Grief Counseling can help individuals face grief. While most grieve within normal parameters without complications in grief, many still need help to better learn how to incorporate their grief into life. Grief Counselors can play roles in helping individuals place grief within one’s life narrative and respond to the emotions that erupt in grief. They can also help individuals respond better to issues that may arise cognitively to poor and unhelpful coping methods.
It is important to note that Grief Counseling itself is not regulated by the state and hence anyone can become certified. AIHCP only certifies qualified individuals into grief counseling that have some medical, social, or behavioral background. Whether through a professional licensure or degree, AIHCP screens all potential grief counselors. However, it is important to note, that Grief Counselors that are certified may not be licensed counselors or social workers. With this in mind, if not licensed, grief counselors can only help individuals with basic loss and grief absent of pathology or depression. It is best that a non licensed grief counselor work under or with appropriate professionals or organizations.
The article, “Grief Counseling: How It Works, Benefits And More” by Lauren Silva takes a closer look at Grief Counseling and its very nature. She states,
“Grief is a normal response to loss, and the feeling can arise due to the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, losing your home and a whole host of other life events. Everyone grieves differently. For some, grief impacts the ability to function in daily life, while others can continue on with less interruption. Wherever you might be in your grieving process, support can be found through counseling, which can help you work through grief and heal in a healthier way. Learn more below about the different types of grief, what grief counseling entails and how you might benefit from trying it.”
Some individuals will greatly benefit from grief counseling. Individuals with more complications within the grieving process, or additional issues may find it helpful, while also others with less family and social support to help them. Grief Counseling can better help individuals better process the grief and learn to live with the loss in a more healthy fashion. No grief counselor can ever replace the loss, or make the grief go away, but a grief counselor can help one better learn to live with loss and find value in life after that loss.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals in the healthcare, ministry, counseling, pastoral care, and funeral professions who are interested in a four year certification in Grief Counseling.
Tracee Dunblazier GC-C with the American Academy of Grief Counseling has presented to the grieving world both personal and academic an excellent and thorough text on grieving.
In her book, “Transformative Grief: An Ancient Ritual for Healing in Modern Times”, Dunblazier presents an up to date and thorough look at grieving in modern life. She presents all of the necessary information behind the science of grieving but also expands and illustrates its impact in the modern world.
There is extensive information on the basic types of grief, the grieving process, healing and implementing grief into one’s existence. She also explores issues in grieving that lead to complications. In addition, she elaborates on examples of grief found in the modern world, ranging from recent wars to 911. Ultimately, Dunblazier looks to unlock the mystery of grief and help individuals properly face grief and loss in a healthy way. Understanding that grief, loss and dying and death are parts of life itself in an imperfect world is a critical element of her work.
“Transformative Grief is the embodiment of the profound collision of Heaven and Earth through humanity—alchemizing and empowering us by divulging the truth
on every level. As we shed our illusions about grief and sorrow as being detrimental to our health or being more powerful than we are, we will open to the beauty
of accessing our strength from the deepest recesses of our mind, body, and spirit through grief. Beginning on the day of our birth, we have each been seeded with spiritual
information that will be revealed by grief throughout our lives. It is our willingness to process daily these subtle ebbs and flows of emotion that guarantees the removal of energy that is unnecessary for us to harbor, and to disclose what is valuable for us moving forward.”
Tracee Dunblazier’s work touches the important aspects of grief and loss while reminding everyone that grief is not something to be avoided or denied. It is far from a pathology, but indeed a natural reaction to loss itself. It has the power to transform and change oneself. Learning to incorporate loss in life hence is an important skill in living itself.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.
We here at AIHCP congratulate Tracee Dunblazier, GC-C on her comprehensive work and achievement and pray it will help many others learn to incorporate loss properly into their lives.
Upon a worrisome visit to the doctor, eventually in one’s life, one will come to the grips of existential crisis, where one must deal with a life or death illness, or hear the terrifying words, that one is dying. For some, these words come earlier in life, for many, later, and for some, death can come like a thief in the night. Those who are granted the ominous warning are given a blessing and a curse. A blessing to prepare oneself and others, to put things right and affairs in order, but also a curse in knowing the clock is fearfully clicking to a deadline that is unavoidable.
