Grief Counseling NJ
Takeaway: Loss can leave you reeling, and unhelpful messages about “getting over it” can make it even more difficult to heal. Our approach to grief counseling in New Jersey can help you process your loss and hold space for all of your emotions during this difficult time.
Grieving is no joke. That's because loss is no joke. It's an utter gut punch that will knock the wind out of even the most sturdy of us. If you're a New Jersey resident grieving the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a new health diagnosis, or a change in career and curious to start therapy then reach out to our trauma-informed grief therapists. Not quite sure whether grief counseling is for you? Then read further to learn more about grief counseling, its benefits, and why working with one of our clinicians at Authentically Living Psychological Services can provide support during this difficult and sometimes confusing time.
1. Grief is a reaction to all forms of loss
Let's make it clear: grief is a response to any type of loss. While many assume that grief is only a reaction after the death of a loved one, many different life experiences result in loss. For example, loss can occur after the distancing of a friendship or after the loss of property due to a natural disaster. Loss can also occur after major life transitions, even those that may be perceived more optimistically. For example, when entering a marriage one may lose aspects of singlehood or when entering retirement one may lose aspects of their identity and sense of purpose.
Loss from Death: Probably the most common type of loss that comes to mind is the passing or death of someone or any living creature: the loss of a loved one, a child, a parent, a spouse, a family member, or a friend. This form of loss can also include miscarriage or stillbirth, in addition to pet loss. This is an incredibly painful loss to deal with and one that may never lead to full acceptance. Sudden or unexpected death, loss from trauma, such as suicide or homicide, or loss due to natural disaster or war can add to the pain and struggle to cope and manage day-to-day living. Regardless of whether you lose a loved one after hospice care or after a car crash, losing loved ones can make it incredibly difficult for a person to process, and can lead to depression and many overwhelming emotions.
Loss of Health: Experiencing a decline in health or receiving a health diagnosis, such as chronic pain, an autoimmune deficiency, or a terminal illness are examples of losing one's health. Such diagnosis may lead to limited capacities, energy reduction, and change in future plans. Loss of health can come with experiences of loneliness, misunderstanding, and invalidation, especially for hidden disabilities or for those who may appear as "young and healthy." Loss of health may also bring about feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, depressive symptoms, general anxiety, and health-related anxiety.
Loss of a Relationship: None of us are strangers to this one. If you've gone through a breakup you are familiar with the lowness that is associated with the loss of a relationship. Whether it be a dramatic breakup after young puppy love or an angry divorce after years of marriage, separating is a major loss. It is a loss consisting of a depreciation of partnership, connection, trust, and future family. Loss of friendship is another form of relational loss. While not romantic, the ending of a friendship may include the loss of platonic trust, dependability, and happiness associated with time well spent.
Job Loss: Losing your job, changing careers, or entering retirement are examples of employment loss. This can cause financial loss, as well as insurance and health coverage loss. For those relying on our income, such as other family members, there may be additional loss in educational funds and savings that were set aside for retirement, vacation, or other familial desires, such as a new family vehicle or larger home.
Identity Loss: When experiencing any loss, identity loss may follow. For example, when losing a job, we may also lose a part of our identity, self-esteem, and confidence, as many of us define ourselves through our work role, title, and productivity. A person may further lose their overall sense of purpose - feeling confused as to what job to search for next, or what to do with their time. Losing work routine and structure can cause additional anxiety and existential thoughts about temporality, meaning, and how we define ourselves as individuals.
Loss of Security & Property: Loss of security, protection, and privacy can occur when one loses their home, property, or identity due to theft. Loss of one's property and items can occur during natural disasters, war, and episodes of crime. Such loss can cause feelings of fear, anxiety, and lack of safety.
Loss of Freedom & Independence: For those who are imprisoned, captured, or held hostage, one may experience a loss of freedom and sense of independence. Further, those who are in abusive relationships may also experience a loss of freedom, choice, independence, and sense of self. In a similar vein, those who experience racism, ageism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination are also at risk of experiencing loss of equality, freedom, and privilege.
