By David Joel Miller.
Why Bereavement might require counseling.
Bereavement, the loss of someone close, is a normal part of life. How you react to that Bereavement determines if someone needs to see a counselor. We expect you to go through the process of grieving when they lose someone close to you. If you have difficulty with this process you might need to see a counselor.
Having certain other factors in your life may increase the need for professional help to deal with the bereavement.
Most people can navigate the bereavement process with the help of family, friends and their faith-based community if they have a particular faith. We expect you to think about the departed person, be sad and have some physical symptoms. Crying, loss of appetite, poor sleep, and even some weight loss are common in the early stages of bereavement. You may experience more or less of these symptoms. Some people can express this outwardly and some keep the pain inside.
You will probably never completely get over the loss and you are sure to always remember the loved one but at some point you will begin to be able to return to your life as it was before they passed. You should still be able to work, be close to others among your family and friends and find some things pleasurable to do.
If the symptoms go on too long they begin to look more like depression than normal grief. How long the bereavement process may take you depend on you and your culture. In American and most of “western” culture we expect this process to take 60 days or less. If it goes beyond that we need to look at how this loss is affecting you.
If you have had other problems in the past this may put you at high risk for Bereavement issues. If you have a history of substance abuse issues, bereavement may be a trigger for you. The loss may increase the risk you will relapse. People with histories of mental health issues are also at increased risk when navigating grief and loss.
Experiencing depression, substance abuse episodes or relapsing into episodes of either are reasons you may decide to seek therapy.
Some warning signs of bereavement problems are listed in the DSM. The symptoms (in my words) include 1. Excess guilt other than about things that happened around the time of the death. 2. Thoughts of death beyond just wishing you had died with or instead of them, especially any thoughts of suicide or allowing yourself to die. 3. Feeling worthless. 4. Sluggishness, lack of energy to do anything 5. Can’t work, be with family or friends or have fun 6. Hallucinations
If you occasionally see the person briefly or hear their voice from time to time we let that go. Depending on your beliefs this may be a very normal experience. If you see or hear other things or this begins to interfere with your life than seek help.
I have used the terms grief and loss in this explanation of bereavement but there are other types of grief and loss besides bereavement. People grieve over lost loves, divorces, job loss, natural disasters and many other things. None of those fall under the heading of bereavement and they may or may not meet criteria for treatment according to the DSM. But then many people who don’t have a specific diagnosis come to see a counselor, they just need help solving some of life’s problems.
While I can’t provide counseling or therapy via this blog I would love to hear from any of you who care to comment on this post about your experiences with Bereavement and how you moved past it. Questions on this topic or anything having to do with mental health, substance abuse or dual diagnosis are welcome.
Has Bereavement impacted your mental health, substance abuse, dual diagnosis and how have you coped?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books