Do I need grief counseling?

You may benefit from grief counseling if you have experienced trauma and are experiencing some of the following symptoms. You may be living with many of these symptoms, or only one or two. If these symptoms are interfering with your life or if your grief is persistent, you may want to see a grief counselor. Grief isn’t something you have to live with. Unresolved grief chips away at us and ultimately destroys our quality of life.

  • Depression
    1. Uncontrollable crying
    2. Drastic weight changes
    3. Suicidal thoughts
    4. Feeling hopeless, helpless, or like life has no meaning
    5. Difficulty sleeping
    6. Withdrawing from things you used to enjoy (including isolating from friends/family)
    7. Feeling worthless
  • Anxiety
    1. Panic attacks
    2. Difficulty sleeping
    3. Invasive thoughts
    4. Difficulty concentrating
    5. Feelings of impending panic or doom
    6. Sweating
    7. Trembling
    8. Rapid breathing
    9. Gastrointestinal issues
    10. Feeling nervous, restless or tense
    11. Recurring thoughts about the traumatic event(s)
  • Irritability or anger
  • Addictive (numbing) behaviors
    1. Drug/alcohol use to numb pain
    2. Gambling
    3. Shopping excessively
    4. Disordered eating

If you’ve lost a loved one, you may be experiencing the following:

  1. Intense longing for your loved one
  2. Avoiding people/places that remind you of your loved one
  3. Difficulty believing your loved one is dead
  4. Reliving the death
  5. Nightmares about the death
  6. Guilt, pain, fear, anger, sadness, numbness, inability to feel joy

Regardless of the loss or trauma you’ve suffered, if you are concerned about yourself or if loved ones have expressed concerns for you, you may want to seek help. If you’ve experienced multiple losses over a short period of time, or you have suffered multiple losses which never really healed, you may benefit from grief counseling.

Do I need grief counseling quiz?

The following website provides a quiz to determine if you might benefit from grief counseling. Some of the questions are specific to loss of a loved one, but regardless of your trauma, this quiz may help you gage your level of functioning:

Effective grief counseling should…

Effective grief counseling should guide you through the grief process and help you work through, and thereby diminish, your grief. But I don’t aim for ‘not suffering so badly that I can breathe and sort of function’. I aim for contentment and peace. When my clients put the work in, and are willing to suffer through the pain of grief work, they move on to live new, happier lives.

How can/does grief counseling help?

Grief counseling with a skilled clinician can literally change your life. Imagine that you broke your leg but were too afraid to go to the doctor. You limp around on that broken leg, doing the best you can. But that leg hurts with each step. The pain becomes exhausting. You stop wanting to do anything because of the pain. So you put a make-shift splint on your leg and it heals, but it heals improperly. Now you can get around, but there is always a dull ache in your leg.

Grief is like this in many ways. You might be able to grit through the worst of it but it won’t go away without help and intentional work to heal it. Counseling can give you your life back. 

How effective is grief counseling and does grief counseling actually work?

We don’t know the answer to this question and the ‘answer’ largely depends on which Doctor’s opinion you agree with. The research is also inconclusive.

However, I can tell you, anecdotally, that over the course of five years working intensively with people suffering from complex trauma, that all but one of my clients benefited immensely from our grief work. They report decreased pain and increased contentment, peace, and happiness.

How long does grief counseling last?

Unfortunately there is no timeline for grieving. I can tell you that if you are seeing a therapist who is skilled at helping people work through their pain, you should notice a gradual decrease in symptoms over time. Grief and healing are different for everyone.

How much does grief counseling cost?

I charge 150.00 per hour and I accept cash, checks, debit, HSA, and credit cards. Some companies will cover therapy for their employees—you can find out if your company offers this benefit by speaking with someone in Human Resources.

You may also be able to use your insurance to cover some of the cost of seeing me if your insurance covers ‘out of network therapists’. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about how this works.

There are also less expensive therapists in the field and some therapists offer a sliding fee scale.

If you decide to see me, depending on your level of functioning, we may see each other once a week or every other week to begin with, and then spread out sessions as we go.

How to do grief counseling

Sometimes people avoid grief counseling because they are already in so much pain they believe they can’t handle any more—and they believe that grief work is too hard and too painful.

The beauty of coming to grief counseling with me is that you don’t have to ‘do’ anything extraordinary. I will help and guide you. I will listen and really hear you. I will help you say the things that haunt your thoughts, that you might not want to say out loud. I will be with you, right where you are, without judgement.

I believe that we all want peaceful lives and that with guidance and help, we can attain peace and happiness.

For your part, you will have to come to therapy and be present. You will have to choose to suffer in the short term so that you feel better in the long term.

The most difficult part of the process for most people is walking through their new therapist’s door for the first time. For most people, therapy soon feels like a huge relief.

How to find grief counseling or a grief therapist

When looking for a skilled grief counselor, you’ll want to look over the clinician’s website to see if they list grief counseling as a specialty. All counselors are trained to work with grief, but therapists who specialize in grief and loss are more likely to have specialized training in grief work, and more direct experience working with grieving clients.

My clients come to me through referrals from other clients, referrals from other clinicians, referrals from doctors, and internet searches.

I would personally trust a referral from a friend/doctor/family member whose judgement I trust. If you are looking for someone using the internet, I suggest that you go over each prospective therapist’s website with a fine tooth comb. What to look for?

  • Someone you like (you should be able to get a good feel for their personality from their website). For therapy to work you will need to form a relationship of trust with your therapist, and you need to feel comfortable and relaxed in therapy. I strongly discourage going to a therapist who you don’t feel a connection to, simply because they specialize in grief work.
  • Assuming you like them, someone who clearly specializes in grief work.
  • A therapist you can relate to (I personally wouldn’t go to a therapist who used a lot of therapist-lingo without ever really saying anything)

How to know if I need grief counseling?

Please refer to the list of symptoms above. If you are still unsure about whether you need grief counseling, you may want to take the following quiz:

Should I go to grief counseling?

If you are grieving and feeling ‘stuck’, you may benefit from grief counseling. Grief doesn’t just ‘go away over time’. We can’t ignore or suppress our pain, at least not forever, and not without a great cost to our quality of life.

I like to imagine that we have a bowl inside our bodies, where our emotions reside. If that bowl is full of pain, there is no room for other emotions. Once we work through that pain, and get it out, we make room in ‘the bowl’ for other feelings like happiness and joy.

What degree do you need for grief counseling? 

Therapists can provide grief counseling with a Masters degree, (MA, MS, MFT, MSW)  or a Doctorate (PsyD or PH.D).

What do they do in grief counseling?

A skilled grief counselor will guide you through the grief process. They will offer support, a safe place to talk about your thoughts and feelings, help you work through your specific trauma, and help you find your ‘new normal’.






If you are struggling to get through each day, for whatever reasons, therapy can help. You can make the choice to stop suffering and start living. You get one life; don’t passively throw it away.