Counselling for grief and loss

What do counsellors actually do? In truth, it’s both more ordinary and more special than people might think. At its most basic, counselling is confidential, focused attention on someone’s story without judgment, and with compassion. You get 50 minutes to offload all your worries, fears and concerns, major and minor, without someone turning the attention back to themselves or saying “I know, I know, I remember when that happened to me…”

As you get to know your counsellor, you might also reflect on some of the experiences that have made you who you are – both good and bad – and some of the patterns and ways of coping you’ve developed along the way to get through the rough patches.

What happens next?

When someone gets in touch about counselling, I’ll spend a bit of time on the phone finding out how they're feeling and what they're finding hard. We might talk about other significant life events, support networks and try to build up a picture of what might help. I’ll also take some personal details such as their GP, and additional contact details.

Grief and sadness are normal

Often, an assessment for grief and loss support is a valuable first step for counsellor and client to get to know one another. Some assessments can be tearful; the counsellor may be the first person they’ve spoken to honestly about their experiences. Feelings can sometimes be overwhelming and out of control, so this initial conversation can be a chance to assure people…

“No, you’re not going crazy.”

“Yes, grief is a whole body stress out and you can feel zoned out, overwhelmed, angry, guilty, achy, or experience any number of other symptoms.’

‘Yes, bursting into tears for no reason is completely normal.’

The other response we hear is “My mum/sister/friend/colleague said I should come for counselling. I don’t think I need it, but they keep going on about it.” Research suggests that for many of us, the death of someone close is extremely tough. We don’t ‘get over’ it; and strong feelings of grief can last for anything between six months to two, three or five years. But research also shows that in time, we do begin to live our life again and we usually do it without the need for psychotherapeutic support.

However, where a death has been sudden or traumatic, or where family relationships or life experiences have been complicated, or for prolonged grief, people can find counselling an enormous support.

Bubble wrapped

A grieving person may have plenty of friends and family, but sometimes, each individual is wrapped in their own bubble, unable or unwilling to talk about their feelings. Sometimes this is intended to protect the others around them, or because they’re worried that once they start crying, their feelings will become overwhelming and unmanageable. Counselling can help with this. Your therapist can’t wave a magic wand to make it better, but they can sit with the pain, tears, and mess, help explain what other people experience and what helped them, and listen when they want to say the unsayable.

To find out more about grief and loss:

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