Loss, Grief, and Bereavement

In most cases, grief is the normal and healthy feeling of anguish experienced in reaction to an emotionally significant loss, often the death of a loved one.

Loss is a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean that grieving is easy. While each person’s grief is different, it often involves symptoms of common mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. Grief itself is not in itself a mental illness, but when feelings of grief remain intense and last for a long time after a loss, they can keep you from moving forward with a healthy lifestyle.

If you are struggling to cope following a loss, you could benefit from working with a therapist with a specialization in grief. Read on to learn more about grief, treatment options, and guidance for selecting a therapist.

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Symptoms of grief

Grief often resembles symptoms of depression, but reactions to loss vary widely from person to person. There is no right or wrong way to feel. That said, some of the most common symptoms include:

Although there is no “normal” time period for grief, these symptoms typically do diminish over time.

Types of loss and grief

Grief looks different for everyone. Nonetheless, some of the most common scenarios related to grief include:

Prevalence of challenges associated with loss and grief

Most people experience some form of grief after a painful loss. But for some people, acute grief persists long after the loss, for a year or more.

This form of intense, prolonged grief is known as complicated grief, and one study notes that about 7% of people who experience the death of a loved one develop complicated grief (1).

Some studies suggest that women may be more likely than men to develop complicated grief (2).

Stages of grief

Again, it is important to remember that there is no set time or “normal” way to grieve; everyone responds to loss differently. It’s generally accepted that people pass through four stages of grief at some point during the process, as follows:

  1. Accepting that the loss is real
  2. Feeling the pain of the loss
  3. Adjusting to life without your loved one
  4. Shifting emotional energy away from grieving and into other activities

You might experience more than one stage at once, and it is common to not move smoothly between stages.

Treatment options for loss and grief

One or more of the following options might help you to cope with the emotional strain of loss:

Therapy for loss and grief

Numerous therapy types and techniques are used by therapists to help support people through the grieving process. It is important to consider the available options and decide which one resonates most strongly with you. Examples of commonly-used therapy types include:

What to look for in a therapist for loss and grief

There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a therapist for grief, including:

Specialization: Look for a therapist who has experience and specialized training in grief and the therapy type that resonates with you. They often include this information in their biography on their website or online profile.

Qualifications: With so many different provider types available, it can be difficult to decide which type of mental health professional to see. The most important thing is to look for a currently licensed therapist.

Personal fit: The trusting relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy. It’s important to work with someone you trust and feel understood by when talking about the loss of a loved one.

The best way to judge how you might feel about a therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. This also allows you to ask about their experience and what therapy with them will be like. Try to speak to a few different therapists before deciding on a provider.

Find therapists specializing in loss and grief

Find therapists who specialize in loss and grief on Zencare. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

Sources and references