Bereavement and Grief Counselling Online
What is grief?
Grief is a natural emotional response to loss. It is a significant sense of sadness and mourning we experience when the loss of someone or something dear to us. It can be triggered by the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a major life change, or even the loss of a dream or a job.
Grief comprises a mixture of emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations. Sorrow, confusion, a sense of emptiness, sadness, anger, guilt or disbelief. All these responses are a natural coping mechanism.
While this process is normal and everybody goes through it in their own way, in some cases normal grief turns into complicated grief. Complicated grief happens when the normal process of grieving becomes prolonged and significantly impairs a person’s ability to function in daily life. People who get stuck in their grief may have an excessive preoccupation with the lost loved one, often longing for their presence or even feeling as if they are still with them.
Unlike typical grief, where the person affected gradually adjusts and finds ways to move forward with their lives, those with complicated grief struggle to do so. They may have trouble accepting the reality of the loss and adapting to a world without the person or thing they’ve lost.
The duration of normal grief is not cut clear, as everybody is different. The length of the struggle can be influenced by factors such as the nature of the relationship with the thing or person lost, the circumstances of the loss, and the individual’s psychological makeup. However, if you see that the intensity of your emotions doesn’t ease even a little after the first year of the loss, it might be worth seeking help.
Those who had particularly close relationships with the person lost, such as immediate family members or life partners, often experience more intense grief. People who struggle with change or uncertainty may also find it more challenging to come to terms with the loss. Additionally, individuals who lack strong support systems or who have a history of mental health issues might be more susceptible to the adverse effects of bereavement.
The process of healing is not linear; it involves adapting to the new reality without the presence of the loved one and finding ways to integrate their memory into one’s life.
Stages of grief
The concept of the seven ‘stages of grief’ has gained popularity as a framework to understand the emotional journey we navigate when faced with loss. These stages—shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and processing—are often presented as a sequential process. However, it’s important to recognize that this model is a proposed framework, and each individual’s experience of grief is unique. Your journey through grief might not align precisely with these stages, and you might only encounter some of them, or in a different order altogether. Furthermore, grief can manifest in unexpected ways, extending beyond the emotional realm. For some, grief might present as physical symptoms such as persistent exhaustion, headaches, unexplained pain, or frequent illnesses like colds and flu.
Remember that your experience of grief is valid, regardless of how it aligns with any theoretical model. It’s essential to honour your emotions and give yourself the time and space you need to heal.
How to book your session
Email now: contact at psychologytherapy.co.uk
Our therapists are qualified and registered with reputable professional associations for psychotherapy and counselling.
When to seek help for bereavement and grief?
While it’s natural to experience a range of emotions during the grieving process, certain signs indicate it might be beneficial to seek therapy:
- Prolonged intense distress: If your grief doesn’t seem to be subsiding over time and remains as intense as it was shortly after the loss, it could be a sign that you’re struggling to cope effectively.
- Isolation and withdrawal: If you find yourself withdrawing from social activities, friends, and family, and if you’re isolating yourself for an extended period.
- Disrupted daily functioning: When you see a decreased ability to carry out daily tasks, such as going to work, maintaining personal hygiene, or taking care of responsibilities.
- Persistent physical symptoms: Grief can sometimes manifest as physical symptoms like sleep disturbances, appetite changes, and even physical pain. If these symptoms persist or worsen, it’s worth consulting a therapist.
- Suicidal thoughts: If you’re experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it’s critical to seek help immediately.
- Complicated grief reactions: If your grief takes on a more complex or severe form, known as complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder, professional intervention is recommended. Signs of this might include an intense yearning for the deceased, difficulty accepting the death, bitterness, and trouble finding joy in life.
- Lack of coping strategies: If you find that your usual coping strategies are ineffective or unhealthy (such as substance abuse), it’s time to explore healthier ways to navigate your grief with a counsellor.
- Relational strain: If your grief is causing strain in your relationships, such as with family, friends, or colleagues.
- Feeling stuck: If you feel stuck in your grief journey and unable to move forward or find meaning in life.
Therapy for bereavement and grief
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are two popular therapeutic modalities widely recognized for their effectiveness in helping with grief and bereavement. These approaches offer structured methods for individuals to navigate the intricate emotional challenges that often accompany the loss of a loved one.
ACT for grief
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is based on the principles of mindfulness and acceptance, aiming to help build psychological flexibility, which is the ability to be present in the moment, experience difficult emotions, and take action aligned with one’s values. Here’s how ACT can work for grief:
- Acceptance of emotions: Grief is often accompanied by a wide range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, and anxiety. In ACT, individuals are encouraged to acknowledge and accept these emotions without judgement. Instead of trying to suppress or avoid them, individuals learn to sit with their feelings and allow them to be present.
- Mindfulness skills: Mindfulness practices are central to ACT. Mindfulness involves observing one’s thoughts and emotions in a nonjudgmental way.
- Defusion from thoughts: Grief can bring about distressing thoughts and ruminations about the loss. ACT teaches individuals to “defuse” these thoughts by recognizing that thoughts are not necessarily truths.
- Clarifying values: Understanding one’s values—what truly matters in life—can provide a guiding compass during the grieving process.