2. Grief includes a myriad of reactions to loss
There is no wrong way to grieve. That's because each person's reaction to grief is unique and includes a myriad of different experiences. While common, the experience(s) of grief and loss are unique to each person and may consist of a large range of reactions from avoidance and anger, to distractibility and disconnect.
In a nutshell, grief is a conglomeration of emotional, cognitive, physiological, behavioral, and spiritual reactions to loss.
Emotional Reactions: Loss can lead to emotional experiences such as deep sadness and depression. Additional feelings can include self-doubt, denial, anger, anxiety, and confusion. Some may find it surprising, but even experiences of joy, relief, and acceptance may also be emotional reactions to grief and loss. For example, a person who loses their job may experience relief in not having to get up every day at 5a.m and travel to their office job.
Cognitive Reactions: Loss can lead to cognitive changes such as poor short-term memory, confusion, and inattention. You may also notice lapses in time due to distractability and disconnection from the world around you; For example, 10p.m may roll around with little notice. Even perceptual changes are cognitive reactions to loss. For example "seeing" or hearing a loved one who has passed. It's also common to dream about aspects of your loss, and in some instances have nightmares.
Physiological Reactions: Loss involves physiological reactions such as body pain and tension, disruptions in appetite and sleep hygiene, compromised immune system, and nervous system hyperactivity and alertness. Since grief and loss can take a large toll on your emotional energy and can cause extreme stress, this can also lead to fatigue and low energy. As someone grieving, you may notice an increase in stomach pains and headaches, flu-like symptoms, restlessness, or heart palpitations.
Behavioral Reactions: Grief and loss can have a drastic effect on one's life and can lead to major behavioral shifts, decline in functioning, and engagement in risky behaviors. The trauma often associated with loss can lead to relationship issues such as disconnection or increased arguments due to difficulty dealing with the pain accompanied by loss. Some may turn to substance abuse or other harmful behaviors as a means to cope and in an attempt to quell the felt sense of acute suffering, anxiety, and pain. When we go through a traumatic experience, such as death and other losses, we may resort to poor self-care leading to a loss in well-being and poor self-compassion.
Spiritual Reactions: Loss can also drastically affect a person's relationship with their religion, spirituality, and belief system. For some, a traumatic experience, such as losing a loved one and experiencing significant pain, can create an experience of groundlessness, where one feels very disconnected from their diety, views, and conceptualizations of life. A person may experience a loss of hope or loss of self in such instances.
3. Grief is an individual process with no timeline
An important part of grief to understand is that there is no timeline. While society may have biases and expectations for someone to "move on" from their grief after a certain period, in actuality that is not a realistic expectation. Not only is it unrealistic, but it is also invalidating for a person who is grieving. The fact is, grief is a unique and individual process that may never fully go away. A person may always have waves of pain, anger, and anxiety when reflecting on loss. Even for those seeking grief counseling, it is unrealistic to expect your grief to subside in just a few sessions. Grieving is an individual process with no timeline.
Common signs that you could benefit from grief counseling
While you never need an excuse to reach out to a grief therapist, you may find it particularly helpful if you are struggling with any of the following set of experiences: intense, prolonged, or complicated grief; social withdrawal and loneliness; trauma responses, such as hyperawareness; difficulty participating in activities of daily living, such as bathing and getting out of bed; regrets that are occupying much of your attention and are difficult for you to move past; existential thoughts about the purpose of your life; loss of hope and suicidal thoughts; and engagement in risky behaviors such as substance use.
Our NJ Grief Therapy and Grief Counseling provides a supportive space for those feeling isolated in their pain, unsure of where to turn, completely and utterly shocked, confused, and lost in their lives. Therapists at Authentically Living Psychological Services provide an attentive presence to those who may feel as if their loss is the most traumatic experience they have had in life. Our grief specialists are keenly aware of how grief can drastically affect your ability to perform even the simplest of tasks, and how society may pressure you to "move on" with your loss, in addition to the effects your loss has had on all areas of your life: relationships, work, sense of self, beliefs, etc.
