Healing from grief is one of the most essential and hardest steps in grieving. It can be so difficult that we or our loved ones might not be able to do it without professional help. And this is where grief counseling comes in.
However, knowing about the possible solution - grief counseling - doesn't necessarily solve the problem as we or our loved ones might feel reluctant to see a professional ; causing the prolongment of the healing process and subjecting us to more emotional and psychological stress.
Before we explore why you or someone might choose to refuse to go for counseling, it would be best to understand how we can recognize when we or someone needs counseling and support for grief.
Signs That You Or Someone You Know Needs Grief Counseling
DAILY LIFE BECOMES TOO DIFFICULT TO MANAGE
We've all had days when we didn't want to get up from bed and do anything but snuggle all day and maybe binge on Netflix and ice cream. It happens. However, when it is becoming an everyday thing, it might signify that it is time to get help.
One of the most prominent signs that tells us it's time to seek help is when it becomes difficult to carry out normal day-to-day activities like brushing, bathing, eating, etc.
During a grieving process, one's routine and activities might dwindle for a while as they try to adjust to the death of a loved one. However, when this stage takes longer than usual, it is time to seek help.
THOUGHTS OF SELF-HARM OR HARMING OTHERS CREEPS IN
In the process of grieving, we will be subjected to different thoughts and emotions. Many of them might be foreign and negative; this is normal.
While negative thoughts and other unpleasant emotions like doubt or fear are pointers to a normal grieving process, it is time to seek professional counseling when the thoughts start shifting to self-harm or thoughts about harming others.
Practicing self-harm when going through a painful period is usually an attempt to physically release the emotional and psychological pain and pressure that have built up.
Another reason people self-harm is to distract themselves with another type of pain. Instead of feeling emotional turmoil and pain, they feel physical pain for the brief amount of time they self-harm, which might help numb the emotional pains. Harming others might stem from a desire to make others feel the pain they are going through.
When our thoughts or that of a loved one start going this way, we must start seeking help so that we or our loved ones don't end up injured.
FEELINGS OF LONLINESS & FEAR BECOME INTENSE
It's normal to feel scared and alone during a grieving process. Even though family and friends surround us, we can still get lost in our world of grief and feel alone. When this feeling of loneliness morphs into something deeper and comes with fear and doubts, you should probably consider visiting a grief therapist.
Talking to a nonjudgemental and neutral professional can help us relieve all the emotional pressure we've kept in. It will also allow us to talk freely without having to mind what the listener will think about us.
For instance, you might hold back some things when discussing your grief with a family member or friend because you might be worried about them or what they would think of you if you said exactly what you were feeling. You wouldn't need to worry about this while talking to a grief counselor.
Also, talking to a therapist will allow us to do some deep introspection about ourselves; we might discover qualities or emotions we weren't aware of. It will also give us a fresh and different perspective on all the emotions we feel.
We might feel alone or apart from our family members because they might not understand us or our emotions. Seeking help outside them might open us to new perspectives and make us see things from another angle.
THERE'S A SUDDEN CHANGE IN HABITS
According to psychology, it takes an average of 66 days for an habit to form and become automatic.However, a sudden and immediate change in habit is a source of concern and should be addressed as soon as possible. When you start noticing sudden changes in your habits and behaviors, especially if they tend to the negative side, then you might need to seek professional help.
RELYING ON UNHEALTHY HABITS TO COPE
When the grief we feel becomes overwhelming and intense, we might start picking up dangerous habits to help us numb the pain. Some of these habits include:
- Heavy drinking
- Doing drugs
- Binging on junk food or
- Too much screen time
The more you start relying on these habits, the harder it becomes to break free from them. Additionally, these habits will act as an hindrance to your healing process. At first, they might look like they are providing some form of respite, but in the real sense, what they are doing is keeping the trauma buried, which will give it more time to fester.
ACTIVITIES THAT FORMALLY BROUGHT YOU JOY NO LONGER DO
There are some activities that we engage in with our loved ones; after their death, we might not derive as much joy as we used to from these activities. This is normal, and with time, you might pick up other hobbies and activities to replace them.
But when we stop feeling joy over all the activities that used to bring us joy - not just those we used to do with our deceased loved ones - This might be a glaring indication that it is high time we sought help.
