When you experience the death of someone you love you may feel lost in the idea of living life with the loss. It can seem impossible to imagine ever being happy or fulfilled again.
According to Mental Health America, “The loss of a loved one is life’s most stressful event and can cause a major emotional crisis.” You may feel ridiculously overwhelmed with the idea of how to continue in the midst of your grief, and yet you know that you will move forward with your life, your life that now includes the heaviness of loss.
You have probably even done a quick internet search to find the answers which may have led you to this blog.
In this blog, I talk about different sources of support during grief and loss.
Friends and Family Support
After a loved one dies, we are often immediately surrounded and comforted by family and friends. Many of those around us are also impacted by the loss. Oftentimes, those who surround us are there to offer comfort and support and they are also hurting. There will be hugs, tears, words of encouragement, and lots of lasagna (or maybe that was just my experience?!?!?)
If it’s not lasagna, there will be food, and a lot of it! It’s a real thing- we celebrate, we comfort, we heal with food and it is great! I am not knocking the lasagna/food because we ate all of it! But once you eat your gazillionth serving of lasagna and still feel the weight of death and grief, what do you do next?
Many times bereaved people worry about burdening or protecting others about their feelings of loss or they feel like they are being “judged” and “should be over it.” and other times they feel misunderstood and lost. You may think about finding support outside of your friends and family. It can be intimidating to find help. Friends and family are often the first source of support.
Additional grief support falls into three general categories: groups, one on one, and independent/self help. GREAT! You have options! Ummm… but which one is the right one for you and how do you know?
Grief/Loss Support Groups
Support groups are a popular choice for many who are bereaved. A support group can offer a community in the isolation associated with death. It can also help to reduce the worries about your feelings having an impact on your friends and loved ones.
Finding the right support group to safely explore your thoughts and journey can be powerful. These groups can be offered online or in person at places of worship, counseling practices, nonprofit agencies, etc… Other participants in the group will also be living with loss and in some cases, the participants will be grouped together based on their similar losses (child loss, widow/widower, parent loss, suicide).
Attending a support group can be helpful if you feel isolated, are struggling with articulating your grief, and/or are questioning if your experiences are “normal”. It’s important to decide if the group and the environment are a good fit for you. Groups are not for everyone. Just like in life, you may find yourself in a situation where your personality or other people’s personalities just don’t gel. There may be a super Chatty Cathy who monopolizes the discussion… or you may worry about feeling judged ..or you may even find yourself judging others.. or comparing other’s loss to yours.
Honestly, most people say that going to a bereavement support group was the best decision towards healing in their grief journey. A group is a great option for someone who feels intimidated about “I don’t know what to say” because the support group experience is shared with others. Everyone is usually given the opportunity to talk so the feeling of “being in the spotlight” and having to talk about yourself is minimized.
Groups provide normalization, validation, and connection which can all feel absent when you experience the death of a loved one. Groups help to not feel alone and to know what grief can be.
Grief counseling provides an opportunity for you to process the feelings and thoughts related to your loss.
Yes, it can feel overwhelming to start this part of the journey for yourself when you are vulnerable. Yes, it can feel affirming to start this part of your journey when you are vulnerable. The gift of meeting with an individual therapist can provide the opportunity to prioritize your needs and emotions without the worry of impacting friends and family or feeling “judged” and devalued.
Individual counseling can allow you the time to be intentional in understanding your personalized loss and grief experience. Everyone experiences loss in different ways. Yes, there are a lot of similarities in experiencing the feelings of sadness, despair, guilt, doubt, etc.. However, how you interpret your loss and how you experience the impact of your loss is unique to you.
Your grief is intertwined with your love for the one that passed away.
Your experiences are valid and you are worth prioritizing you with individual therapy. Just know that not all therapists are the right therapists for you. Seeking out someone who you connect with and who validates your experiences is vital. Finding the right therapist can feel like dating… not everyone is a perfect match, so don’t feel afraid to shop around.
Therapy is for you and not the therapist, so find your voice and advocate for what you feel works for you! Meeting one on one with a counselor can be valuable to traveling in your personal grief journey and you are worth it!
Independent and Self Help
Self Help oriented practices are easily accessible and may be the first thing you do when you are looking to understand your grief.
You may search the internet for “grief” or “death of a loved one” to find some answers and understanding. This search will provide you with an overwhelming number of resources, but then what? Just like therapy, it’s good to shop around and find what fits with your experience.
There are books, websites, podcasts, blogs, and social media platforms that discuss the experience of the death of a loved one. Within these there are even more subsets- for example you can choose faith based or not or type of loss (loss of a child, parent, spouse, suicide, etc…) or even the age or gender of the “expert”. These may or may not be important options for you. That is for you to decide.
Using independent and self help options is desirable for many because you may struggle with putting yourself out there and sharing your raw emotions with others. You can learn a lot about grief in your time and on your terms in the independent self care route. It’s also something that you can do in addition to group or individual therapy. Using the resources related to independent help have the benefit of being accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Grief is a beast that rises up at unpredictable and unannounced times. You can easily access a blog or a podcast if you are experiencing a sleepless and anxious filled night. This is something that is unique to the self care path. Having this ease of access and control over your choice of material can be empowering and powerful during a vulnerable time.
What I Try To Remind Myself
Honestly, taking care of yourself is always important but it needs to be prioritized when you are grieving.
It can be hard to reach out for help at any time but it is complicated by the uncharted waters of loss. It is easy to get lost in loss. Seeking support can be done at any time in your journey and in the way that you feel is the best fit for you. Your loss and your grief are unique to you. Your grief experience is also unique to you. For some, you may choose only one support option, and others may choose to use the combination of the three at the same time.
There is no exact recipe for how to seek support with the feelings related to the death of a loved one other than the reality that leaning into help throughout your grief journey is beneficial and you are worth it!
About The Author: Kathy Davis, LMSW
Online Therapist, Kathy Davis, LMSW has been serving individual, families and couples for over 30 years. She lives in Mckinney, Texas and joined the Resolve Counseling Team of Therapists in March 2023. She provides Online Grief Therapy.