If you are curious whether grief therapy could be beneficial for you, then reach out today.
Our approach to grief counseling in New Jersey
At Authentically Living Psychological Services, our NJ Trauma Therapist (s) and NJ Grief Counselor (s) take a unique approach to grief counseling. Blending existential and humanistic therapies, mindfulness, compassion, and humor, we work with our clients to provide greater self-understanding and a new sense of purpose amidst their grief.
Existential therapy focuses on exploring the fundamental aspects of human existence, and the many limitations that come with being human, such as the inevitability of death. With grief, existential therapy, with its roots in philosophy, can act as a guide in exploring existential questions related to life, illness, and meaning.
Incorporating Existential Philosophy to Grief Therapy
Sitting with Existential Despair: A major philosophical underpinning of existentialism is the importance of sitting with sadness and existential despair, which include feelings of hopelessness and meaninglessness. Oftentimes, we avoid difficult emotions that illicit pain. By confronting these emotions head-on we can practice embodying them and sitting with the discomfort. Our approach highlights the importance of describing emotional experiences in real-time, observing without judgment, and identifying the meaning and significance of such experiences.
Exploring Existential Angst: Existential anxiety, or an existential crisis, can often be ignited after a major life change, such as after the loss of physical abilities, or the loss of a loved one. An existential crisis and the angst and panic accompanied by it may be due to uncertainties about the nature of life, our futures, and our pending demise. Our therapists assist and support individuals in confronting these anxieties, developing skills to soothe the waves of panic, and learning how to live with the difficult realities of being human.
Addressing Isolation & Loneliness: Isolation and loneliness are common experiences after loss, and our therapists provide a supportive therapeutic environment for individuals to process such experiences. Existential grief therapy further involves processing the intentional social distancing that occurs as a reaction to feeling misunderstood and wanting to avoid social pressures, such as having to mask pain and "move on" with grief. Since our practice values relational work, therapy is often a space to practice formulating genuine connections, being vulnerable, and advocating for what you need in relationships during a period of grief.
Creating Meaning: Unfortunately, we can't magically wake up one day and choose not to grieve anymore. However, we can choose to live amidst the grief. Existential therapy emphasizes concepts such as freedom and responsibility, where a person can make choices for how they navigate grief and towards a greater management of loss. Grief counseling, utilizing an existential lens, involves exploring beliefs and attitudes about death, illness, one's mortality, loss, and how to create meaning. Existential therapy highlights how one can live their life even while acknowledging the painful reality of loss.
Living Authentically by Exploring Identity: Because loss can be so shocking, it can also cause bouts of self-doubt, questioning previously held beliefs, prompting us to examine our identity. Our existential approach to grief therapy consists of a deep exploration of personal values and accompanying emotions and thoughts, as well as responses to grief in a nonjudgmental, observational fashion that can allow a person to embrace and create their genuine selves. Through our approach, we further provide the openness to explore questions related to who we are in the absence of the person or thing that was lost and align living with what is genuine to us.
Integrating Loss into Life: Ultimately, our approach involves assisting individuals in integrating loss into their ongoing life journey. Together, sessions can consist of creating ways to honor the memory of what or who was lost while continuing to foster self-development, and towards self-fulfillment.
Our existential approach to grief therapy is relational, collaborative, and individualized, and includes conversations of depth, processing the pains and confusions associated with grief while fostering greater self-understanding, intentional living, and a life of fulfillment and meaningful experiences.
Meet Dr. Cynthia Shaw | Grief counselor in NYC
Dr. Cynthia Shaw is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and grief-certified professional whose background in existential philosophy and personal experiences of loss have influenced her work with clients.
Dr. Shaw's observations and lived experience of loneliness amidst loss have further motivated her desire to help those also experiencing otherness and significant difficulty living with loss. Dr. Shaw appreciates the difficulties and complexities that come with grief and the vulnerability it takes to explore such pain.
