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Bereavement Counselling: What to Expect

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 20 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Bereavement bereaved bereavement

Bereavement counselling is a specialised type of counselling that involves supporting individuals who have experienced the loss of a loved one. This counselling helps them work through their grief as well as perhaps learn coping mechanisms to help them when they are on their own. Bereavement counselling is recommended for anyone, of any age, whose loss seems overwhelming or whose life is being adversely affected by their grief.

Understanding Grief

Grief can be described as the emotional response to the death of a loved one. Most often grief is equated simply with sadness, though this is not exactly the case. Grief often involves a progression of different emotions and reactions that include shock and/or numbness, anxiety, anger and sadness. It may take days, weeks, months or even years for someone who is grieving to cycle through several different emotions, and some people never experience all of these emotions due to a particular loss. Others may experience some emotions related to one loss but different emotions due to another. This is perfectly normal. There is no set itinerary for grief, though if there is a distinct lack of emotional response, or an emotional response so overwhelming that it begins to affect a person’s employment, education or personal relationships then it may be best to consult a counsellor.

Stages of Grief

Though there is no set pathway for grief, it has been theorised that some distinct stages may be discernable in the bereaved. The Kubler-Ross model of grief, which developed after Elizabeth Kubler-Ross investigated this cycle in many grieving individuals, describes grief as a five stage process. Denial, anger, bargaining depression and acceptance are all stages identified by Kubler-Ross. However, this does not mean that all bereaved individuals will experience all stages, that all stages will be experienced in the same way, or that all stages will be experienced in the same order. This model may help others make sense of grief, but those who are bereaved should be concerned only with what they are feeling and how they are coping – not with fitting a theoretical model.

Bereavement Counselling

Bereavement counselling, whether it be one-on-one with a private therapist or in a group setting, aims to help an individual explore his or her emotions. At the first meeting, the bereaved will likely be asked about his or her loss, about his or her relationship to the deceased, and about his or her own life now that (s)he has lost a loved one. Answering these questions often means tapping into sadness or anger, so emotional outbursts should not be censored. Crying and yelling may come naturally during bereavement counselling and certainly will not offend the counsellor.

Allowing an individual to explore his or her emotions without guilt or censure is often what appeals most about bereavement counselling. In group settings such outbursts will not be surprising, though obviously the time spent with each group member will be more limited than in a one-to-one session. However, any emotional outbursts aimed at the therapist or other group members should not be tolerated and in fact there may be recognised rules against such situations. The length of time for which bereavement counselling will continue will most likely be decided between the counsellor and the bereaved, and will likely be discussed as counselling progresses.

Turning to bereavement counselling after the loss of a loved one is not an admission of weakness, but instead it is an admission of the strength to seek help when it is needed.

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my sister was murdered on oct. 24, 2016. she was 15 months older than I am. her estranged husband shot her in the back of the neck with a shotgun as she was on her way to work. she was a supervising RN. I am a different person, a broken person who now goes through the motions of my life. my life feels different. I've been over eating. I don't take joy in what I used to. because I am a mom, i have everything to live for. I've been going to a counselor, but I don't think I'm getting much out of it. my therapist is grieving the loss of a loved one too, so she knows grief. --- I wonder if maybe if I am experiencing ptsd due to panic and flashbacks of imagery. I miss my sister so much. I always thought we would grow old together. we loved each other very much and loved to be together. I loved to laugh with her and to make her laugh. her kids lost both parents. it's been a horror festival. --- I miss my sister and I know life will never be the same. --- I have a history of clinical depression (bi-polar)--- I don't know where the grief begins and ends and where the chemical issues begin and end. I'm sort of at a loss, but I'll keep dragging myself around.
blackbird - 20-May-17 @ 7:03 AM
I lost my wife 21st of February 2017 and am slowly going into a depressive state. I can't cope and neither do I care. My wife died of liver failure due to alcohol. From diagnosis to death was 10 days. 6 of which she was unconcious. Please anyone Alcohol in moderation, especially if using to help you cope with grief. No one should die that way.
Hammerhead - 30-Apr-17 @ 7:25 PM
Taajlc - Your Question:
Hi I lost my 29 year old son Dec 2016 in car incident he died on the scene. Crying is my constant companion, emotions are jumbled anger shock denial. I go from it can't be true to I won't see him again. I don't know how to cope or deal with this. I isolated myself not returned work yet. All I can think 24/7 is how how is it possible I won't see my son again