Talking to a grief counselor about why you no longer love these activities can help you develop new ways of seeing them and help you break the traumas that you might have come to associate with them.
WILLINGNESS TO GET BETTER BUT IGNORANCE ON HOW TO DO IT
Sometimes, when we are under intense emotional and psychological stress, it can be confusing to find a way out. We want to get better, but we don't know where to start or how to go about it.
In cases like this, seeing a grief counselor will help you better understand your situation and clear the air.
A counselor specializing in situations like this will be of immense help as they will help you navigate through the dark tunnel of confusion and kickstart your healing journey.
PHYSICAL HEALTH IS BECOMING AFFECTED
Emotional and psychological stress directly and indirectly impact our physical health. Here's how it works. The central nervous system in the human body is affected by psychological issues; this means that our immune system, cardiovascular system, and endocrine system are inadvertently affected by our mental health.
When your physical health starts getting affected by your mental health, you should consider seeing a therapist.
So far, we've talked about reasons why someone who lost a loved one might need grief counseling. However, other reasons - apart from losing a loved one - might also inspire grief.
Reasons Other Than The Death Of A Loved One Why Someone Might Feel Grief
Here are some reasons other than the death of a loved one why one might feel grief.
DIVORCE OR CHANGES IN A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP
Changes in the dynamics of a serious relationship or losing someone we were once close with can cause feelings of grief.
This grief can come from different sources. It can come from losing our relationship and the activities we used to perform with the person, losing our confidant and someone we can easily express ourselves to, as well as losing the idea of what was and the potential the relationship had.
CHANGES IN ONE'S HEALTH CONDITION OR THAT OF A LOVED ONE
One of the main aspects of our life that directly impacts other parts of our life is our health. No wonder why they say health is wealth. Changes in our physical, mental or emotional health or that loved one - especially towards the negative part - can put us under a lot of stress and make us experience various emotions, including grief.
The grief can come from sadness over the fact that we or our loved one is suffering. It can also come as a result of fear for our lives or theirs and anger over the unfairness of it all.
LOSING A JOB OR CHANGE IN FINANCIAL SECURITY
Losing one's source of income can also cause grief to set in. The worry, fear of the unknown, and some lifestyle changes one will have to make can cause grief.
LOSS OF DREAMS & ASPIRATIONS
If, for one cause or another, the achievement of the dreams and aspirations we've nursed for a long time suddenly becomes impossible, it can cause a feeling of loss for the hope that was dashed.
Since grief is mostly caused by loss, any situation where one loses something can trigger grief.
There are different and normal reasons why someone might be reluctant to seek counseling for grief. Still, as valid as these reasons might be, they don't necessarily justify the reluctance to see a grief counseling professional.
Why? This is because our reluctance to take this necessary step in our healing journey would eventually hurt us and our loved ones in the long run.
So, as detrimental as this might be, why would we or someone else feel reluctant to see a grief counselor? As we said earlier, there are various reasons for this; we will explore some of them below.
Why Someone Might Be Reluctant To Seek Grief Counseling
FEAR THAT IT WON'T HELP
During the grieving process, our emotions become intense and might make us feel so overwhelmed and swaddled that we end up doubting and disbelieving that anyone or anything could help us feel better.
We feel that the emotions are too strong, and nothing can ease them. This can lead us to doubt the effectiveness of grief counseling.
LACK OF TIME
To further convince ourselves that we do not need or want grief counseling, we might make different excuses. One of the excuses we might give is that we don't have enough time to fit therapy into our schedules. We convince ourselves that we are too busy to engage in another commitment.
But the truth is, we know that we can always create time for activities that we prioritize. Once you prioritize and realize the importance of grief counseling, especially to your healing process, you will be able to create the time needed to keep up with the sessions.
Furthermore, you can now use more convenient methods to attend the sessions if you don't want to travel to a specific destination for the sessions. You could hold it via video calls, phone calls, and so on.
BELIEF THAT THE FEELINGS CAN BE HANDLED WITHOUT PROFESSIONAL HELP
One of the beautiful things about human beings is that we always know the truth about ourselves. We may feign ignorance about some things, but when push comes to shove, and we mean business, we can always tell the absolute truth to ourselves.
