Knowing When To Seek Professional Help for Your Grieving
By Beau Peters
Everyone goes through the grieving process at some point in life. Losing a loved one is never easy, and grieving is normal and healthy. However, there are stages of grief for a reason. Being able to move through those stages is essential.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for grief to feel overwhelming. You’re dealing with challenging thoughts and emotions, and sometimes it can feel like you’ll never be able to move forward. When those thoughts and feelings start to take over everything, they can create concerning thought patterns that severely impact your quality of life.
When that happens, it might be time to seek professional help.
Thankfully, there are many different types of mental health professionals that can help you set goals and work through the grief process. Understanding when to reach out can make a big difference in your well-being and your future. Learn how to recognize when it’s time to take charge of your mental wellness and seek professional help for your grieving.
Struggling With Intrusive Thoughts
It’s not uncommon to “re-live” the experiences you went through with the person you lost. Holding onto those memories can be a good thing and can help you through the healing process.
However, if your memories are stuck on those last days or moments with that person, it can make it nearly impossible to move on. That includes reliving the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. You might even struggle with extreme guilt as you think of those moments. Was there more you could do? Should you have recognized signs of a problem?
Your intrusive thoughts might even make you feel guilty for not having a better relationship with that person.
It’s estimated that 1 in 4 adults is estranged from their family. While there are some people with valid reasons for leaving toxic family relationships, some situations can cause extreme guilt when a loved one dies and you didn’t get a chance to patch things up or talk things through.
These intrusive thoughts, memories, and even flashbacks can start to take over very quickly until they consume your entire thought process. If you can’t focus on anything else, other areas of your life are going to start to struggle, including other relationships and your career.
Withdrawing From People and Activities
While it’s perfectly normal to want to be alone for a while after losing a loved one, there’s a difference between taking the time to collect yourself and completely withdrawing from the people and things you love.
If you’re actively avoiding social interaction, you could be doing more harm than good. It’s essential to have social support when you’re going through a difficult time. Social support from helping professionals, such as therapists and other mental health professionals, provides you with someone who is able to objectively listen to your struggles. However, it’s just as important to lean on the people you love. Many of them are likely dealing with the same loss you are, and that can help you connect and share in your grief.
Isolating yourself can make matters worse. Some of the mental and physical health risks of isolation include:
- Poor sleep quality;
- Impaired executive function;
- High blood pressure;
- Cognitive decline.
Isolation can even lead to a weakened immune system and a higher mortality rate. While it might not be easy to “get out there” and spend time with other people or participate in familiar hobbies, these things will remind you that you still have a lot to live for and look forward to, no matter how deeply you’re grieving.
Feelings of Depression
It’s expected that you’ll be sad for a while after losing someone you love. Those feelings vary from person to person, but it’s okay to feel extremely down and even hopeless for a while. However, when those feelings persist, you could be struggling with long-term depression. If that’s the case, it’s important to seek out help as soon as possible.
Dealing with grief looks different for everyone, but some of the most common signs of depression to look out for over a prolonged period of time include:
- Feelings of sadness and emptiness;
- Slowed thinking or speaking;
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits;
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed.
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the world, but it’s also one of the most manageable with the right help. Unfortunately, when it goes untreated, it can become worse and your symptoms might become more extreme. In some cases, you might start to deal with thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If those thoughts have already started to creep in, don’t hesitate to reach out for help immediately. If you’re unsure about which type of therapy might be right for you, consider looking for a professional who specializes in grief, or someone who practices Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Everyone experiences grief differently. While it’s important to work through the stages of grief, there’s no ideal timeline for it. However, when you know that you’re not moving forward and you’re feeling stuck and lost over the death of a loved one, you deserve a helping hand to pull you out of that darkness. Don’t hesitate to lean on the people you love and contact a mental health professional to start finding joy in your life once again.
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