Our Response:
Please do try and seek some support - such as counselling. It really will help even at this early stage when your feelings are still so raw. Talk to your GP or contact an organisation like CRUSE which can help with support groups, counselling and therapy. Nothing will take away the pain, but it will help you to process the jumble of feelings you have going around in your head and to be able to function better on a daily basis. It will also give you a chance to talk to others who've had similar losses and perhaps give you some hope that one day you might be able to smile again and remember the times you had with your son with fondness and not complete despair. Take care of yourself too, for the sake of your other loved ones. We're thinking of you.
FacingBereavement - 19-Apr-17 @ 2:21 PM
HiI lost my 29 year old son Dec 2016 in car incident he died on the scene. Crying is my constant companion, emotions are jumbled anger shock denial . I go from it can't be true to I won't see him again. I don't know how to cope or deal with this. I isolated myself not returned work yet. All I can think 24/7 is how how is it possible I won't see my son again
Taajlc - 17-Apr-17 @ 12:47 PM
ho wto couselling to my friend who has lost her loved one
amol - 4-Apr-17 @ 2:08 PM
TJ - Your Question:
Hi. This may seem daft as my story is so old. I lost my dad 28 years ago this July, he went missing at sea for two days before his body was found. I was 17 years old and my mum and dad had split up when I was 14. My mum tried to turn me against him. It I found a way around staying in touch with him but only saw him a couple of times between the time he left my mum and passing away. There was a post mortem but it just said he died by drowning. He was such a god swimmer and loved the sea. I can't seem to find a way to get over it. I never had the chance to tell him how much I loved him and because I don't know the circumstances of what happened I can't seem to close it off.

Our Response:
It would really help for you to talk about this to someone. Your mum has such mixed feelings (understandably), that it might be better to talk to a counsellor. You can find one via your GP or through Cruse Bereavement Care
FacingBereavement - 31-Mar-17 @ 10:29 AM
My dads mum has recently passed away after a short battle with ovarian cancer, she was extremely close to us all and lived with the family for the past 20 years. Ever since she was diagnosed my dad has been extremely stressed, constantly in a bad mood, angry and depressed and I haven't really seen him greive, instead he is putting all of his emotions into other progects such a moving house and spending money on extreme things like a boat. I've spoken to him about getting help but he says it's too embarrassing and it won't help, now I don't know what to do for the best.
Bel91 - 30-Mar-17 @ 9:25 AM
Hi. This may seem daft as my story is so old. I lost my dad 28 years ago this July, he went missing at sea for two days before his body was found. I was 17 years old and my mum and dad had split up when I was 14. My mum tried to turn me against him. It I found a way around staying in touch with him but only saw him a couple of times between the time he left my mum and passing away. There was a post mortem but it just said he died by drowning. He was such a god swimmer and loved the sea. I can't seem to find a way to get over it. I never had the chance to tell him how much I loved him and because I don't know the circumstances of what happened I can't seem to close it off.
TJ - 29-Mar-17 @ 11:15 PM
Natalie - Your Question:
My son of 21 an daughter 25 lost their dad 10 years ago this September 2017. My daughter seems to be coping with this but my son. well hes just completely gone off the rails. Hes started smoking weed, hes angry an aggressive most of the time. He says many times how he wishes he was dead, its terrible I really dont no how to help. My partner of 8 years wants him out of our house due to these out breaks of temper an distruction. Im just out of my mind wondering what to do to help my son. He does work which im glad about but that a stressful job. Hes a chef. Hes also so thin its sickening. Pleases give me some advice.

Our Response:
He needs to be able to speak to someone else who can support him with this. Will he speak to a bereavement counsellor or join a support group? The CRUSE charity is a great place to start.
FacingBereavement - 28-Mar-17 @ 10:25 AM
My son of 21 an daughter 25lost their dad 10 years ago this September 2017. My daughter seems to be coping with this but my son.... well hes just completely gone off the rails. Hes started smoking weed, hes angry an aggressive most of the time. He says many times how he wishes he was dead, its terrible i really dont no how to help. My partner of 8 years wants him out of our house due to these out breaks of temper an distruction. Im just out of my mind wondering what to do to help my son. He does work which im glad about but that a stressful job. Hes a chef. Hes also so thin its sickening. Pleases give me some advice.
Natalie - 26-Mar-17 @ 10:06 AM
I lost my mum 21st December 2016 to cancer. Although others say I'm coping remarkably well and how strong I am deep down I'm struggling I seem to be stuck in a rut that I can't get out of. I was very close to.my mum. I feel I have to be strong for my children who lost their grandmother and my dad who lost his wife. I find it very hard
Lou - 14-Mar-17 @ 1:41 PM
I suddenly lost my parner of 32 years in october 2016..It was very sudden and unexpected..Im not coping very well..I cant stop crying,i dont want to go out.Im on anti depressents and sleeping tablets..Christmas was a terrible time for me and his birthday is due in february..I cant take in whats happened and im coping less as time goes on.I dont know where and who to turn to my lifes in a mess at the momment...Im trying to cope but not doing very good..What help is out there as i dont think i can do this on my own
Karffy - 6-Jan-17 @ 1:42 PM
I lost my dad just over a month ago he went to work and never came home he had a heart attack, I can't seem to get my head around it he was as fit as anything never was will never went to the doctors, I'm having trouble moving on from this I'm missing him so much it really hurts
Woo - 31-Dec-16 @ 3:36 PM
natalie - Your Question:
My brother is currently in the last stages of brain cancer; he's the only boy out of six of us kids; my hubby has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Yesterday it all came down on my shoulders. My brother has been fighting for 3 years and my hubby for 2 months. It's a lot to handle and today I felt a little depressed, wondered if I should talk to a grief counselor. I'm actually at piece with my brother because he's at piece, my hubby on the other hand is killing me. He's fighting it, we're fighting it, but he has bad days and lately it seems more so. I'm just tired of the constant worry, being scared, upset and the whole host of other emotions that are hanging around. I tell myself daily, If God took you to it, he'll bring you through it. My mantra!

