After the passing of a loved one, family and friends may experience intense feelings of grief. Grief plagues them with hopelessness, anger, despair, loss of direction, deep sadness and a great feeling of loss. Losing a family member or close friend is not something that a person "simply gets over" or even "just gets through"; they must come to terms with the loss, recognize the positive aspects of the situation, and continue on with their life as a happy, healthy person.
In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the five stages of grief as:
For most, the stages do not progress in a systematic manner. Any of the stages can happen at any time throughout the process, and avoiding grieving will only cause them to be prolonged. Grief counseling is a powerful tool that can help those who have lost loved ones regain hope and move positively through the five stages of grief.
Grief counseling addresses the challenges that present themselves after losing a loved one and confronts them head on. It helps that person cope with the natural reactions to loss in a way that allows them to continue with their everyday life. The counseling may be carried out through individual sessions but is most common in group sessions. Typically grief counseling in a group setting allows for people to share their similar feelings with one another and not feel so isolated by their situation. The meetings can be led by the group collectively, a professional or a grief counselor.
Grief counseling teaches those who have lost someone close to them methods to reduce unhealthy coping mechanisms. It allows the person to express their emotions and talk through the recovery process. The goal of grief counseling is to help a person reach the acceptance stage of grief. It is at this juncture that the person can experience sadness without it crippling their everyday functions. They can slowly begin to feel peace about the loss.
Grief counseling differs from grief therapy in that the behavior does not need to be stopped or changed. The role of the group, professional, or counselor is to be there for the grieving person and actively listen to what they are expressing. This allows the person to expel the emotions in a healthy manner without rushing or avoiding the feelings, stages and overall process of grief.
After losing a loved one some funeral homes will refer the family and friends to grief counseling sessions. It is important to understand that not everyone grieves in the same manner. Some will jump on the opportunity to participate, while others will shrink away and wish to spend reflective time by themselves. Grief counseling is an excellent tool for those who are debilitated by grief in that it helps them regain hope and functionality in their lives. In the unfortunate loss of a loved one, it is strongly encouraged to incorporate such sessions into the planning process.