Individual Counseling For Grief: What Works And What Doesn’t

In individual counseling at Take Charge, Inc. we use a polyvagal approach to grief. As we discussed in our previous blog on marriage counseling, Polyvagal Theory explains how the nervous system responds adaptively to threats, what makes us feel safe again, how past experiences might slow recovery, and how a safe environment is necessary for healing.

A Polyvagal Approach To Grief

Polyvagal Theory shows us two crucial things about grief. First, that any intensely overwhelming emotional experience can potentially be perceived as dangerous by our nervous system and consequently evoke a physiological fear response. And second, that when people are allowed and encouraged to express these emotions in a healthy way with safe and understanding social support, they are able to move through the emotions without them causing ongoing trauma responses.

Possibly the most important factor in the healing of people who are grieving is how helpful (or not) their social support system is. The biggest cause of poor outcomes for grieving people is unmet needs and unhelpful intervention from others.

Some people struggling with grief do not have good support systems. Even those with normally strong support systems often feel alone and abandoned if their friends and loved ones can’t hold space without worrying about them or have misperceptions about how the person “should” grieve. For these people, individual counseling can provide calm, present support that validates their experiences and the safety required for healing.

Individual counseling can help a grieving person untangle their responses and make sense of them.

What Works And What Doesn’t

Individual counseling can help a grieving person untangle their responses and make sense of them. Family and friends can also help provide support if they understand what is and is not helpful. 

A few things that are unhelpful to a grieving person are:

  • Encouraging them to get back to “normal” as quickly as possible.
  • Suggesting that there is a linear process or set timetable for grief.
  • Expressing worry about their grief.
  • Centering your own emotional responses.
  • Telling them that their loved one is in a better place or that everything happens for a reason.

A few things that ARE helpful to a grieving person are:

  • Encouraging them to express their feelings in healthy ways.
  • Reminding them that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that you will be there for them the whole way.
  • Help them with mundane tasks like cooking and cleaning without expecting them to do the work of delegating.
  • Tell them their feelings are natural and valid.
  • Encourage and help them to seek individual counseling that uses a polyvagal approach.

Individual Counseling At Take Charge, Inc.

Brain based therapy informs us we need to use the whole brain on how to think differently, how to work with our body and how to work with our autonomic nervous system. Trauma Informed Therapy can help you build upon your brains healing potential, Terri Clinton Dichiser incorporates bottom up approaches of EMDR, somatic experiencing, mindfulness, polyvagal theory, EFIT and top down approaches such as cognitive behavioral to bring hope and healing.

For more information about individual counseling in Johnson County, KS, call Take Charge, Inc. at (913) 239-8255. To schedule an appointment, click here.

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