There is a myriad of emotions and feelings that one goes through when a terminal illness is announced. An existential reality of one’s own finite nature is made rawly known to the intellect. What was once considered an abstract but real concept suddenly becomes personal and intimate. One comes to the conclusion that death will concretely and definitely happen. It is no longer a future imaging of how but becomes a concrete concept of now and here.
How one perceives life and existence itself plays a large role in the existential dread of this bad news. Levels of fear and anxiety are measured and varied in regards to one’s own existential beliefs. Someone who is profoundly convinced of life after death and molded by an undying faith, may feel a sense of fear, but also a sense of hope and reward, while one who holds empiric and only observable phenomenon as a basis for existence, may feel a deeper dread of creeping into nothingness. Some individuals are less attached to the temporal reality and are able to sense a stronger sense of purpose and peace beyond the observable world. Those of this deeper faith, whether rightly placed or not, will react quite differently to the bad news of approaching death than one of lesser or no faith.
Fear of the unknown still exists even if in the smallest grain to the faithful. So naturally, the evolutionary push to exist when challenged will spring forth within the soul a type of fear. The fear of the unknown still exists for those of faith, but the levels of fear that may surround one who is terminally ill, differs greatly in intensity. One of faith upon the announcement of bad news will definitely still feel a sense of fear and be forced to reckon with the unknowable. This type of fear is a natural reaction. Since one’s conception, the urge to exist is programmed within the body. The urge remains a strong driving force.
For those facing death, a general fear may also be replaced with a more acute fear of the now. Fear of sharing this news, or keeping it to oneself. Fear of the disease itself and what this particular disease may do to one’s body during the final phases. Oneself may fear the pain, the treatments, the side effects and quality of life or even the fear of leaving family and children without one’s guidance and protection. Obviously these are grounded fears to one who has come to a firm acceptance. While initially one may be swarmed with questions and options, one may soon find oneself consumed with collecting as much information about the disease or condition, understanding pain management or reviewing various extraordinary measures to preserve life. Understanding the enemy can sometimes qualm some fear and even give a glimpse of hope. One finds oneself with more power over fear when one faces the enemy across oneself. Some individuals face the enemy, while others choose to live in fear and hide from it. One in the end accepts how they will face death, either with a strong will, or a broken one. Accepting death but facing it with a strong will despite fear is the true definition of courage.
Due to this natural fear of death, even among the most spiritual and religious, one when faced with this terrible thought will undoubtedly deny it. Elisabeth Kubler Ross who worked with the terminally ill observed this natural human reaction to reject bad news initially. Something so frightful at first refuses to be processed by the brain. Bad news is met with an equally powerful rejection of it. As one receives this bad news then, one will probably initially reject the sentence of death. How long this reality takes to sink in may differ among some. Some may seek additional medical opinions, until all options are removed. Others will proceed with elaborate alternative therapies in hope of a cure. For some, hope can be a evolutionary device for survival. It definitely is not something to rejected but when hope blinds oneself to such an extent that is masquerading as denial, then it can become problematic to oneself and prevent oneself from dealing with the reality of death.
Death itself is a process that many run and flee from. Evolution to survive engrains this feeling into oneself. Yet, if one stops and realizes that death is a process one must face, then maybe one can allow oneself the process of dying properly. Many cultures value a good death. A good death is as part of life as birth. Dying well, handling oneself well and maintaining dignity is critical to the last chapter. Long term denial strips one the opportunity to handle affairs, repair relations, prepare the mind body and soul and live the final chapters. So, absolutely, upon terminal diagnosis, one will feel fear and denial and this is OK. What one does not wish to continue to entertain is a long term denial. Hope should not be squashed, but denial should not be masked as hope either.
