Updated: Sep 6
Traditional mental health and grief counseling, spiritual and intuitive support, and guidance from our loved ones on the Other Side are all ways to get through it.
Losing a loved one is a deeply traumatic experience. If, like me, you had a sudden awakening of your psychic abilities by way of that loss, the experience is all the more chaotic and shocking.
Given that both aspects of our experience — the death of someone we love and suddenly having psychic and mediumistic experiences — are so new, we likely don't know where to turn for help.
I offer you advice on the process I went through in early grief, to cope with and eventually make sense of my paralleled experience of losing my husband while simultaneously waking up to my ability of psychic mediumship. In my experience, I melded traditional mental health interventions, with spiritual and intuitive guidance, as well as support from my loved one in Spirit.
Traditional Grief Support
At the outset, let's address the elephant in the room: Not all therapists and counselors are equipped to treat grief, especially traumatic grief. As a mental health practitioner myself, I'm shocked at how many therapists advertise that they work with grievers, but have no explicit training or experience in that area.
As a result of this discord, perhaps you’ve tried a counselor before and felt like they didn’t understand you (this is all too common, especially around intuitive awakenings in grief). Letting a professional in can be difficult, especially if you’ve been burned before.
Perhaps you’ve felt like a therapist can’t help, and you prefer to do it on your own. As a Doctor of Social Work, I believed this, too — until I realized I couldn’t make it without outside professional help. Asking for help does not mean you’re weak or ill. It means you’re taking powerful steps to support your healing. I knew I needed someone to help alleviate the weight of what I was carrying, and objectively help me make sense of what I was living through. It wasn't fair or sufficient to put it all on my loved ones, who have their limits and biases. I needed structured help.
Working with a licensed mental health professional such as a grief therapist or counselor can be a transformative experience after losing a loved one. For me it certainly was.
The key is finding the right clinician, someone who is able and ready to meet you where you're at in your process. Grief is hard work and having support helps us manage our pain and over time, integrate it into our lives.
The right clinician will help normalize your experience — all of it, including your intuitive awakening. They will support you in understanding your loss, and may introduce you to tools and resources to help you get through it. They will help you see other perspectives and interpretations of the beliefs you hold about your experiences, and guide you through reframing or adjusting your understanding when necessary. For those of us discussing our intuitive awakening, this does not mean guiding us away from it, but rather opening up a space to openly discuss it. More than anything, the right therapist will help bring stability to your grief journey. This is critical especially in the early the stages of grief, when the days run together and nothing feels real anymore.
Traditional grief support is administered by licensed clinicians including therapists, mental health counselors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Aside from counseling and therapy, traditional mental health support may also include support groups. This may work better for your needs or may be an add-on to your one-on-one work. Support groups tend to focus on particular types or aspects of grief, such as widows, bereaved parents, or survivors of loss by drunk driving. In addition to my one-on-one grief therapy, I also attended a local suicide loss support group.
Shared experiences with other survivors helped immensely. In one meeting, for example, the facilitator asked how many of our loved ones showed no signs of being suicidal before they took their life. Well over half of us raised our hands. Up until that point, I blamed myself for having not seen any signs. Normalizing my experience with other survivors helped me resolve some of the self-blame, disbelief, and guilt I felt around my husband taking his life.
If you go forward with mental health support, here’s what you will want to look for.
"The right clinician will help normalize your experience — all of it, including your intuitive awakening."
What to Look for in a Grief Therapist
To find a clinician, especially for one-on-one work, you will want to look for the following criteria.
First, you’ll want someone who is trained in and has experience working with grief. I’ve been shocked at how many clinicians advertise themselves as prepared to treat grief without specific training or personal experience in it. Grief is a complex and particular experience; it’s essential that your clinician understand it inside and out. If relevant, you may also want to clarify whether the clinician has experience working with your specific type of loss.
Second, you will want to work with someone who is trauma-informed. Seeing grief through a lens of trauma provides for a different experience than other clinical approaches, which may focus on adjusting cognitive behavioral patterns to meet a goal. Instead, a trauma-informed approach focuses on how our loss resonates at the conscious and subconscious mind, the body, and even the soma (the intersection of mind, body, and soul).
