How does grief counselling work? - An overview

In the face of the loss of a loved one, we are all bound to go a little out of our minds. Emotions take over everything and the rest of the world just stops. Normally, with time, we eventually move one. However, some may forever be stuck in a cycle they see no escape from. Those individuals can benefit from grief counseling.

So how exactly does grief counseling work? Below is a step-by-step approach to how the grief counseling process works.


Step 1 – Building trust during grief counseling

The very first step of any counseling or therapy session is building trust between the counselor and the client. The client is about to open their deepest worries, fears, and emotions to a stranger. Thus, the client needs to feel the comfort and trust to open up about their struggles. If you feel like confiding in the counselor is going to be useless, and uncomfortable, you may have to find another. It is also the counselor’s job to create a safe, nonjudgemental space that allows the client to open up without worry. They are trained professionals in the arena and are unlikely to be anything less than supportive and understanding.


Step 2 – Identifying the cause of the grief

After establishing this connection the second step involves the counselor getting to the root of the cause. This step is dedicated to identifying what is causing the lasting grief, in order to decide on the methods to help the client better. The counselor will approach you with questions. These may include questions about your relationship with the deceased, its impact on you, how your life has changed, how your goals have changed, etc. The counselor will try to figure out the nature of your relationship with the deceased. Was it a difficult one? A loving and intimate relationship? A complicated one? Figuring this information helps out the counselor understand what is causing the emotional issues. Sometimes it is not just grief. It can be trauma too.


Step 3 – Following up on the best counseling technique

After going through step 2, the counselor and the client come to an understanding of what is causing the grief. Based on that the counselor will decide which technique or method can be followed to help the client with navigating these emotions. It is important to understand that counseling only works as guidance. Unless the client puts in their share of work and dedication to solving their grief, counseling will not be fruitful. However, with genuine effort and following guidelines, the client can reach their goal at the end of this step.


Some of the techniques used in grief counseling

Below are a few of the most used techniques when it comes to grief counseling.

Talking about the deceased person / loss during grief counseling

Grief is not always about a dead person. It can be about a deceased pet, a child that fell apart from the family, an individual whose marriage is falling apart, or any other sort of loss.

Letting the client that is seeking help talk about what the loss means to them is important when it comes to grief counseling. During this, the client can dive into their emotions and speak their heart out in a safe space. Most of these people have not been able to do so, due to many reasons. The counselor provides the push to talk about the loss which includes intimate questions and background questions about the deceased person/ loss. However, questions differ according to the situation. The point is to allow the client to unleash their hidden emotions and for the counselor to understand the depth of the impact.

Identifying grief from trauma during grief counseling

At times, the clients appear to be traumatized by a specific event. This can be an image that appears in their dreams causing insomnia or a situation that plays in their heads continuously. This memory can be due to the circumstances of the loved ones’ death. Identifying this situation will help the counselor readjust the client’s outlook on life and allow them to grieve healthily. Trauma can stop a person from going through the process of grieving and have them stuck traumatized and depressed.

Deal with guilt during grief counseling

Individuals who are feeling guilty about the death of a loved one find it hard to get past the grieving process. It may be because they weren’t on the best terms when their loved one passed, or it was indirectly caused by something they did. For example, a father sends his son to get eggs in the morning when the son wanted to sleep till late. However, on the way to get eggs, he meets with an accident and dies. This can cause the father to suffer from guilt related to the grief. In addition, some may even feel guilty for moving on without grieving for too long. A grief counselor identifies these factors and helps the client let go of the guilty feelings that bother them.


What can you expect and what not to expect from grief counseling

You need to understand that grief counseling,

  • is not a magical way of escaping grief or forgetting about the deceased loved one/ loss
  • will not change you fundamentally as a person
  • is not a shortcut to the grieving process

Overall, grief counseling is a guide for those who are losing themselves in grief. They can’t seem to escape it to the real world. It helps you direct your emotions and grieve healthily. Below are some things you can expect from grief counseling.

Healthier ways to express feelings and emotions

When overwhelmed by feelings and emotions, people may have trouble understanding how best to express them. Rather than bottling up emotions or releasing them by tormenting everyone else, counselors can help you come to terms with the healthiest ways of expressing feelings.

Clients may have a lot to tell their deceased loved ones. That incomplete feeling may sadden them and can throw them into a rage. Counselors use a technique that involves an empty chair. For instance, they urge the clients to imagine the chair is their deceased loved one and allows them to talk to them and express their feelings. This helps take a weight off the client’s head and will help with their emotional projection.

Being ready to move on with new relationships

When it comes to moving on after losing a loved one, it is normal to be reluctant to make new memories with another that could replace the ones made with the lost person. This is especially applicable when it comes to losing a spouse. One may find it hard to move on and remarry because they want to hold onto the memories and not let another replace the place of their dearest partner.

Counseling helps clients move on and become part of new relationships while holding on to their beautiful memories of their past. This does not happen overnight and is a process the counselor and the client will work on together.

Figuring out the difference of identity

After losing their husband, a wife becomes a widow. After a divorce, you are no longer married. Sometimes these identities hold a very big part of our existence. In other words, a woman who has been married for 40 years and loses their husband may have trouble figuring out how to not have a husband anymore. One part of counseling is explaining to clients how to live with their new identity. They can figure out new hobbies and figure out themselves and their identities.

Grief counseling does not become fruitful overnight. It takes effort, persistence, and trust over anything else. However, once successful, individuals are unlikely to ever be lost in their grief again.