Oneself may think if one ignores the horrible diagnosis that it will go away. For this reason alone many in denial, may keep a terminal diagnosis as a secret from friends and family. One will ignore checkups and important procedures and postpone wills and other critical business at hand. These types of secrets are part of denial at its core. Oneself may feel as if one is sparing others grief, but this type of internalization of bad news only denies the reality and creates less time for others to express love and accept reality.
Following this diagnosis, other emotions may erupt within oneself. As Kubler Ross points out in her famous stages of grief, one experiences far more than denial upon the initial announcement of bad news. One will experience also a range of emotions with the first minutes or days or weeks or months. Anger is a powerful emotion that may erupt. One may find oneself angry at God, or others. One may feel one’s life has been stolen or cut short. Others may become jealous of others who were granted better health. Again, in grief, one cannot deny these initial feelings, but understand them and see where this anger comes from. While one may feel like they may be treated unfairly, one cannot allow anger to turn into envy and become caustic within one’s very being. There is little time left with a terminal illness and negative emotions and negative energies while acknowledged should not be permitted to fester, unless one wishes for the soul to also suffer with the body.
With the lamenting of death, some will feel greater melancholy. How long one grieves the impending loss of life, like fear itself, varies upon the spiritual nature and resilient nature of oneself. One should clearly come into contact with the sadness of loss of one’s physical life, but again, like anger, it is important to evaluate the emotion within its proper degree. Some may go into a deep depression or no longer wish to live. Oneself may recede to the shadows well before the date of death. When sadness of this level overtakes oneself, then one must realize that the diagnosis is now taking more life than it originally took before. The intense grief is taking what is left. It is stealing the final days of sunshine, family memories and expression of love.
With such deep emotions, sometimes it may be good to express these feelings. Some may find solace in their family and friends, but others may feel a fear to cause them more pain. While this is noble, in many ways, family and friends wish to help one carry this cross. Oneself should not feel isolated to the point where one has none to share the fear and emotions of dying. An additional option is finding others in support groups or other social venues where others of like diagnosis can meet and share emotional fears and acute physical symptoms. A good balance between sharing with family and other like diagnosed individuals can play a great tool in helping one face the emotions of one’s diagnosis.
Kubler Ross pointed out that many may also bargain. As if one has a final say with the grim reaper, oneself may feel the need to negotiate with the angel of death. This sense of powerlessness is lessened with bargaining and creates an illusion as if oneself can negotiate the final days. Oneself may ask, if I can only have an extra year, or have only this procedure instead the other procedures. This illusion of power and control over death is merely another way oneself may try to create one’s own ending. Instead of focusing on “ifs”, oneself should focus on the realities and what can be done within the time given. Less time bargaining and more time doing is a far better way to accept the angel of death.
Upon this terrifying news of one’s own impending death, one can react in a multitude of ways, intellectually and emotionally, but while no emotion is initially to be ignored, there is clearly a better way to face death. It is up to you, the person facing the terminal illness, how you will face the final chapter in your life and no-one else but you can author that chapter.
If you would like to learn more about death and dying, or about AIHCP’s certification programs in Grief Counseling and Pastoral Thanatology, then please review AIHCP’s online programs. The Grief Counseling Certification and Pastoral Thanatology Certification Programs are both online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross Stages of Dying. Please click here
Alan Wolfelt, PhD, works in the grief field and has added extensively to the healing process in grief. His Ten Touchstones designed for Grief Groups, as well as individuals, aim at pinpointing important phases during the healing process. These phases help the bereaved to learn to live with the loss, integrate it and move forward. It does not dismiss the loss nor emotions, but asks one to embrace upon the life long grief jounrey.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling
Support Groups can help individuals of like mind to find healing. This is especially true in Grief Support Groups. Still, like in everything, problems can occur. Certain individuals with certain tendencies can pose problems to leadership and group dynamic. The video below looks at certain issues that can arise and how a Grief Support Group Specialist can handle and defuse situations.
Please also review AIHCP’s new Grief Support Group Certified Specialist Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals looking to become Grief Support Group leaders. Those already certified as Grief Counselors can enter into the program.
