If you have recently lost a love one and are coping with grief, there are many sites that help you find psychologists. I suggest you start with the American Psychological Association locator at: locator.apa.org. If you want to look at a broader range of providers including social workers and therapists, you might also check out the locator provided by Psychology Today Magazine at: http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_search.php. Here’s how to use it effectively and uncover a hidden gem:
- Enter your city or zip code.
- Now try this: look at the left margin near the top. See where it says ‘Refine your Search” and under that, ‘Issues?’
- Go down the list and click ‘More.’
- Now scroll down the left margin until you come to ‘Grief” and click on it.
There you have it: psychologists, social workers, and a variety of therapists who specialize in grief. I’m not saying this is the only list, but it is detailed. I tried it for both a suburban address and a rural address. For the suburban town I found 75 close by; for the rural address 24. Not bad.
Another good site is at www.ADEC.org, the Association for Death Education and Counseling. From their homepage, try this: in the left panel click on “For the Public,” then “Find a Specialist.”
One more surprisingly useful site is www.local.com. It knows where you are by the networks your computer is using to access the Internet, so all you have to do is enter a search term, like “grief counselor.” In the box that says “I’m looking for someone who can,” click “Provide supportive counseling,” and then enter your zip code or country. The results are listed by distance.
Once you find someone, you want to get to know more about them. Remember that unlike plumbers, therapists cannot give out names of satisfied customers. Research them on the web—more about that in a minute—if you don’t know how to, get a younger relative to help you out. Like I said above, go interview them; you are hiring them to do a job, so a job interview is totally appropriate. I could go on for pages about this piece of advice, but I’ll shorten it to one long sentence. When you interview them, tell them nothing about yourself; make them talk about themselves. You won’t find out anything about a person if you do all the talking; you need to do all the listening. Sorry, two sentences. If you want me to expand on this, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A final word that I want you to pay careful attention to and take to heart. You should seek professional help of you feel your grief at the loss of a loved one is overwhelming you, interfering with your work life or social life, or your relationships with others. Being overwhelmed with grief at the loss of a spouse, child, parent, or very close friend is NOT a form of mental illness. There’s nothing wrong with you. Grief is normal; you are normal. There is an important distinction between being afflicted with mental illness versus attending to your mental health.
Think about ‘depression’ for a moment. If you believe you have always been depressed, you may have a mental illness called ‘depression.’ If you are situationally depressed, e.g., your wife or husband of decades whom you loved dearly just passed away, you are perfectly normal. If it persists too long, or you feel overwhelmed, or you are having negative thoughts, get help, just like you would if you had a persistent or intensely painful sensation in your knee. You would go to the orthopedist, right? And she or he would fix you over a period of time, maybe through physical therapy, maybe through surgery and rehab. Seeing a mental health professional to help you deal with grief is absolutely no different.
Here’s a final, final thought: what would your deceased loved one wish for you? I bet the answer is that you would do everything in your power to lead a fulfilling, joyous life without them. In my first wife’s last conscious moments she said eight words to me: “find a good woman; have a great life.” I was so fortunate to hear this from her lips, but even if I hadn’t, I knew in my heart that was what she would have wished for me.