Updated: Dec 3
Grief counselling can help us process unresolved grief. We do not always get the privilege of closure when we lose someone we love; whether it is from the breakdown of a relationship, the loss of identity, object, or when a loved one passes away.
So how do you know if you are dealing with unresolved grief?
1) You experience intense sadness... that doesn't improve with time.
2) You keep the same routines out of fear of forgetting the loved person, animal, or object.
3) You start to develop phobias and anxiety soon after the loss. For adults, this often revolves around health issues.
4) You avoid getting close to people, certain animals, or activities associated with your loss. This can often manifest in relationship fears, or avoidant behaviours.
5) You avoid... in general. You may find it difficult to acknowledge the loss or talk about it.
6) You find yourself intensely occupied with hobby or work, or the opposite- you find that you are suddenly completely disinterested in everything which persists over months.
7) You find yourself engaging in self-destructive behaviours such as drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, and criminal or risky behaviours (amongst younger people). Or maybe you find yourself engaging in activities to escape such as long hours of gaming or binge-watching shows, for weeks or months.
8) You harbour guilt, regret, self-reproach, self-blame, and panic attacks. Grief can bring up some dark emotions. If avoided or repressed, they can manifest through panic attacks, where terror takes over your body.
Because you feel lost and unsafe, deep deep down inside.
If some of these behaviours or experiences resonate with you, there's a good chance you have not sat long enough with your grief, to honour it, to express it, and to befriend it. Grief counselling provides a healing space whereby your therapist can sit with you in your loss, and bear witness to your pain.
And we sometimes think it's something we have to deal with on our own, but grief is hardly ever resolved in isolation.
Grieving has evolved to be a communal affair, because humans are inherently social beings.
How do you process unresolved grief?
Finding ways to explore, and express your grief can help process unresolved grief.
Things like writing, art, rituals, prayers, and other meaningful or spiritual practices can help you develop some meaning from the loss.
Last but not least, find someone you trust- someone who can listen, and hold your grief with you. This person can be anyone close to you, or a trained professional.
If you are grieving over an object, an identity, a pet, or a person/people you have lost, it is definitely worth the time to reflect and engage in that grief- because the loss was important enough to shake you.
So it is worth spending time on it, despite how difficult it might be. Seeking professional help from a specialist grief counsellor such as myself can also provide you with support by offering:
the space to hold your grief,
witness to your pain,
your existential contemplation,
your relational struggles,
and help you resolve your grief so that becomes a meaningful part of your life.
If you would like some strategies to begin creating a meaningful, insightful narrative about your loss, read How to understand the Science of Grief and Find Meaning in Your Loss.