When dealing with a terminally ill relative or friend, one awaits the fearful end. This type of dread is referred to as Anticipatory Grief. It sometimes can rob one of the present moment and prevent one from experiencing what is left. It is natural to cry and grieve over a prognosis that robs one of the future with a loved one but it is also important to help the loved one through the process and experience the grief together. Living in the present is so important to make good of what time is left. When this type of grief pushes one away from the present, or makes the terminally already dead, or keeps you from visiting the person, then it can become something very bad.
The article, “Anticipatory Grief: How I’m Learning to Stop Grieving People Before They Die” by Neeha Maqsood looks closer at how one experiences grief as they await a loss. She states,
“I will always struggle with anticipatory grief until the real moment comes, but I know not to ruminate over experiences I cannot control. What I can control are my thoughts, and instead of feeling guilty over it, I tell my mind that it’s okay to feel frightened and isolated over these thoughts. But I will also try to tell it to live in the present as much as it can – to laugh, eat, argue, and care for my father, as much as he cared for me when I was young.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.
Animals grieve but they grieve differently than humans. This is common sense because human beings are sentient. With sentience comes an understanding of existing or not existing in its more philosophical form. Being mindful of the cosmos, life and death, even without experiencing death is an attribute of sentient beings. Humans can understand what death means and understand what it means not to be. This existential awareness intensifies one’s grief when death occurs.
Animals do experience grief but on a much smaller scale. Animal grief is based off experience and reaction. While the animal understands non functionality of the another, it still does not fully grasp the core concept of existence vs non existence. They may miss, mourn, but the deeper forms of existential grief do not exist. In some ways this may be a blessing. Ignorance is may be bliss, but due to sentience human beings are equipped with a deeper understanding of the universe, existence itself and death. Understanding death itself is a burden humanity carries alone on earth.
The article, “What Does Animal Grief Tell Us About How They Understand Death?” by Justin Gregg looks deeper at how animals mourn but also their limitations in fully understanding the existential nature of death. He states,
“It’s important to understand, however, that just because a dolphin can recognize death, it does not mean she understands her own mortality. Or that all living things must die. These are two additional levels of understanding that nonhuman animals lack. According to Monsó, “a very sophisticated notion of personal mortality also incorporates the notions of inevitability, unpredictability, and causality.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.
Everyone experiences loss. It is part of human existence to lose. One of the scariest realities is that no matter how happy we may one day be, what we have will one day be taken. Any family member we love, will one day die, or any object we cherish, we can one day lose or have it stolen. This is the precarious situation of life itself. Understanding loss and how we adjust to it is hence very important. Loss is the price of love and attachment hence grief is unavoidable.
Individuals eventually need help with coping over loss. Some individuals experience greater loss than others and turn to help. Certified grief counselors can help with basic loss and licensed counselors can offer more indepth help for complications in grief. Grief Support groups can also help aide for those seeking answers to the mystery of love and loss.
The article, “Turning to Grief Counseling When You Need Help” by Melissa Porrey looks at how grief counselors can help with a variety of grief issues. She states,
“If you are unsure whether you are experiencing grief or finding it challenging to work through bereavement, grief counseling can offer support and helpful ways to bring meaning to the loss and allow you to move forward through your grief. This article will define grief, provide an overview of grief counseling, and offer ways to find a grief therapist.”
If you are looking to help individuals with grief you can also play a role. Certified grief counselors are professionals in health and mental health fields. Some are in ministry, or social services. While not all grief counselors are licensed counselors, many can help with the basics of loss. AIHCP offers a four year certification in Grief Counseling. The Grief Counseling Certification is online and independent study and open to those qualified professionals. Please review and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.
Complications in grief can occur when trauma is associated with it. Trauma that is severe enough to not become processed can cause PTSD and other complications in the grieving process. An individual will be haunted by the loss and have to eventually face it with therapy and counseling. Licensed counselors can help individuals face PTSD and also help them process the traumatic loss. Grief Counselors who are also licensed counselors can also add additional insight with their specialty and understanding of grief.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a grief counselor.
