Like the seasons, grief has many faces. Somedays, a person may feel good and warm inside, then on other days, a person may feel sad and cold. Grief is not just a set series of step by step instructions but instead a complicated and ever-changing series of emotions correlated with adaptation to change. Hence one day can be good and another bad. In understanding this dynamic, instead of seeing grief as a step by step process, grief counselors view it as dynamic and altering process with oscillating peaks and valleys from day to day or month to month. Various factors come into play that will affect the severity of these peaks and valleys, from a vivid dream to a birthday of a lost one.
As grief counselors we need to assure clients and patients that there is no set schedule or time frame to heal from grief. Instead, they need to assure one that it is completely normal and healthy to hurt for quite some time over the loss of a dearly beloved one. This is natural and normal and the more interwoven the lives of two, the more adaptation and pain that will exist. This is the price of love and intimacy. So, what should a grief counselor look for in the healing and adjustment of a patient suffering the loss of a loved one? Instead of counting the magical standard of 6 months, the grief counselor should keep close tabs on the peaks and valleys of emotion that pour out throughout the months. As the months become more distant to the death, there should be less peaks and valleys.
This does not mean there will not be peaks and valleys of emotion, but it means. There could be massive valleys of intense grief associated with certain days or merely just a bad day of adjustment, but there should be less frequency of those types of days. If frequency of changing emotion continues to remain high as time continues on, then one may be facing a more serious abnormal grief reaction.
As the months go by, grief never goes away but it diminishes and the person is able to incorporate the loss into their life narrative. They are able to learn to go to work, go to school, and participate in past activities. The key in grief counseling is not to remove grief, but instead to help the person cope with that grief in a healthy fashion. When we see clients again embracing life, moving forward with projects and learning to live without, then we know they are experiencing a healthy grief reaction. If they show apathy towards life, or show exhibit floods of emotion, then we know there is an imbalance which can be a bad sign in either direction.
Learning to help patients and clients cope with these feelings and also feel normal in their own grief recovery is an important part of grief counseling, while also monitoring any pathological coping that may emerge. The grief counselor is meant to keep the bereaved on the proper path of grief recovery, not give a magic pill to erase grief. If one was able to eliminate the grief process, then they throw away the love they shared with the deceased. The grief is the price of love. It is intrinsically tied to love in a fallen world and it must be permitted to bloom and exist. In some ways, it is the last phase of the gift of love in this world.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification. The certification is offered through AIHCP’s Academy of Grief Counseling and gives future counselors the training they need to be able to guide the bereaved through the maze of grief, helping them peace in loss. Please review our Grief Counseling Program