Grief counseling may be appropriate when an individual is so debilitated by their loss; and, so overwhelmed by their grief that their normal coping processes are not functioning. Grief counseling can help the mourner to express their feelings and thoughts about the loss, including their feeling sad, anxious, angry, lonely, guilty, relieved, isolated, confused, or numb.
It includes thinking creatively about the challenges that follow loss and coping with concurrent changes in their lives. Often people feel disorganized, tired, have trouble concentrating, sleep poorly and have vivid dreams, and they may experience the change in appetite. These too are addressed in counseling.
Grief counseling facilitates the process of resolution in the natural reactions to loss. It is appropriate for reaction to losses that have overwhelmed a person's coping ability.
Grief counseling may be called upon when a person suffers anticipatory grief, for example, an intrusive and frequent worry about a loved one whose death is neither imminent nor likely. Anticipatory mourning also occurs when a loved one has a terminal illness. This can handicap that person's ability to stay present whilst simultaneously holding onto, letting go of, and drawing closer to the dying relative.
Joanne Jozefowski in 1999 through The Phoenix Phenomenon: Rising from the Ashes of Grief summarizes five stages to rebuild a shattered life.
Impact: shock, denial, anxiety, fear, and panic.
Chaos: confusion, disbelief, actions out of control, irrational thoughts and feelings, feeling despair, feeling helpless, desperate searching, losing track of time, difficulty sleeping and eating, obsessive focus on the loved one and their possessions, agony from imagining their physical harm, shattered beliefs.
Adapting: bringing order back into daily life while you continue to grieve: take care of basic needs (personal grooming, shopping, cooking, cleaning, paying bills), learn to live without the loved one, accept help, focus on helping children cope, connect with other grieving families for mutual support, take control of grieving so that grief does not control you, slowly accept the new reality.
Equilibrium: attaining stability: rebuild a life that works, enjoy pleasant activities with family members and good times with friends, do productive work, choose a positive new direction in life while honoring the past, learn how to handle people who ask questions about what you’ve been through.
Transformation: reevaluating your purpose in life and the basis for your identity; looking for meaning in tragic, senseless loss; allowing yourself to have both painful and positive feelings about your loss and become able to choose which feelings you focus on; allowing yourself to discover that your struggle has led you to develop a stronger, better version of yourself than you expected could exist; learning how to talk with others about your heroic healing journey without exposing them to your pain; becoming supportive of others trying to deal with their losses.