05 May 2009

Grief counselling

For people who experience difficulty in coping with their loss, grief counselling or grief therapy may be necessary.


Most of the support that people receive after a loss comes from friends and family. Doctors and nurses may also be a source of support. For people who experience difficulty in coping with their loss, grief counselling or grief therapy may be necessary.

Grief counselling helps mourners with normal grief reactions work through the tasks of grieving. Grief counselling can be provided by professionally trained people, or in self-help groups where bereaved people help other bereaved people.

Goals of grief counselling:

  • Helping the bereaved to accept the loss by helping him or her to talk about the loss.

  • Helping the bereaved to identify and express feelings related to the loss (for example, anger, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and sadness).

  • Helping the bereaved to live without the person who died and to make decisions alone.

  • Helping the bereaved to separate emotionally from the person who died and to begin new relationships.

  • Providing support and time to focus on grieving at important times such as birthdays and anniversaries.

  • Describing normal grieving and the differences in grieving among individuals.

  • Providing continuous support.

  • Helping the bereaved to understand his or her methods of coping.

  • Identifying coping problems the bereaved may have and making recommendations for professional grief therapy.

What is grief therapy?

Grief therapy is used with people who have more serious grief reactions.

The goal of grief therapy is to identify and solve problems the mourner may have in separating from the person who died. When separation difficulties occur, they may appear as physical or behaviour problems, delayed or extreme mourning, conflicted or extended grief, or unexpected mourning.

Can be done in groups or as an individual
A contract is set up with the individual or group that establishes the time limit of the therapy, the fees, the goals, and the focus of the therapy. In grief therapy, the mourner talks about the deceased and tries to recognise whether he or she is experiencing an expected amount of emotion about the death.

Dealing with negative emotions
Grief therapy may allow the mourner to see that anger, guilt, or other negative or uncomfortable feelings can exist at the same time as more positive feelings about the person who died.

Human beings tend to make strong bonds of affection or attachment with others. When these bonds are broken, as in death, a strong emotional reaction occurs.

After a loss occurs, a person must accomplish certain tasks to complete the process of grief.
These basic tasks of mourning include accepting that the loss happened, living with and feeling the physical and emotional pain of grief, adjusting to life without the loved one, and emotionally separating from the loved one and going on with life without him or her. It is important that these tasks are completed before mourning can end.

National Cancer Institute


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