Grief therapy is a specific counseling specialty in which a professional therapist assists the client to identify, clarify, and express various emotions related to a loss. If someone is having difficulty adjusting and accepting the loss, it can cause increased irritability, increased depression symptoms, and feeling consumed by the experience. This experience greatly effects the client’s daily functioning in work, at home, and in social situations. If not dealt with properly, this person can become isolated, which compounds these symptoms. It is crucial that this bereaved individual finds a safe place in which he or she can speak about the symptoms, the loss, and learn to identify and implement healthy coping strategies in order to return to normal functioning.
The most common instance in which someone might seek help is following the death of a loved one. However, addressing the grief of one loss may also expose previous unresolved losses that have not been effectively addressed. This is known as complicated grief. Processing specific emotions associated with the loss of a loved one can be hindered in grief therapy when a client has unresolved issues from the past. A current loss can bring other losses to the surface that complicates the work. Often this is due to early patterns/ "unspoken rules" the client learned in his/her upbringing about which emotions, if any are "allowed."
These "rules" necessarily affects the current symptoms. These rules also need to be identified and placed in perspective in terms of the current loss. Clients benefit from working with a trained professional who can help find different choices and healthier perspectives in this area. Working with a trained therapist will invite the client to engage in achieving the goal of deeper healing in which previous losses are resolved as well. In this case, there may be many emotions other than sadness a person might identify. The goal of a grief therapy specialist is to assist the client to identify specific emotions, sort them out, and then find healthy expression of those feelings in order to help the client move through the grief process effectively.
Although the loss of a loved one is the most commonly identified example of seeking grief therapy, grieving can occur with any loss: lost job, dreams, relationships, childhood traumas, disappointments, etc. Many of the therapeutic approaches used in the previous example of the death of a loved one can also be used to assist clients dealing with these or other forms of losses that are not usually thought about when seeking therapy. The result is a healthier, happier, more confident individual who has learned various skills to effectively cope with and adjust to future frustrations and losses that might occur throughout life.