As the grief process continues in life, individuals follow different routes towards reconciliation with the loss. While resolution can never come because love forbids it, reconciliation can occur. A reconciliation that allows one to live and move forward while still acknowledging the loss. However as one proceeds forward down this trajectory of reconciliation, birthdays, anniversaries, and other moments that remind one of the deceased can emerge. These moments can create grief bursts (Wolfelt) or even take someone further back in time. This not bad and is completely OK.
Part of reconciliation involves living and experiencing life while carrying loss. There is no escape from this contradiction. Joy and sadness merge together and reminders emerge that anchor us in the past but the joy of the present permits one to still sail forward. This seeming paradox is part of grief and incorporating loss into life itself.
What’s Your Grief recently published a very interesting blog on dealing with conflicting emotions that muddy the water of life. As one moves forward, there is always a slight tug from behind or a pinch of the heart. When the widower or widow moves forward beyond the intensity of the first years of grief and finds a new love, there is the smile of the present but also the frown of the past. Conflicting emotions can emerge that confuse and cause new emotions of guilt.
In these paradoxes, individuals can have a whirlpool of emotions. One can experience intense grief at times, but also relief. The relief can also cause one to feel guilt. As the thoughts of the decease become less intense and less obsessive, an individual may feel guilty for the this respite from the pain. They may feel to honor the deceased, they then must continue to suffer. Grievers sometimes see any break from suffering as a betrayal to the deceased.
When meeting someone new, or looking forward to something exciting, a griever may feel the tug of the past. This tug is not bad but it should not prevent one from loving again or becoming excited over an event. This paradox can exist in multiple scenarios. Perhaps the grief and excitement of going to a ball game but without a beloved parent for the first time can create these unique and confusing experiencing. Or for someone the first time sharing a kiss with another person.
It is hence very important to learn how to experience the present, while keeping the past sacred. This may not be the easiest thing to do at first and it may cause conflicting emotions.
One may even enter into a “what if” or “should have” type mentality as one experiences the present. Instead of enjoying what is present, one thinks what if my loved one never died and where would I be myself? It is OK to wish the loved one still was alive, but this thinking if obsessive can derail the present. This will leave one from experiencing the present and not permitting one to make new memories. Part of the importance of reconciliation in grief is to place the loss in its proper perspective and chapter within one’s life. Robert Neimeyer talks about connecting the past, present and future together in one life narrative. Every chapter has intrinsic value. Every chapter is equally important and every chapter builds to the next. One chapter cannot be forgotten without expense to the next and the current chapter cannot be fully enjoyed when thinking of the past ones or future ones.
It is difficult to let go of the anxiety, but one needs to experience the conflicting emotions, respond to them and permit oneself to live the present. This is not something that happens day 1 of grief but something that occurs when full reconciliation with grief occurs. When reconciliation of the past and present allow one to find a new narrative and meaning for the future, then one can move forward, but if not, then these conflicting emotions can delay and possibly prevent happiness, so it is key to understand them and to properly react to them.
Helping others in the later phases of grief is important. Individuals sometimes need guidance and encouragement to move forward. Some need told that conflicting feelings are natural and not to feel bad about them when one is finally experiencing some type of happiness. Certified Grief Counselors can help individuals through these phases of finding true reconciliation in loss. They can help them connect the past chapters of the grieving’s life narrative to the present. Grief Counselors can also help individuals understand the the feelings and how to properly incorporate them. Moving forward can be difficult after loss, but it should not seem like a betrayal. Love is forever but over time is expressed differently due to life and death.
If you would like to learn more about AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification then please see if the program matches your academic and professional goals. The Grief Counseling Program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling. The program consists of four core courses that lead to certification. Qualified professionals include social workers, clergy, counselors, teachers, funeral directors, physicians, nurses and other mental and healthcare professionals. Undergraduate degrees in the social sciences and health care are also accepted.
Sources: Robert Neimeyer and Grief Therapy and the Reconstruction of Meaning: From Principles to Practice : Click here
What’s Your Grief : Conflicted Feelings in Grief: Reconciling the Present with What Might Have Been by Eleanor Haley. Click here
Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart by Alan Wolfelt