During a difficult grieving process, we might keep telling ourselves that we are strong enough to handle these feelings. While it is good to say positive and encouraging things to yourself when grieving, it is also very important to know when to let go and ask for help.
We often make the mistake of equating strength with independence. This is usually not the case because it takes strength to be vulnerable and ask for help. When we start feeling so overwhelmed with our emotions, and they start going out of hand, we must be strong for ourselves and our loved ones by taking a step in seeking the services of a professional therapist to help us scale through.
THEY TRIED COUNSELING BEFORE & IT DIDN'T WORK
This is one of the strongest reasons someone might choose not to go for grief counseling even though they might need it. In their opinion, because it didn't work the first or previous times means it isn't going to work this time either. However, there are different reasons why your previous attempt at counseling might not have worked.
We'll list a couple of them :
- The therapist lacks training in that specific area of need
- The client isn't cooperative. This can be in the form of refusal of the client to open up, constant complaining, inconsistency, etc.
- The therapist and client aren't a good fit
If you've tried counseling before and it didn't work, then consider why it didn't and work out those issues.
For example, suppose you think that the previous counseling didn't work because you felt like the therapist didn't understand you or your situation. If you are giving therapy a second chance, you might want to go for a therapist that is specifically trained in the area you need help with.
This isn't to say you should focus on a dead end; it is to say you shouldn't give up on something that can immensely benefit you and your loved ones in the long run because of some failures at the beginning. Try to make sure you give your best before giving up on it.
Also, the fact that something didn't work the first time doesn't mean it won't work the next time you try it. Even Edison, one of the greatest inventors in the world, had to try 1000 times before he got the light bulb to work.
FEELING EMBARASSED SHARING ONE'S THOUGHTS WITH A STRANGER
The thought of sitting in front of a stranger and pouring your heart out might seem embarrassing to you. But the truth is, there is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about. Choosing to seek grief counseling shows your willingness to start your healing journey, and frankly, making that choice requires courage. Why should displaying courage make you feel embarrassed?
So, instead of feeling embarrassed about seeing a counselor, you should feel proud of yourself for making a not-so-easy decision to start your healing journey, which will eventually benefit you and your loved ones.
STIGMAS AROUND COUNSELING
Another reason we might feel reluctant to seek counseling is because of the wrong misconception and stigma around it. It is often thought that only people diagnosed with mental conditions should see a therapist. This notion is wrong.
Seeing a counselor or choosing to go for therapy doesn't necessarily mean that you have a mental illness; it simply means you're willing to take the necessary steps to help bring about your healing process. Additionally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a mental disease. Do not let anyone invalidate your struggles by making you feel weak or "crazy" for choosing to see a counselor.
Helpful Tips If You Or A Loved One Is Reluctant To Go For Counseling
As human beings, we naturally crave the support and validation of our fellow human beings; this is more so when we want to embark on something new.
Showing support to loved ones after a loss - especially those who need counseling but are reluctant to go - will go a long way in helping to change their minds. It also helps that there are various ways you can show your support.
Some ways you can show support include:
- Helping them decide and look for a therapist or group therapy well suited to handle their needs
- Offering to take them for the sessions or appointment
- Offering to stay while they have their session
- Offering to pick them up after their sessions
HAVE THE CONVERSATION PRIVATELY
The discussion of whether a loved one or yourself needs therapy should not be carried out in public or where other people are present.
When this discussion is initiated and discussed publicly, there are bound to be different opinions and thoughts on the subject that might leave you or the person who needs the therapy more confused.
Also, amidst all the opinion sharing and discussion, the opinion of the person who needs the therapy might not be fully heard; this can make them feel sad, unseen, and invalidated. Additionally, having a discussion in public when the decision is yet to be made might put them or you under another pressure.
So, if you are going to discuss whether someone you know or love needs to go for therapy, it is preferable and highly recommended that you have such discussions in a private, calm, and secluded area that will foster communication, empathy, and validation.
ALLOW THE PERSON STRUGGLING TO DECIDE IF THEY WANT HELP
Seeing a loved one going through a difficult phase without being able to help much can make us feel powerless, and sometimes, in a bid to help, we might start becoming imposing and forceful.
We might start trying to impose our opinions and suggestions on them, believing that we know better and that they will thank us when they look back in retrospect.
