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Seeking help with grief

February 07, 2019 | Rachel Velishek, LPCC

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I recently attended a certification training on the Grief Recovery Method. The presenter shared the following:

“People often ask how soon they should process grief or participate in grief recovery method and the answer is this: If you were to break your hand how soon do you seek medical care? Grief is no different.”

Very often people expect a timeline to be established. They expect a guideline of what to do and when. There is no timeline. We are all unique in our own way, we all have different experiences, and as a result, we have different emotions. The emotional journey is short for some people and for others it is a lifelong roller coaster. If you are asking yourself when to seek mental health care, the answer is now. If you are asking the question, there is a reason. It usually means there is an underlying thought or feeling to be explored and discussed.

The reality is, we all experience moments of sadness, grief, conflict, and stress. The individuals who would benefit the most from psychotherapy are not seeking it. 1 in 5 American adults suffer from some form of mental health illness, but only 46-65 percent of them engage in treatment. Everyone experiences grief at some point in their life. Grief is defined by the Grief Recovery Method as a normal and natural response to change or loss of any kind and a conflicting feeling caused by an end or a change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Psychotherapy and/or Grief Recovery can benefit anyone. Therapy is based on the individual and is specific to each person based on their personal experiences and goals. Grief Recovery is a structured format applied to any type of loss with 7-8 individual sessions. I have some individuals who attend 3 therapy sessions, and others who have booster sessions every few months. It truly is — or should be — in the best interest of the individual.

I cannot give you a specific timeline for seeking out professional mental health counseling or Grief Recovery. The only person who can determine that is you. It depends on your personal experience, reactions, and the effect on your level of functioning.

If you have experienced any of the following I would recommend seeking out mental health counseling or Grief Recovery.

  1. If you have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event and cannot stop thinking about it. If you find that you’re not engaging in life, or others have expressed concern about your withdrawal, it could benefit you to talk to someone and process through the event.
  2. Unexplained medical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or poor immune system. There is a very strong correlation between mental health and physical health. Unusual physical complaints are a sign of stress. Unresolved emotions can manifest themselves in a variety of physical ailments.
  3. Dependence on a substance to cope (self-medicating). This could be food, alcohol, drugs, or sleep aids. Anything used outside of what’s normal to improve functioning or numb emotions can be considered self-medication.
  4. Performance problems in the workplace. It is common to have difficulty coping with work stress when struggling with emotional or psychological issues. It may affect your level of concentration and attention.
  5. Disconnecting from activities. If you are feeling left out or lack a sense of purpose, engaging in psychotherapy and participating in therapy could help gain some clarity.
  6. Strained Relationships. Communication between friends, family, coworkers, or spouses may be affected in response to emotional or psychological stressors. Engaging in therapy to improve communication and conflict resolution could be beneficial.
  7. Friends or family expressing concern. It takes a very brave person to express thoughts and feelings of concern for another person. If anyone has ever asked if you’re doing okay, that is a big hint that others are noticing a change and recommending professional help.
  8. When everything you feel is intense and your emotional response is affecting relationships, work, and patterns of thinking. If thoughts start to become negative or even catastrophic, therapy can help teach you interventions to alter the pattern of thinking and manage emotions more effectively.
  9. If you experienced any type of grief and/or loss including a change in job, death, financial changes, empty nest, divorce, death of a pet, moving, starting or switching school, major healthy changes, retirement, or legal problems. These are all examples of loss and can produce feelings of grief.

I personally believe if more people would participate in mental health counseling communication would improve, conflict resolution would be more effective, and the stigma surrounding mental health would be reduced. Participating in mental health counseling is acknowledging your personal life experiences and recognizing how those contribute to your perception of self, the world, and the future. Grief Recovery Method is an evidenced-based, person-centered approach that teaches people new skills for coping and processing feelings of loss and learning how to let go of pain. Regardless of your experience, any time is an appropriate time to engage in individual therapy.

Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.