The truth that we all know, and that we all hate, is this: grief is a part of life. By adulthood, nearly 75% of the population of the United States has experienced what those of us in the counseling field refer to as a “big T trauma.” Big T traumas can include: the death of a romantic partner or close family member; your divorce; your parents’ divorce; acute medical trauma; military combat; sexual or physical assault; life-threatening illness or accident; and other events. You can realize after reading that list that these are all life-altering events, bringing with them possible changes to financial status, social life, physical ability, and certainly mental and emotional health.
In my job as a counselor, I most often see people neglect their mental and emotional health even while they are taking great care of their finances or their careers, or other external parts of their lives. But this is not a complete plan of action. Here are four reasons why grief counseling can help you be as careful with your grief as you are with other parts of your new reality.
1. Grief ignored can manifest as medical problems, or even major medical events.
The medical research is replete with correlations between traumatic life events and subsequent medical complications, such as heart attack, stroke, increased blood pressure, chronic pain or GI issues. Often, the stress encountered during life changes can manifest itself physically and maybe even cause long-term illness or disabilities for the grieving person. Entering grief counseling is one way you can help take care of not just your emotions, but also your physical health.
2. Grief ignored can manifest as other, more chronic, mental health issues.
Often a person’s unresolved grief becomes depression, which can be marked by changes in sleep and appetite, as well as a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, low mood, difficulty concentrating or remembering, and inappropriate feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Clinical depression is treatable, and counseling should be sought as soon as possible. Grief counseling can help process the difficult emotions associated with the major life changes before they become clinical depression.
3. Grief ignored can be a more difficult experience in the long run.
Sometimes people mistakenly believe that if they ignore their pain, they won’t have to feel it. Unfortunately, here at Chenal Family Therapy we see the dark side of this deal; namely, that pain that is ignored, is pain that grows covertly in a person’s mind and body until it demands to be noticed. Yes, if this is the heaviest thing that has ever happened in your life, the recovery will be one of the hardest things you have ever done. At the same time, if you delay the recovery, it will just get harder. Grief counseling can help you be proactive in confronting and processing your grief, so that it doesn’t become an even more difficult mountain to climb.
4. Entering grief counseling and being proactive about your grief doesn’t just help you – it may also encourage loved ones to take better care of themselves!
Grief is not experienced in a vacuum. When a person passes away, their entire family and community is affected. When a couple divorce, same thing. Not to mention military combat, natural disasters, or major medical events. We are all connected, and if you are proactive about entering grief counseling, you just might be the example that a loved one needs to also take that step. Let’s work together to reverse the stigma surrounding mental health counseling, and let’s encourage each other to seek help when we need it.