Do I Need Extra Help or Is What I'm Feeling Normal?

Adapted from a Griefwork Newsletter, Sherry Williams White gives concrete measures to help a grieving individual know if they need to reach out for professional help. She also explains that making the decision to seek help is a sign of strength and demonstrates your willingness to take action and control of your grief.

edited by Sherry L. Williams from a Griefwork Newsletter  

Very often in your own grief work, you may feel that you are indeed going crazy. In fact, I receive calls from people who want to know if what they are feeling is really normal or should they seek professional help. Well, just about anything you feel during your grief work is normal, but there are some good signs to indicate that you would benefit from a little extra help from an expert in loss and bereavement.

Here are some questions or guidelines to help you decide if you need to reach to a professional. However, it is important to remember that any grieving person might experience any or all of these feelings briefly, the key to knowing if it might be helpful to seek additional help is if any of the feelings continue over time or become so intense that they are beginning to affect your activities of daily living. In other words, are these feelings overwhelming? Are these feelings keeping you from being able to do your work, take care of your family or yourself? The key is the duration and intensity of the feelings. It is also important to realize that seeking help is a sign of strength. It demonstrates your willingness to take action and control over this part of your grief journey. If nothing else, you will reassure yourself that you are on the right path.

1. Are you always irritable, annoyed, intolerant or angry? Is this a feeling that just won't go away?

2. Do you feel isolated and alone? Are you feeling that you have no one to talk to or about what's happened? Are you overwhelmed with a sense of numbness that makes you feel a sense of being apart from yourself?

3. Do you feel a high state of anxiety about your own death or the death of others that you love? Is this interfering with your ability to concentrate, live life as you want, or your relationship with others?

4. Are you preoccupied with thoughts of your loved one, his or her death or certain aspects of the death even though it's been several months since the death?

5. Do you feel like you are in "high gear" all of the time? Do you feel a strong sense of restlessness that makes you want or need to be busy beyond what is normal for you?

6. Are you afraid to get close to others because you fear losing them?

7. Have you started acting in ways that could be harmful to yourself or others, such as: drinking more than you used to? using more prescriptions or nonprescription drugs than you used to?; engaging in sexual activity that is unsafe or unwise?; driving in an unsafe or reckless manner or entertaining serious or constant thoughts of suicide?

8. Are you taking on too much responsibility for surviving family members or close friends? Do you feel heavily burdened by what you are doing for others and feel angry with them? Do you feel like the situation is suffocating you?

9. Are you unable to express your thoughts and feelings about your loved one and his or her death in words or actions? Do you remember certain aspects of your loved one or your relationship together, for example only the good parts as opposed t5o a more complete balanced view of him or her?

10. Do you feel stuck in your grief in some way that makes you feel as though you are unable to move on, even though it has been quite some time since your loved one's death? Are you wondering if you are going crazy because of some aspect of what you are experiencing?

11. Have you found yourself not caring whether you get out of bed in the morning and unable to get the energy to go to work?

12. Have you let your personal hygiene slip? Are you unconcerned about your personal appearance?

If any of your answers to these questions leave you doubting yourself, it may be time to seek professional help. Grief is painful enough without trying to do it all by yourself. Remember to trust your own judgment. You know yourself better than anyone else.

Remember that pain inevitable but suffering is optional.


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