grief counsellor can be like finding a life line.
5. Bereavement has triggered pre-existing mental health issues.
Pre-existing mental health issues can mean we really go under after a bereavement, or react more strongly than those around us. It could be social anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, anger issues, or feelings of abandonment that are at play. Although grief is something we have to live through, things like anxiety and depression have evidence-based treatments, so it's worth discussing with a talk therapist.
6. You are turning to addictive behaviours.
Be honest with yourself about the ways you are coping with your grief. If alcohol, drugs, casual sex, or spending sprees have become a crutch, then it’s time to reach out. Don’t judge yourself if these are past addictions you feel ashamed to be using again. Just get help.
7. Your physical health is suddenly terrible and won't improve.
There is an expression in therapeutic circles, 'the body doesn't lie'. If you are telling yourself you are fine but you are suddenly constantly sick with colds and flu, unexplained medical symptoms like headaches and random pains, a change in appetite, and/or sleep problems? Then your grief might be processing physically. Why not seek see if talk therapy might help?
8. You are sure it’s all your fault somehow.
Guilt is part of many people’s bereavement process. But if the feeling of guilt is getting worse and not better, talk to someone about it. Guilt is closely connected to the ‘big daddy’ of emotions, shame. And when we get mired in shame it can be a quick spiral down to depression and suicidal thinking.
9. You are considering hurting yourself or someone else.
If this is you, seek support now. Contact a hotline such as the Good Samaritans, phone a friend you trust, reach out. Don’t judge yourself. Grief can make the best of us lose their way. Just accept that you need help and find it.
Had enough with suffering through grief alone? Book with one of our therapists now and be talking to someone who understands as soon as tomorrow.