8700 Manchaca Road, Suite 306, Austin, TX 78748

Grief Counseling

Grief-Counseling-Austin-TexasIt had been four years since the diagnosis of cancer. Patrick and Deb knew the day would come and they could not bear the thought. The hardest thing they ever had to do was tell their daughter the cancer had returned. Esther was only 14 years old. She would never get to go on a first date, never get to drive a car, nor graduate, get married and have children. Together they had been to what seemed like dozens of doctors. They had done everything they could think of; even prayer had not helped. Toby had a hard time visiting his sister in the hospital. He did not like seeing Esther hooked up to all of the monitors and IVs.

After Esther died, as much as they wanted to be there for one another, the family struggled. Deb wanted to talk about Esther, look at pictures, spend time in her bedroom and go to the cemetery all the time. She cried constantly, asking God why – why her little girl? Why did other families get “miracles” of healing and not Esther?

Patrick hated to see Deb crying all the time and tried to get her to do things that used to make her happy. But the more he tried the worse she felt. Deb could not understand why Patrick avoided talking about Esther; she did not feel supported. Patrick was frustrated that Deb was doing so many things that continued to bring both of them so much pain. Even though Patrick said he did not want to talk about Esther, he could not get her off his mind. He thought of Esther all the time, but talking about her just caused more pain. He started drinking, a lot. Drinking helped him forget and not feel the pain.

On the outside of all this, Toby saw his parents fighting, his dad drinking and getting angry and his mom crying all the time. Toby wanted to get away from everything. He spent more time at friend’s houses and less time studying. His grades went down while he started to get in trouble more and more.

Grief Can Leave You Feeling a Kaleidoscope of Emotions

Every person and family struggles to cope with grief. Emotions seem to collide in upon one another, but the strongest are often feelings of loss, emptiness, anger and hopelessness. It can feel impossible to see past the pain or believe that you will ever get through grief. Even if you have a strong spiritual foundation, you may be angry with God, thinking he let you down and questioning his goodness and your faith.

Men and women often respond to grief differently. Men may think the best thing is to not feel, try to stay busy and focus on work. They can become emotionally distant as they avoid the loss. Women are often more emotional, wanting support, comfort and the physical and emotional presence of those important in their lives. Some people may also turn to alcohol or drugs to try to forget. As they watch their parents struggle, children can become frightened about what is happening and may not know what to do. Behavioral changes, anger and school problems are common.

Why is Grief so Hard?

While grief and intense sadness are normal after losing someone you love, not everyone has the resources needed to adapt to the loss. Past experiences with grief that were very difficult, work demands, financial concerns and other stressors can deplete the emotional energy you need to do the hard work of adapting and responding to the loss. Through grief counseling I can help you find the information, tools and support you and your family need.

How Does Grief Counseling Help?

Grief Counseling can be both preventive and restorative. When a person or family initiates grief counseling with me early in their grief journey, I utilize preventive measures to help you learn what is normal, how your family members’ needs differ and what you can do to help one another, while at the same time taking care of yourself. Understanding your needs and unique grief process does not mean that your grief work will be easy. However it does means that I can help you find tools you need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, not get lost, and avoid more long-term difficulties with relationships and in other areas of your life.

Sometimes I see people or families who have recently experienced traumatic grief or were unable to get counseling earlier in their grief journey. Their loss may have occurred months or even years earlier. Families may have already begun interacting with one another in hurtful ways; problems with work, school, the law or substance abuse may have already begun causing additional problems. In these cases, grief counseling becomes restorative. I can help you and your family learn healthier, more appropriate ways to cope with your loss. I can also work with you to restore family relationships, forgive hurts and better manage stress from life, work and school demands.

By attending family and couples counseling sessions, Patrick and Deb began to recognize that their struggle to deal with one another’s style of grieving is affecting Toby’s ability to deal with his own grief. Patrick learned practical ways of providing the support that Deb needed, and Deb began to understand that the distance she felt from Patrick was his way of trying to protect the family and himself from experiencing more pain. Patrick also learned that, while protecting himself emotionally is important, allowing himself to grieve (little by little) was better in the long run. As Toby saw his parents grieving in more productive ways, he felt safer to express his grief and know that it is okay to see his parents sad and struggling at times. While the death of a child is the worst, most stressful experience for a family, Patrick, Deb and Toby began to see that, although their family will never be the same, they were able to find the strength and resources to survive.

Common Signs of Struggling with Grief

Grief counseling can be beneficial if you have experienced any of difficulties below after your loss, especially if they have been going on for a long time or you are not sure how to get past them.

  • Unhealthy Habits:

o   Alcohol or drug (prescribed or illegal) use

o   Trouble with the law or in school; fighting, stealing, lying, cheating

o   Arguing, silence and distancing between family members

o   Developing outside relationships that threaten family unity

  • Thoughts about Death or Dying:

o   Persistent thoughts of death or suicide

o   Dreams or nightmares about death or dying

  • Stress that continues to grow:

o   Difficulty sleeping, focusing on tasks

o   Feeling disorganized and confused

o   Guilt linked to the loss

o   Feeling depressed, fatigued, anxious or angry

The pain of grief is different for everyone and can be overwhelming, debilitating and lead to many other problems for individuals and families. With my help you can learn to navigate the darkness of your grief journey in productive and healthy ways. To find out more about grief counseling or to schedule an appointment, you can use the links on this website, send a short email or call me at 512-468-2365 for a free 15-minute consultation.

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8700 Manchaca Road, Suite 306, Austin  78748

512-468-2365

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