Trauma-informed clinicians tend to offer an expanded toolbox of intervention, which focus on healing from the body up. These include:
Emotional Freedom Technique (a.k.a., "tapping" or just EFT),
Trauma-informed yoga, among other mind/body interventions,
They may also support you in incorporating more spiritual and intuitive mind/body/spirit practices for healing through grief, including:
Third, if you are seeking clinical therapeutic help, you will generally want to find a licensed professional. Exceptions include grief coaches (coaching is not a regulated field, and one does not require licensing or specific training to call themself a coach), and clergy people who provide counseling services without licensure. There are very good coaches and other informal “counseling” persons working in the area of grief. Many of them have come out of their own grief experience, thus offer first-hand knowledge and understanding. That said, you’ll want to be sure that your practitioner is trained and qualified to lead you through your process. Undergoing an experience alone doesn't qualify or prepare someone to guide and support others through it. Overall, use your discretion, trust your gut, and watch out for red flags (e.g., someone claiming to be a therapist or coach, but does not have the credentials and training that would traditionally be required).
Finally, you will want to find a clinician who is open to working with you on your intuitive experience. We’re at the beginning stages of a shift in the field of mental health, in that so-called “alternative” and “new age” approaches are beginning to be incorporated into traditional treatment. Tools like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation are now commonly suggested as complements to therapy, as more research documents their impact on mental well-being and the nervous system.
While mediumship remains at the periphery and is typically seen as “too woo-woo” (meaning not credible) as an intervention, in my own experience, I see more and more licensed mental health professionals coming out with their own psychic gifts, offering clients a combination of traditional therapy with an intuitive twist. This evolution makes sense; people who work in the healing and helping fields tend to be highly empathic and in-tune with other people’s energies. This is the bedrock of intuitive abilities.
Although they’re out there, it may be difficult to find a clinician who is also a practicing psychic or medium. To that end, you might look for grief and trauma-focused therapists who also are trained in spiritual or meditative approaches, such as mindfulness. This may indicate an openness to your intuitive experience. Regardless of whether or not your therapist is spiritually-oriented, I encourage you to introduce your intuitive awakening at the outset, to help you determine if they’re a good fit. (See Box 1 below for a sample intake letter, which will help you screen potential therapists.)
Knowing what to look for is a fantastic first step, and one that should be commended when you’re reeling from the shock of what is happening.
Box 1: Sample Letter/Intake Form to Screen Potential Grief Therapists Below is a sample letter to send to a potential mental health counselor or therapist about your experiences, or to use on your initial screening or intake form. This letter is adapted from my own intake form. With it, I aimed to screen whether a clinician could meet my needs. My initial contact was short and direct; we got into the details of my experience after we met. Consider asking someone you trust to help you with this step. Because I was so overwhelmed by my loss, a friend helped me complete the letter. Dear Therapist's Name, My name is Lenore Matthew. I am contacting you because I am looking for a grief therapist. I lost my husband to unexpected suicide two weeks ago. In addition to losing my husband, I am having another experience that I don’t understand: I feel my husband close to me all the time, and I feel him sending me messages and other kinds of communications. I want to be able to talk about this with my therapist, as well as the other aspects of my loss. Given that, I am looking for a therapist who can meet these following needs of mine: 1) Experience working with grief, and if possible, with the loss of a partner and suicide loss. 2) Experience treating trauma and traumatic loss (i.e., uses a trauma-informed approach). 3) An openness to my experiences with my husband communicating with me. I would appreciate your feedback on whether you are able to work with those needs. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you. Best Regards, Lenore
Where to Find the Right Grief Therapist
So, how do you locate a therapist who can support your needs? In the US, the main database for licensed mental health practitioners is Psychology Today magazine’s clinician database. Professional organizations are another place to search. For example, the American Psychologist Association (APA) maintains a register called the Psychologist Locator. You may also Google search for resources in your local area. I found one of my therapists and my support group at my local public health office’s crisis center.
Another avenue to take are tele-therapy apps such as Talk Space and Better Help. I found my second clinician in this way and had a wonderful experience with her. These solutions may be more cost-effective than traditional therapy, depending on your insurance situation. It’s also quite easy to try different clinicians and switch until you find the right fit on tele-therapy apps.
App-based therapy is offered only online. While this is not uncommon—in our post-pandemic world, many clinicians are now able hold their sessions remotely—it may not work for everyone. Due to the timing of my loss (during the Covid-19 pandemic), all of the formal grief support I received was online, including my support group, and for me, it worked well. Especially in the early stages of grief, where every movement required tremendous energy, I appreciated the convenience of tele-therapy. I also liked receiving counsel from the comfort of my own home; it made me feel safe when I was at my most vulnerable. That said, we all have our own preferences and only you can determine what’s right for you. You might try out different options, see how they feel, and adjust as necessary.
