When Grief Is Overwhelming, Counseling May Be the Answer


By Liz Powell

Losing someone you love is one of life’s most difficult experiences.  Although grief is a normal response, sometimes people find that they are unprepared to deal with those strong and painful feelings.  Even when death is the expected outcome, such as with hospice patients, your grief can become too much to bear.  By seeking professional grief counseling, a patient can better understand his emotions and find peace.  Families can learn to move forward with their lives.

As a service to the community, VNA provides grief counseling and support groups tailored to the specific needs of adults, teens, children and family caregivers following the loss of a loved one. Our support groups are designed not only to be age appropriate, but also to meet the needs of individuals who are in different stages of the grieving process and who have experienced a specific type of loss.  In addition to our support groups and activities, the Bob Schmieler Memorial Library is open to all members of our community and offers resources on coping with the challenges of serious illness, death, grief and loss.

Grieving is the outward expression of your loss and is likely to be expressed both physically and psychologically.  When the emotional wounds of losing a loved one become too severe, they may manifest themselves in issues like prolonged depression, panic disorder, anxiety attacks, or alcohol or drug use.  Physical symptoms that accompany grief include stomach pain, loss of appetite, intestinal upsets, sleep disturbances and loss of energy. The goal of grief counseling and support groups is to lead individuals back to as normal a life as possible.

When a death happens you may experience a wide range of emotions and although there is no real order to the grieving process there are some common symptoms including:  denial, humiliation, yearning, disbelief, anger, confusion, shock, despair, sadness and guilt. These feelings are normal and are common reactions to loss. The intensity and duration of your emotions may vary as will your mood swings. Grief counselors will reassure you that these feelings are healthy and appropriate.

According to the Mental Health Association, the best thing you can do is allow yourself to grieve. Here is a list of ways to cope effectively with your pain.

  • Seek out caring people. Find relatives and friends who can understand your feelings of loss. Join support groups with others who are experiencing similar losses.
  • Express your feelings. Tell others how you are feeling; it will help you to work through the grieving process.
  • Take care of your health. Maintain regular contact with your family physician and be sure to eat well and get plenty of rest. You should not sleep more than 10 hours a day without your doctor’s approval. Be aware of the danger of developing a dependence on medication or alcohol to deal with your grief.
  • Accept that life is for the living. It takes effort to begin to live again in the present and not dwell on the past.
  • Postpone major life changes. Try to hold off on making any major changes, such as moving, remarrying, changing jobs or having another child. You should give yourself time to adjust to your loss.
  • Be patient. It can take months or even years to absorb a major loss and accept your changed life.
  • Seek outside help when necessary. If your grief seems like it is too much to bear, seek professional assistance to help come to terms with your loss and work through your grief.

Getting over a death in the family or the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming and it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. Remember, it’s a sign of strength, not weakness to seek help.

Until next time,


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