- Taking committed action: Grief might make individuals feel stuck or unmotivated. ACT emphasises taking committed actions based on one’s values, even when it’s difficult. This might involve engaging in activities that bring a sense of purpose or connection, gradually helping to rebuild a meaningful life after loss.
- Contacting the present moment: Grief can cause individuals to dwell in the past or worry about the future. ACT focuses on the present moment, helping reduce feelings of overwhelm and grounding the person in the here and now.
- Flexibility in coping: Grief can be unpredictable, and what works as a coping strategy one day might not work the next. ACT equips individuals with a toolbox of skills to adapt and choose the most appropriate coping strategy for the given moment.
By integrating these ACT principles into their lives, individuals can develop a more flexible and adaptive approach to their grief. ACT is not about trying to eliminate pain or grief; rather, it’s about building resilience and finding a way to live a meaningful life despite the pain. Working with a therapist who specialises in ACT and grief can provide personalised guidance and support throughout this process. We can help with this, contact us!
CBT for grief
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach effective in helping individuals cope with grief and manage the difficult emotions that arise after the loss of a loved person or thing. CBT for grief focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to distress, while also teaching practical coping skills. Here’s how CBT works for grief:
- Thought awareness: In CBT, the first step is often to become aware of your thoughts. Grief can trigger automatic negative thoughts, such as guilt, blame, or a sense of hopelessness. Through self-reflection and journaling, you learn to identify these thoughts and their impact on your emotions.
- Cognitive restructuring: Once negative thoughts are recognized, the next step is to challenge and reframe them. With the guidance of a therapist, you explore the evidence supporting or refuting these thoughts. This process helps you develop more balanced and realistic perspectives on your loss and its implications.
- Behavioural activation: Grief can lead to withdrawal and isolation. CBT encourages individuals to engage in activities they once enjoyed or that align with their values. This process, known as behavioural activation, helps counteract the tendency to withdraw and promotes a sense of connection and purpose.
- Grief-specific cognitive interventions: CBT for grief often includes techniques tailored to the unique challenges of mourning. For example, you might work on reducing self-blame, challenging unrealistic expectations about the grieving process, and addressing any unhelpful coping mechanisms.
- Skill building: CBT equips individuals with coping skills to manage distressing emotions. Techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness can help regulate emotions and reduce the anxiety that often accompanies grief.
- Exposure and desensitisation: If avoidance of reminders of the deceased is a challenge, gradual exposure to these reminders can be incorporated into therapy. This process helps reduce the intensity of emotional reactions over time.
CBT for grief is a collaborative process, with the therapist working alongside you to tailor the techniques to your specific needs and circumstances.
Our approach to grief therapy
Our approach to grief therapy is founded on compassion, empathy, understanding, and the use of evidence-based therapy counselling modalities. We employ cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as the main approaches, combined with elements and techniques from compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
Our priority is to personalise our treatment plan to your specific circumstances, personality and preferences, so we can help you navigate the complex emotions, thoughts, and behaviours that arise after a loss. To do this effectively, we create a safe and supporting space where you can openly express your feelings, memories, and challenges related to your grief.
Bereavement can be caused by a variety of circumstances and events. While death is the most common cause of bereavement, other significant losses can also trigger a grieving process. Some common causes of bereavement include:
- Death of a loved one.
- Divorce or relationship breakup.
- Loss of health.
- Loss of employment.
- Miscarriage or stillbirth.
- Loss of home or property.
- Loss of identity.
- Loss of a dream.
- Loss of independence.
- Loss of friendship.
- Loss of pet.
The experience of bereavement can vary widely based on the individual’s relationship with the person or thing that was lost, their coping mechanisms, and their cultural and social context.
Bereavement can elicit a wide range of emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioural symptoms. These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration based on individual circumstances and coping mechanisms. Common symptoms of bereavement include:
- Intense sadness, sorrow, and feelings of emptiness
- Shock, disbelief, and numbness
- Anxiety, worry, or fear about the future
- Anger, frustration, or resentment
- Guilt, regret, or self-blame
- Irritability and mood swings
- Loneliness and isolation
- Intrusive thoughts or memories of the deceased
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Confusion and forgetfulness
- Preoccupation with thoughts of the loss
- Distorted perceptions of time
- Fatigue and low energy
- Changes in appetite, either increased or decreased
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or oversleeping
- Aches, pains, and tension
- Weakened immune system, leading to increased vulnerability to illnesses
- Withdrawal from social activities and relationships
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities previously enjoyed
- Crying spells and outbursts of emotion
- Avoidance of reminders of the deceased
- Difficulty carrying out daily responsibilities
- Changes in communication patterns and emotional expression
- Questioning one’s beliefs and searching for meaning in the loss
- Spiritual distress or existential uncertainty
- Desire to connect with the deceased through rituals or practices
- Changes in relationships with friends and family
- Difficulty engaging in social interactions
- Feeling misunderstood or unsupported by others
- Challenges in maintaining social roles and responsibilities
Remember that these symptoms are a normal part of the grieving process. Grief is a highly individual experience, and there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. While many people experience these symptoms, some might experience them more intensely, while others might experience them in different ways.
Do you offer bereavement and grief counselling near me?
We offer online grief counselling because this way we can reach you out whenever you are in the world. We are trained in the United Kingdom and provide cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).