Even if we knew better, imposing a suggestion is not the right way. When we impose our opinions on our loved ones who are struggling, we can make them feel unseen and helpless.
Rather than forcing them, it would be better if you had series of discussions with them to hear them out. Listen to their opinion on why they do not want to go and help them see reasons why going for counseling or grief therapy might be the best course of action for them.
Convincing them instead of forcing them will make them more receptive to the idea and make them more willing to put effort into making it work.
DON'T AVOID THEM
When we see a loved one struggling without being able to offer much help, we might start feeling guilty, and this can make us start shifting away from them. Doing this will compound the feeling of grief and isolation, so you should try to be there for them as much as possible.
PREPARE FOR RESISTANCE
As we mentioned earlier, when you convince your loved ones to go for grief counseling instead of forcing them, they will become more receptive to the idea. To convince them, you need to be prepared for resistance and, as such, be ready to make your case properly.
As they bring out their objections, listen to them and come up with solutions that will convince them to let go of their misgivings and give therapy a try.
Keep in mind that this doesn't guarantee that they will change their mind about receiving help. If they still choose to be resistant and not go for help, let them be and be patient with them.
There's a saying that you can't give what you have. If you are not properly informed on mental health and grief counseling, you might not be able to help your loved ones properly.
By becoming more informed about their struggles and how you can help, you will be better positioned to offer them quality direction and help.
Doing a bit of research into the area they need help with will also help you understand them better and come up with suitable options that will validate their struggles, make them feel seen, and make them more likely to adhere to your advice.
APPROACH THE CONVERSATION WITH SYMPATHY & EMPATHY
When trying to have a conversation about therapy or grief counseling, you should lace your words and suggestions with empathy.
Don't go defensive or commanding on them. You could initiate the conversation with how proud you are of them and how strong they've been. Then proceed to how you're worried about them.
Your discussion should center around your concern for their growth, well-being, and welfare and not how their behavioral changes make you and others around them feel frustrated. When you converse with them with empathy and compassion, they will be more likely to listen and feel less attacked.
While trying to help a loved one, it is important to show support as much as possible; however, it is also necessary to set boundaries.
You might want to indulge them, seeing as they are in a sensitive stage, but you should be mindful of this. Learn to set boundaries so that they don't become too reliant on you.
BE SPECIFIC & INSIGHTFUL
Sometimes, our loved ones might not even be aware of how much they've changed and how their mental condition is negatively affecting their lives. You can explain and show them with specific examples.
Point out and contrast their previous behaviors and their current ones. Help them see how much they've changed and how it might be affecting them.
Be careful to make these contrasts in neutral, non-judgemental, and non-defensive tones, so they don't recoil from you.
TALK TO SOMEONE YOURSELF
When it seems like you're also becoming affected by your loved one's mental condition, it might also be time to seek help yourself. You should not burden your loved one going through a difficult time. You can find a trusted friend or family member to help you. Or even a therapist too.
While all these tips are geared toward convincing our loved ones going through a hard time with grief to see a counselor, the ultimate choice still lies with them, and they should be allowed to choose themselves.
If they remain adamant, below are helpful ways you can make them feel better by encouraging and showing them how to express their grief healthily.
DON'T STIGMATIZE THERAPY
If you've always made it clear that therapy is normal, then they will be more inclined to favorably consider your advice to go for it. Make them see therapy as something normal, just like going to the doctor for a physical sickness.
Input it in your discussion that it is perfectly normal to go for therapy and highlight the benefits they stand to gain by going for therapy. Make them understand that therapy is a safe space where they can air all their opinion and thoughts without fear of judgment.
Other Healthy Ways Grief Can Be Expressed
Writing a grief letter, visiting a place that was special to them or doing things in their honor or name.
Using art therapy to express grief or by creating a memorial box. This is one of the most effective ways by which teenagers and kids can creatively express grief. Click here to learn how to help kids create memorial projects for a deceased loved one.
However, you might have to take drastic steps when the situation becomes dire. So, how do you know when to take stronger measures? Here's how.
When To Take Stronger Measures
If the situation has gone out of control and there is no sufficient time to wait for them to get receptive to the idea of seeking help, you would know when :
- They've started taking serious and dangerous measures to harm themselves or others
- Their addiction and substance use has become more severe and is causing them to act erratically
- They start carrying out strong suicidal tendencies
- They start having more intense and serious maniac episodes
What to do when these happen:
To prioritize their safety and others around them, do these;
Consider taking them to an emergency room, a behavioral center or hospital suited to handle their needs. Do your research and find mental health professionals that can help.
