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Bereavement Counselling: What to Expect

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 6 Jan 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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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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