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Getting Help for Intense Grief

Going through grief and loss is never easy. But in some situations, grief can feel especially intense — even overwhelming. The intensity of grief can depend on lots of factors — such as the situation or the relationship to the person who has died.

If you're dealing with a sudden, unexpected, tragic, or traumatic death, or if a person very close to you has died, grief might be particularly intense. When grief is intense, people may need extra support and help to get through it.

If your grief is too intense to bear alone, feels overwhelming, or has lasted too long without any relief, reach out for help. If grief has turned into depression, it's very important to tell someone.

How do you know if your grief is too intense or has been going on too long? Any of these can be signs:

  • You've been grieving for 4 months or more and you aren't feeling any better.
  • You feel depressed.
  • Your grief is so intense that you feel you can't go on with your normal activities.
  • Your grief is affecting your ability to concentrate, sleep, eat, or socialize as you normally do.
  • You are using alcohol, drugs, overeating, or self-harm to escape or "soothe" feelings of grief.
  • You feel you can't go on living after the loss or you think about suicide, dying, or hurting yourself.

It's natural to think about death to some degree. But if you think about suicide or hurting yourself in some way, or if you feel that you can't go on living, tell someone right away. Reach out to an adult you trust (such as a parent, family member, counselor, teacher, doctor, nurse, coach, or religious leader), talk about how you're feeling, and ask the person to help you. He or she can help by calmly listening and also by helping you find professional support.

Counseling with a professional therapist or grief counselor can help with grief. When you talk about your loss and your feelings to someone who listens and understands, grief can begin to heal. A therapist can guide you in ways to cope, get back to enjoying your life, and remember the person in positive ways.

Counselor-led support groups for teens going through grief are helpful, too. Being in a support group reminds people they are not alone, lets them help each other cope, and creates bonds between people who are going through a similar situation.

If you're struggling with grief, you might think you will never feel better, that things will never be good again. Many people feel that way in the midst of their grief. But people do find ways to cope with intense grief and to deal with the changes that the loss has created in their lives.

With time and support, people begin to feel better from the emotional pain of grief. As hard as it is, they begin to adapt to life. Grief can help us learn and grow, and deepen our appreciation of our lives and the people we love.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: November 2013