As a final note, finding a therapist when you’re in the depths of shock and trauma is a daunting task. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I reached out to my best friend and my mom and asked them for their help in finding the professional support I needed. Know that the people close to you want to support you in your grief—it’s just that they might not know exactly how. Asking others to help connect you to a grief professional is a wonderful way to enlist the care they want to give.
"I appreciated the convenience of tele-therapy. I also liked receiving counsel from the comfort of my own home; it made me feel safe when I was at my most vulnerable."
Getting Support for your Spiritual and Intuitive Development
For most of us who’ve undergone an awakening amidst grief, we crave something more than mental health support alone. We know we need something that speaks to our opening intuitive senses and our new psychic experiences. Chances are, though, that we don’t know where to start.
While they may not be focused on grief per se, many of us who’ve undergone an intuitive awakening in our grief have found our way to spiritual development centers and psychic training institutions. Places like Arthur Findlay College in the UK and The Journey Within and Circles of Wisdom in the US attract developing intuitives from various backgrounds to their online and in-person trainings. Some of the world’s leading mediums and healers teach at these institutions.
Aside from these major names, there are numerous other organizations and teachers who offer training and support in intuitive development for beginners. From leading international mediums to local metaphysical shops and even yoga studios, there are workshops, training programs, and healing programs offering online and in-person, which aim to expand your awareness of the spiritual world.
Connecting with other people who understand the intuitive aspect of our grief experience is invaluable in understanding and trusting in our continued connection with our loved ones on the Other Side. Surrounded by others who understand our abilities, we feel seen and find community. In addition to meeting like-minded people, other things happen when we begin developing our spirituality and intuitive gifts: Our abilities turn on and expand. Our connection to our loved ones in Spirit grows stronger. We begin to put names to our experiences (“hey, that was my clairvoyance!”) and our mental downloads become sharper (“my dreams have been more vivid than ever!”) Most importantly, our vibration is raised — meaning, the density of the grief energy we carry in our bodies starts to dissipate and shift, so much so that we feel it in our bodies.
The physio-emotional benefits of working with Spirit (which, to me, feels like a mix of cleansing calm amidst pure love, joy, and elation) quite literally heal our bodies and clear our minds. As a result, our grief feels lighter and our understanding of our loss expands. After working intuitively, I feel so much lighter, free, unencumbered, and expansive — like I can fully breathe again.
"In addition to meeting like-minded people, other things happen when we begin developing our spirituality and intuitive gifts: Our abilities turn on and expand. Our connection to our loved ones in Spirit grows stronger. We begin to put names to our experiences."
Asking Your Loved One in Spirit for Support
Finding your way through the mental health and spirituality communities can be overwhelming, especially in the early stages of grief. Yet as a newly awakened intuitive, you are blessed with the ability to tap into a non-physical resource to navigate the terrain: Your loved one on the Other Side.
From the first days of my awakening in grief, I would ask my husband in Spirit to guide me. After realizing I was a medium about a year into my journey, I asked my husband, “Where do I go from here, my love? Please show me what to do.”
Later that night, I woke up from a deep sleep, a jumble of words pulsating in my forehead. I grabbed my phone in my pitch-black bedroom and googled the word soup behind my eyes. Instantly, I was led to one of my first mediumship teachers. She had a background in psychology, and offered online classes on basic intuitive development. Right off the bat, I trusted her; our common background as mental health practitioners put me at ease.
What's more, while the class laid the groundwork for subsequent training in mediumship, the connection offered so much more for understanding my awakening. As it turned out, this teacher's mediumship had opened like mine—when her partner passed away. Even more, in her class I met another fellow widow who had built an incredible connection with her husband on the Other Side. They worked together through channeled writing—one of the ways my husband communicated with me. These women became two of my closest confidants and earth-side guides in the early days of my grief. I fully believe my husband led me to them.
All in all, our loved ones want us to succeed and they want to be a part of our healing journey. As you search for the right therapist, mediumship teacher, spiritual mentor, or fellow griever to accompany you, don’t forget to ask your loved one for their assistance in finding support.
Our loved ones are always listening, and the more we ask for their help, the more they’re able to help us continue ahead through our experience.
Lenore Matthew, PhD, MSW
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