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Counseling is a form of psychotherapy that helps people cope with grief and mourning following the death of a loved one, or with any other major life change that triggers feelings of loss (such as divorce.) Everyone experiences and expresses grief in their own way, often shaped by how their culture honors the process or not. It is not uncommon for a person to withdraw from their friends and family and feel helpless; some might be angry and want to take action. One can expect a wide range of emotions and behaviors associated with grief. In all places and cultures, the grieving person benefits from the support of other, and when support is lacking, counseling may provide an avenue for healthy resolution. Similarly, where the process of grieving is interrupted for example, by simultaneously having to deal with practical issues of survival or by being the strong one and holding a family together, it can remain unresolved and later resurface as an issue for counseling.

Grief counseling also becomes necessary when a person is so disabled by their grief, or overwhelmed by loss to the extent that they are unable to cope with daily life. Grief counseling facilitates expression of emotion and thought about the loss, including sadness, anxiety, anger, loneliness, guilt, relief, isolation, confusion, or numbness. There are special types of grief counseling available, as well, for those who lost a loved one by suicide, for parents who lost a child, or for those who lost someone by an act of violence, such as murder.

There is a distinction between grief counseling and grief therapy. Counseling involves helping people move through uncomplicated, or normal, grief to health and resolution. Grief therapy involves the use of clinical tools for traumatic or complicated grief reactions. This could occur where the grief reaction is prolonged or manifests itself through some bodily or behavioral symptom, or by a grief response outside the range of cultural or psychiatrically defined normality. A common area where grief therapy has been extensively applied is with the parents of cancer patients.


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