Our Response:
Counselling will certainly help you. It might be worth speaking to a Macmillan nurse, they're fantastic in situations like this and will be able to help you locate any assistance you need.
FacingBereavement - 15-Dec-16 @ 12:56 PM
My brother is currently in the last stages ofbrain cancer;he's the only boy out of six of us kids; my hubby has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Yesterday it all came down on my shoulders. My brother has been fighting for 3 years and my hubby for 2 months.It's a lot to handle and today I felt a little depressed, wondered if I should talk to a grief counselor. I'm actually at piece with my brother because he's at piece, my hubby on the other hand is killing me. He's fighting it, we're fighting it, but he has bad days and lately it seems more so. I'm just tired of the constant worry, being scared, upset and the whole host of other emotions that are hanging around. I tell myself daily, If God took you to it, he'll bring you through it. My mantra!
natalie - 14-Dec-16 @ 5:35 PM
Rach - Your Question:
I lost my father 8 months ago on the 14th October I am just devestated and moat of the time I am constantly looking for him I see things that remind me of him all the time , sometimes I have good days and sometimes bad days when I just sit and cry and I wonder if I will always feel like this like I can't handle it anymore my dad was the best of dad's and was always there for me my daughter , mom and sister even though we ate able yo talk about him and laugh at the funny times we shared I think we all feel like we must express our grief when we are alone for fear of upsetting one another. My dad was the glue that held us all together and without him here I fear we are falling apart I would give anything to just hea his voice again I hear it now only on my head and someone's I am scared I won't hear it anymore , I think the right thing to do would seek counselling but I'm afraid as soon as I open my mouth to talk about it I wouldn't be able to stop the tears I don't know just not sure I'm ready yet.

Our Response:
Councillors are used to tears. In some ways that's what they're there for. Part of the grieving process is being able to talk and to allow yourself to be upset...doing so with someone who is more "detached" is often more productive. You can contact local bereavement services through your GP, local hospice, or the national Cruse helpline on 0844 477 9400.
FacingBereavement - 17-Jun-16 @ 2:12 PM
I lost my father 8 months ago on the 14th October I am just devestated and moat of the time I am constantly looking for him I see things that remind me of him all the time , sometimes I have good days and sometimes bad days when I just sit and cry and I wonder if I will always feel like this like I can't handle it anymore my dad was the best of dad's and was always there for me my daughter , mom and sister even though we ate able yo talk about him and laugh at the funny times we shared I think we all feel like we must express our grief when we are alone for fear of upsetting one another.My dad was the glue that held us all together and without him here I fear we are falling apart I would give anything to just hea his voice again I hear it now only on my head and someone's I am scared I won't hear it anymore , I think the right thing to do would seek counselling but I'm afraid as soon as I open my mouth to talk about it I wouldn't be able to stop the tears I don't know just not sure I'm ready yet .
Rach - 16-Jun-16 @ 2:00 AM
I lost my brother nearly 6 years ago which really hurt me mentaly and emotionaly because we hadnt spoke or seen eachother in over 10 years due the death of our father,sadly Andrew died and i couldnt make amense to him, i lost my mother in 2012 quickly follwed by my step father within a month of which totally destroyed me once again, it is only due to meeting my wonderful wife Lucy and her great family that iam here today, in other words never give up life, life will always seem that it trying to destoy everything that you love but in the background their will always be someone their for you.
Jamesie - 13-Mar-16 @ 2:43 PM
I lost my mum on the 5th Jan 16 . I just feel numb and can't seem to hold things together at the moment and I feel guilty showing my emotions in front of family
Fred - 8-Mar-16 @ 5:29 PM
My son died aged 30 and I am devastated.I am struggling with anxiety and depression and I am unsure how to move on.
ANJIE - 17-Feb-16 @ 7:41 PM
Chris - Your Question:
I am in the process of grieving for both my parents who died within 5 months of each other. I need to know what to do and which way to turn as I can't carry on the way that I am at the moment.

Our Response:
Here are some useful places you should try:
The RVS has information and details of other people's experiences.
The Counselling Directory has some useful advice and also a searchable directory of bereavement counsellors.
Cruse is a well known charity helping people deal with bereavement.
FacingBereavement - 20-Jan-16 @ 12:58 PM
I am in the process of grieving for both my parents who died within 5 months of each other.I need to know what to do and which way to turn as I can't carry on the way that I am at the moment.
Chris - 19-Jan-16 @ 6:16 PM
i have lost my mother & my best freind, im not sure about wha comes nextt
nezza - 26-Sep-11 @ 6:37 PM
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