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Grief counseling

Grief is the psychological-emotional response we feel following a loss.

woman in grief
people in therapy looking worried

Grief symptoms can vary, but patients typically experience

  • Separation distress including anxiety, sadness, helplessness, and anger
  • Traumatic distress, which may be shock, disbelief, and spikes of emotion
  • Guilt, remorse, and regret
  • Social withdrawal

Causes of grief

Grief can occur after any type of loss including the loss of a relationship, job, house, income, and even a sports game. World events, such as COVID-19, can be major sources of grief. The pandemic has caused many losses including missed graduation ceremonies, the inability to attend family celebrations, and limits on the freedom to see loved ones whenever and however we’d like. 

Symptoms of grief 

There are various symptoms of grief and the four most common components include: 

  • Separation distress including anxiety, sadness, helplessness, and anger
  • Traumatic distress, which may be shock, disbelief, and spikes of emotion
  • Guilt, remorse, and regret
  • Social withdrawal 

While grief can lead to feelings of isolation, try to remember that you do have support.

Getting treatment for grief online

Understanding and discussing your grief with others is an important aspect of the healing process. Online therapists and psychiatrists can be particularly useful for those dealing with grief. Your online provider will help you: 

  • Process and move through feelings of grief
  • Discuss difficult topics in a judgement-free space
  • Brainstorm healthy coping mechanisms

Grief can feel so draining that sometimes it’s difficult to get out of bed, let alone travel to a therapist’s office. Luckily, you can get that same level of support online. Start the healing process from the comfort of home with online therapy. 

What to expect using Amwell®

  1. Review our providers's education, experience, and approach to treatment and choose a provider that works for you.
  2. Schedule your appointment online, no need to call in. Pick a time in your schedule that works for you.
  3. Add your phone number. This will give us a way to reach you if your appointment changes.
  4. Set a reminder, we'll email you a few hours before the call so you can get ready.
  5. That's it! On the day of your appointment you'll talk to your provider and address your concerns.

Got questions? We’ve got answers.

See below for answers to some of our most common questions. You can also call us anytime 24 hours a day at 1‑844‑SEE‑DOCS for questions about our services or to speak to a doctor about your symptoms or conditions.

The five stages of grief were identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 in her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying. Her theory explained the process of grief over five distinct, linear stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Kubler-Ross’s work was revolutionary. It acknowledged that grief is a normal emotional process, which helped reduce the stigma associated with grieving. However, Kubler-Ross’s research was done with patients who were dying of a terminal illness which gave the impression that grief was a linear process — where one step had to follow another. This became problematic as the grief experienced by the survivors of loss is unique. People move in and out of the stages of grief in varying ways and time frames. The idea that someone was not grieving “correctly” was confusing and painful.

Dr. Kubler-Ross later regretted the misunderstanding of her original work and revised her 5-stage model to a 7-stage grieving process. The stages of shock and testing were added so that the complete process consisted of shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. Shock describes an initial response of emotional paralysis, or numbness, and the testing stage involves trying new ways of coping with the loss and rebuilding life after loss.

There is no “getting over” loss but there is a gradual process of acceptance that is complex and individual. Many find it helpful to think of grief stages in broader ways like shock, suffering, and recovery, which normalizes the human experience with room for a wide range of individual experiences.

Talking with a mental health professional about loss and grieving can be helpful in many ways. Some mental health professionals specialize in the grieving and bereavement process which can be useful when coping with a traumatic or complicated loss. Since grieving is a normal part of the human condition, most therapists are equipped and skilled to help their clients navigate their individual grieving process.

Some people may experience “complicated grief” during which they feel stuck in persistent, unrelenting despair and functional impairment that warrants seeking help from a mental health professional. If someone has the following symptoms in a prolonged manner they may be experiencing what’s known as Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder:

  • Intense sadness and emotional pain
  • Feelings of emptiness and hopelessness
  • Yearning to be reunited with the deceased
  • Preoccupation with the deceased or with the circumstances of the death
  • Difficulty engaging in happy memories of the lost person
  • Avoidance of reminders of the deceased
  • A reduced sense of identity
  • Detachment and isolation from surviving friends and family
  • Lack of desire to pursue personal interests or plans

The symptoms listed above are consistent with and mimic a Major Depressive Disorder which may require clinical intervention in order for the healthy grieving process to resume.