Dr. Shaw is the founder of Authentically Living Psychological Services and works with adults residing in New Jersey who are experiencing traumatic grief, and prolonged grief disorder, and who are looking for grief counseling. Dr. Shaw values authenticity and genuine regard and approaches grief counseling using a relational and process-oriented style. She strives to create a therapeutic space that is unfiltered and that allows her clients to express themselves candidly and unforgivingly. She hopes to support her clients toward greater self-understanding and a semblance of comfort in a world full of loss.
Grief counseling services we offer
At Authentically Living Psychological Services our therapists offer virtual individual therapy, family therapy, and group therapy for New Jersey residents struggling with grief and loss.
1. Group Therapy
You are invited to take part in our grief processing group beginning this February. Our Bereavement groups consist of about 3-7 group members who have lost a loved one and are looking for collective support. Our grief group includes mindfulness exercises and creative arts interventions; the group was designed in such a way to aid in processing, as sometimes words are difficult to find during periods of grief. Our grief processing group runs for 3-4 months with the option of continuing to meet after group.
2. Individual Therapy
Individual grief counseling consists of meeting with a NJ Grief Counselor in a one-on-one setting where you will have the opportunity to process issues relating to your loss in a private space. Each of our therapists takes a person-centered approach and can assist you in not only identifying practical coping strategies and stress reduction exercises, but also aid in exploring your sense of self, ways to create meaning, and how to live life while grieving.
3. Family Therapy
For anyone who has experienced loss, you may not be surprised to learn that an entire family system can become disrupted. Family therapy consists of meeting with your grief therapist and participating family members. Family therapy can support members in expressing their emotions, identifying needs, and learning more about grief, the several stages involved, and the complexities of grief. Therapy can further provide support through conflict resolution, identifying ways to memorialize loss, and building resiliency, trust, and dependability within the system.
If you are interested in learning more about our grief counseling services click here. A member of our staff will return your inquiry within 24-48 hours.
Why choose Authentically Living Psychological Services for grief counseling
Our therapists at Authentically Living Psychological Services are sincere, heartfelt, and down-to-earth, blending clinical competence with genuine regard - making it easier for those grieving to discuss the complexities and difficulties that come with loss. Dr. Shaw and her team are dedicated to providing warmth and care, and in promoting guidance for your health and wellness.
Our grief counseling is unique because we focus on providing safety, validation, and person-centered care, where timelines and pressures are nonexistent; Our nondirective therapy allows for the freeflow of thoughts and emotions to enter the therapeutic space organically, where we reduce the use of goal setting and intentionality. We are comfortable sitting with the existential anxieties, hopelessness, and thoughts on mortality that can slip into your minds ever since your loss. We are advocates and educators when it comes to your boundary setting and expression of needs to others in your world. We will ask challenging questions to facilitate depth work towards self-understanding and self-development and a newfound self and purposeful living. When needed, we can provide you with tools, resources, education, and mindfulness exercises to assist during periods of overwhelm and in cultivating prolonged wellness. We are excited to create meaningful ways of memorializing your loss and fostering ways to develop greater independence, self-esteem, and satisfaction in your life. Most importantly, we are dedicated to staying alongside you through the many highs and lows that come with loss.
Our grief therapy is special. We truly hear what it is you are saying (and not saying). We immerse ourselves in sessions, as we believe it is important for you to feel seen, validated, and less alone in your experiences of loss. We hope that you leave sessions feeling a twinge of hope that your grief will not always feel all-encompassing. We value trust in the therapeutic relationships we form and hope that the therapeutic process will be supportive in the development of yourself and towards some semblance of inner calm and connectedness.
