Only if we have ever lost someone close to us can we have a sense of what others feel when they lose some close to them. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can be known as empathy. Showing empathy to a family member or friend after the death of a loved one can help them in the grieving process. However, in some cases, empathy may not be enough. The good news is, a professional therapist can help you come to terms with the loss. A licensed therapist can assist in the healing process and help people who are experiencing problems associated with grief.

How Does Therapy Help With Loss?

The Stages of Grief

A therapist can identify each stage of grief and help the patient move along through each of them. This is not a quick process and in some cases can take years. There are often residual or recurring issues that need to be faced as well. These issues can have a patient taking two steps forward and one step back, or even relapsing. Different psychological models point to a number of different stages. However, five of those stages appear to be universal. Those stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance.

Denial

Denying our loss helps us to reduce or minimize the all-consuming pain. What we are trying to do by being in denial is escape, or at least survive the inevitable emotional pain and grief. In the actual moment of loss, our reality shifts as part of our defense mechanism. Firstly, it is difficult to comprehend that a close friend or loved one died and is no longer with us. Then, there is the incomprehensible notion of living without a friend or family member. As a result, we seek mental refuge in our memories of shared moments with the person who died.

Those memories are still oh-so-very real. The realness of those memories reinforces our denial that the person has gone. Denial serves the purpose of slowing down the processing of loss, to give us time to understand what has happened and to adjust to it. A therapist will find ways to help the patient transition from denial to reality.

Anger

There is righteous anger and self-righteous anger. While both may be well-founded, the latter is the preserve of victims. Anger can result in deflection and a grieving person will deflect their anger any way they can. Anger enables us to speak freely in the moment, without fear of judgment, rejection, or consequences.

Unfortunately, an angry person may say things to us or about us that they may regret, causing more distress and even self-loathing further down the line, leading them into a deeper depression. That is why it is good for them to talk with a therapist. They won’t take those things as personally as we might, given that they are professionally detached. A therapist is also trained to deal with angry unapproachable people in their isolated world.

Ongoing Therapy

There are many ways in which a person experiences grief and bereavement. Not all signs are obvious to the friend of those bereaved, especially as they too are oftentimes dealing with the same loss. A therapist will be on the lookout for feelings and patterns that could result in chronic, relentless depression and even self-harm including suicide. A therapist will persuade the patient to open up about such things as their desperate longing, panic attacks, despair, and hopelessness they are feeling, as well as feelings of uselessness, worthlessness, guilt, self-recrimination, and self-admonishment.

Be a friend

If someone you care about is exhibiting signs such as loss of appetite, uncontrollable crying, sleep problems, heavy drinking and isolating behavior, persuade them to see a therapist. However, most importantly, go with them and wait outside. Be empathic by listening, being supportive, and being available when they need you. We wish with all of our hearts and minds that we could take the pain away, but most of the time we can only ease it. Being a friend and keeping your relationship on a sound footing is your job to help with loss. Help the therapist to do theirs.

Additional Reading: Grief: Coping with the loss of your loved one – American Psychological Association (APA)

SAGE Counseling Omaha

At SAGE Counseling Omaha, our primary focus is on helping you to get the support and treatment that you need as you move forward. We all experience challenges that are often too difficult to work through on our own, and we are here to support you during these tough times.

When you connect with our compassionate counseling team, you can rest assured that you will receive the individualized care that you need. Contact us today. For approved clients, we are able to utilize telehealth services through our HIPAA-compliant virtual software.