Meanwhile, here are some traits or skills you could improve on to further help them.
Become more empathetic and remain patient. When frustrated, take a break and regroup and don't take it out on them. Sharpen your listening skills and be prepared to just listen if need be.
There are various resources available that can help you find counseling for grief. Below is a list of some of them:
Your regular physician. You can ask your doctor to help recommend some of the experts they know in the field.
Through your spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders are also experienced in this subject area and can help find people who can help.
Close friends or family. Perhaps a close friend or family member has also gone through something like this, and therapy helped them; you could ask for their help and advice on how they went about it.
Online therapy or support groups. This is a perfect option for those who might not be opportune to travel a long distance before speaking to a therapist. Video calls with the therapist or other support group members can help.
Phone therapy session. Some people might want to remain anonymous and not show their faces; phone therapy sessions can come in handy here.
Local grief support group. Meeting with people who have gone through the same thing can help remove the feeling of isolation and help us learn how others are coping and dealing with their grief.
Online books, DVDs, or YouTube. There are various online resources like books, DVDs, and so on regarding grief counseling, and the good news is that most of them are free. This will work well for people who might not be able to afford therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions On How To Help A Person Reluctant To Go To Counseling
How do I know if I or someone I know needs help with grief?
No matter how minute they might be, there will always be signs that will tell you when it is time to seek grief counseling. You just need to be observant enough to notice them.
Here are some things to watch out for:
- Behavioral changes; changes in routine/ habit, change in sleeping and eating habits
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming others become prevalent
- Depression sets in
- Difficulty in dealing with daily life
- Use of substances or sex to cope
- You're starting to feel very lonely and isolated
What are the most common signs of grief?
There are 5 common stages of grief; if you find yourself doing these, then there is every probability that you are grieving.
- Shock and denial
- Anger or bargaining
- Acceptance and hope
Other day-to-day signs that might point to grieving include
- Irritability and or frustration
- Fear and doubts
What do grief counselors talk about?
Grief counselors are trained professionals who can help you come to terms with your loss and grief. During grief counseling, you will be allowed to discuss your feelings, emotions, and thoughts as you go through the grieving process. Your grief counselor will be a firm but helping hand in helping you start your healing journey.
What are some tips to help someone deal with grief?
As much as we hate seeing our loved ones in pain, especially those caused by grief, there's only so much we can do to help. However, here are helpful tips to help someone deal with grief.
- Be supportive
- Provide a listening ear
- Do your research on how you can help them
- Be patient with them
- Be there for them, but also maintain boundaries, so they don't feel choked up
- Encourage them to meditate and talk about their feelings and emotions
How do I approach the subject of counseling if someone is reluctant to go for it?
The choice to ultimately go for counseling should be the bereaved person's choice. Nevertheless, there are still some helpful tips to approach the discussion of grief counseling for someone reluctant to go about it.
- Discuss a private, safe, and comfortable place
- Don't be authoritative or defensive.
- Let the discussion be centered on their well-being and not how they make others around them feel.
- Normalize therapy and break the stigma around it for them
- Talk from a place of empathy and compassion
- Don't invalidate their struggles
How do I know when it's time to take other serious measures?
When you or your loved ones start doing the following, you might not have the time to wait for them to make up their mind about therapy, and you have to take steps, so they don't end up hurting themselves and those around them.
Here's what to look out for :
- They start being suicidal
- They've become a serious threat to themselves and those around them.
- Their life is becoming negatively impacted.
- Their behavioral habits are now becoming more intense and maniacal.
Helping Those You Love
Seeing a loved one in pain and not being able to do anything about it can be a very painful experience, particularly if they are refusing our help. But, there is only so much we can do. If you are convinced that a particular person needs therapy but is reluctant to go, follow the helpful tips we've listed in this article.
However, don't forget that the choice should remain in their hands unless the situation is dire. This period is a sensitive one for you and your loved one and a trying time. In times like this, you must remember to be patient, empathetic, and compassionate while hoping for the best for all of you.
June 30, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus