The loss of a child is one of the most painful experiences there are. Grief, while being a very painful emotion itself, may also be accompanied by anger, anxiety, and extreme sadness. Sometimes, these emotions may spiral out of control and turn into complicated grief, as well as other mental health issues, including anxiety disorder and depression.
Even though grief after the loss of a child is indeed a terrible experience, it’s important to keep in mind that it won’t last forever. Time heals all wounds, no matter how deep. However, coping with such grief alone can be incredibly difficult.
People who’ve lost their children need support. Given that grief can have a significant negative impact on one’s mental health, reaching out for professional help is always a good idea. A licensed grief counselor can suggest coping practices that will work for you and help you heal quicker.
If you don’t have enough time for in-person sessions, you can try online grief counseling, which has proven to be as effective as traditional therapy while also being a more flexible option.
In this article, we are going to take a closer look at grief and its treatment to show you why therapy is important, and what you can expect from it.
Common feelings after the loss of a child
Grief is a feeling, and everyone’s feelings are unique. Therefore, there is no “right” or “wrong” grief. Everyone grieves in their own way, and grief can manifest itself both emotionally and physically.
Grief can have a strong impact on one’s weight, appetite, ability to focus, and sleep. Besides, parents who’ve lost a child may experience a whole range of overwhelming negative emotions.
Some of the most common issues associated with grief are:
- Shock or difficulty realizing what happened;
- Resentment and anger, especially when a parent feels like everything could happen differently;
- Fear about the future and anxiety;
- Depression that may evolve from persistent sadness;
- Guilt if a parent feels somewhat responsible for what happened.
Some people experience just a couple of these symptoms, while others may develop additional symptoms. Besides, your feelings may change with time.
In most cases, symptoms of grief ease with time and a person becomes able to move on. However, persistent and complicated grief may lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Even healthy grief can be overwhelming and very difficult to cope with, so speaking to a therapist is always a good idea. Here’s what you should know about grief therapy.
Types of grief therapy
Now that we’ve mentioned that people experience grief differently, it’s important to mention the fact that there are also different types of therapy and techniques.
The right approach in each particular situation depends on many factors, including how long a person experienced grief, what symptoms they have, and how severe these symptoms are.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) aims to identify the unhelpful thoughts that lead to unwanted emotions and behavior. By recognizing and challenging such thoughts, you can replace them with more positive ones and overcome your emotional problems.
By learning to cope with unhelpful thoughts, one can ease the symptoms of grief and improve their overall mental well-being. One of the things that makes CBT effective is that it’s rather an action-oriented type of therapy. You can work with therapists who are trained in CBT and target specific problems.
CBT is used when treating a vast range of mental health disorders and emotional problems, and it usually delivers great results. When working with clients who experience grief, therapists also target unhelpful thinking patterns that may stop you from healing or contribute to the worsening of symptoms. Besides, CBT allows you to understand how these thoughts shape your behavior.
Complicated grief therapy (CGT)
We’ve already mentioned that sometimes, grief may get out of control and turn into complicated grief. This type of grief is characterized by prolonged and extremely intense sadness, as well as the feeling of hopelessness. In this case, complicated grief therapy can be helpful.
Generally, complicated grief therapy is based on acceptance and commitment, and it focuses on issues that are particularly common among people with complicated grief.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
There are many things we can change and prevent, but there are also things we can do nothing about. As the name suggests, this type of therapy aims to help a client accept negative situations and emotions that are unavoidable.
ACT can be particularly helpful when a person feels guilty, ignores their feelings, or tries to run away from them. The ultimate goal of ACT is to not only help a client overcome a certain emotional problem but also improve their psychological flexibility.
This type of therapy heavily relies on mindfulness techniques because they can help one stay present in the current moment. It can also help you process your emotions more effectively and in a healthier way.
Traumatic grief therapy
Events like the loss of a child can not only lead to the development of complicated grief but also cause significant psychological trauma. For example, grieving parents can be particularly traumatized when a loss of a child is associated with violence or accidents. As a result, a therapist addresses both of these issues.
Grief Counseling vs. Grief Therapy
When reading about mental health care, you may notice that some sources mention grief therapy, while others mention counseling. As a result, it can be difficult for someone not familiar with psychological terminology to figure out what kind of help they need.
Both therapy and counseling involve conversations with a mental health professional. However, mental health professionals have different types of licenses. For instance, there are licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), etc.
Starting your Healing Journey
The choice of a mental health expert depends on your symptoms and their severity, as well as on many other factors. So, finding a perfect therapist may take some time.
Besides, traditional in-person therapy requires you to be present in the same room with your therapist, which means that you need to commute to their office.
Online therapy platforms like Calmerry not only offer a more flexible solution but also give you access to a pool of licensed therapists and counselors. When using Calmerry, you can switch therapists for free and get matched in just an hour based on your specific symptoms and the therapists’ qualifications.
But perhaps the main advantage of online therapy is that it enables you to get help from anywhere you are. You can exchange text messages with your therapist or schedule video calls to imitate the traditional setting.
You may never get over what happened completely, but you can learn to manage your feelings and cope with grief. You can improve your mental health and move on. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. You’re not alone.