Moving forward, with help: Who needs grief counselling, how does it work?
When the period of grieving goes on for too long, it is time to seek help.
Loss and trauma are a part of life. But it isn’t always possible for people to get over it by themselves. Experts believe that unresolved or un-acknowledged grief can cause heart problems, weakened immunity, sleep problems and depression. That’s why they recommend professional unburdening through a grief counsellor.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, doctors classify grief into two types: acute and persistent. The latter is the kind that persists even after 12 months. Chennai-based psychologist Anya Kumar says the normal grieving period involves a cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. “But if it goes on for too long one must seek help.”
Awareness about grief therapy in India is still low. Few hospitals have grief counsellors and it is hard to find mental health professionals who focus on it. “Usually, patients come to me complaining about something else like depression or anxiety, and it eventually turns out to be long unresolved grief,” says Kumar.
There is no one method to counsel grief. Sometimes a couple of sessions are enough and in some cases it can go on for much longer. It is different for the young, who are anxious about living the life that lies ahead with the loss and the old, who lose the motivation to perform simple tasks. In India even the differences in economic situation matter, counsellors say.
It’s not risk free. Psychologist Pradnya J Ajinkya believes that when the counsellor is not qualified or not good at counselling, it can be counterproductive. “People suffering loss are in a very vulnerable state and a bad counsellor can hurt the coping process,” she says. Some experts suggest that it can even lead to depression in rare cases. But in general even if a person only listens, that helps.
But in India, unlike the United States, we still don’t have an active database of experts to approach, says Kumar. “The best way is to check the counsellors credentials carefully for their specialisation and their expertise in dealing with grief-related cases,” she says.