What type of counseling is best for grief?There are many different types of counseling practices for addressing grief. The choice of modality is specific to the provider, as well as the assessment of client needs, preferences, and the nature of grief. Below are common counseling services typically provided for grief: Existential & Humanistic Therapy: Existential and humanistic therapy are interconnected therapies that focus on self-understanding while confronting limitations to being human, such as death, illness, and demise, responsibilities and freedom to make choices, and what it means to be authentic. The therapies highlight the integration of exploring meaning, purpose, and personal fulfillment while recognizing and challenging the irony of pointlessness and the inevitability of loss. Positive Psychology: Positive psychology has similarities to existential and humanistic therapy, as it focuses on promoting wellness and self-growth despite loss. Positive psychology is more strength-based and relies on personal resiliency, meaningful goals, and gratitude to navigate grief. Art & Expressive Therapy: Expressive therapies include the use of creative art interventions such as drawing, writing, painting, singing, dancing, and acting to process grief and loss. The use of mainstream talk therapy can sometimes be challenging for those who are grieving, and thus resorting to nonverbal forms of expression can be cathartic and supportive. Narrative Therapy: Similar to Expressive therapies and Positive Psychology, Narrative therapy focuses on allowing a person to story and describe their experience of loss. Identifying personal resiliency and noted strengths, narrative therapy further focuses on the re-narrating or re-storying of the loss; It provides an opportunity to notice new perspectives as we move through loss. Mindfulness-Based Therapy: Helpful as an additive to all modalities, especially for those grieving, Mindfulness-Based Therapy focuses on incorporating stress reduction tools, meditation practices, and mindfulness exercises to aid in down-regulating one's heightened nervous system, self-soothe, and ground an individual. Logotherapy: A branch of Existential therapy, Logotherapy is also an additive therapy that focuses specifically on creating meaning. Even in the face of suffering, Logotherapy highlight how we can still choose to create meaning. For unchanging situations, such as after loss, incorporating attitudinal shifts is a primary focus of logotherapy. Transpersonal Psychology & Grief Therapy: Known as a spiritual and holistic form of therapy, Transpersonal psychology focuses on experiences of interconnectedness such as during states of flow, sereneness, and meditation, and while using certain therapeutic substances, such as psychedelics. In the context of grief, this modality can help a person striving for connection with nature, and greater self alignment, and those interested in exploring their spiritual and religious beliefs and connections. Group & Family Therapy: As highlighted above, Group and Family therapy are effective modalities for those looking for greater communal support, collective processing, and learning how to better communicate and connect. Our practice offers a variety of the modalities presented above. If you have questions about a modality that you do not see listed, please contact us and a member of our staff will return your inquiry in 24-48 hours.
Is group therapy good for grief?Group therapy is a supportive modality for addressing grief, as it provides a space for peer support, communal validation, decreased isolation and loneliness, normalization of certain experiences, and an opportunity to share without fear of judgment. Group therapy encourages the expression of difficult emotions that may be more challenging to have with friends and colleagues, and is a platform for practicing how to advocate for your needs. Our grief therapy group offers a unique opportunity to utilize creative practices to express and address grief, that doesn't solely rely on the use of verbal processing. We have found that grief is often difficult to talk about and that words do not always express our experiences justly. In addition to creative interventions, such as writing, drawing, and painting, our incorporation of mindfulness exercises aids in down-regulating your nervous system at the end of group, and are additional tools for you to practice at your leisure when overwhelmed with the distress of grief. If you are interested in learning more about our grief group and whether this might be a good fit for you, reach out by clicking here. A member of our staff will return your inquiry in 24-48 hours.
How soon should you have bereavement counseling?The timing for starting bereavement therapy is different from person to person. Taking into account the nature of a loss, a person's readiness and interest in therapy, availability of supportive factors and coping skills, and cultural factors can influence when and if a person will seek bereavement counseling. It's important to remember that the healing process is unique for everyone and so there is no right or wrong time to seek therapy and that regardless of when your loss occurred, it is never too late to start grief therapy.
Find support and connection in your experience of grief.
If you are a resident of New Jersey searching for support and space to process your loss we encourage you to reach out. At Authentically Living Psychological Services our team has extensive experience working with grief and loss. With a human-first value, we provide compassionate therapy, bereavement groups, and trauma-informed services to address pain, facilitate healing, and provide more than just a listening ear.
We look forward to working with you and appreciate your trust.