Taking advantage of a counsellor in a time of grief, is far from being a sign of weakness. In fact, it shows strength. Bereavement Counselling is a specialised type of counselling which is designed to support those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Counselling sessions help them to work through their grief and deal with it, rather than trying to cover up feelings and emotions. It can also give them the tools and mechanisms to cope when they are alone. This type of counselling is recommended for any age group especially where the life of the one who is suffering the loss, is being adversely affected by grief.

It is vital that the reason for grief is understood. Grief is often thought of or described as a type of very heavy sadness; this is not entirely true. It can involve a process of going through many different emotions and reactions starting with shock and numbness as the mind goes into overdrive trying to process what has happened. Following on from this comes, anger, sadness and anxiety. It can take days, weeks months or even years for someone to go through this cycle of feelings and it is normal to experience one host of emotions for the loss of one person and a completely different set with a different loss.  There is no “normal” set rules to the grief process and it is important to recognise that if the emotional response is affecting a person’s day to day life in terms of education, employment or relationships with others, then it might be time to consult a counsellor.

The Bereaved

It is important that those supporting the bereaved recognise if the person is becoming less interested in their day to day life or losing control of their work etc. It may take for someone else to suggest that the person speaks to a professional.

So how does bereavement counselling work? Normally a therapist would see a client on a 1:1 basis or in a group setting. The counsellor aims to help the individual to explore their feelings and emotions. At a first meeting, the bereaved would be asked about his or her loss and about their relationship with the deceased. They would also be asked about how their life is now and how things have changed or have been affected.  The responses will lead the specialist into understanding what is happening; is the bereaved angry or sad? What are they going through right now? Counselling is all about encouraging the client to be open and honest and it is normal to cry, become angry or have outbursts of emotion. Therapy is healing, so the individual has to be open and honest to get to the bottom of what is occurring. Until all thoughts, feelings and emotions are out in the open, the healing process cannot start. 

Counselling is the perfect forum for allowing the exploration of emotions, without feeling guilty or embarrassed. How long counselling continues, depends on each individual case and sometimes other issues crop up around the subject of the bereavement. With any type of therapy, it’s essential that at some point the person is able to admit the thoughts which are possibly disguised as fears. For someone with children, it is super important to be able to show them that with help, life can continue to be happy, even after the death of a loved one. Being content does not mean forgetting the deceased. If someone has been with someone or married for years, of course it is going to be difficult. A person may no longer feel safe, many feel panic when they have to live alone. Maybe they are experiencing financial difficulties as there was no life insurance provision or the other person was the breadwinner. Can they keep the house? Will they have to move? There are many questions to work through.  How to deal with the children. Ultimately, what’s next? 

A bereavement counsellor can deal with the issues in a focussed manner, giving the person that all important “time-out” to digest what has happened and move on to acceptance. Bereavement counselling can also be beneficial for those suffering from loss in other areas such as a miscarriage or loss of a job due to redundancy or divorce or separation.