When you experience the death of a loved one, you may need help and support to cope with grief. Many people choose to attend grief counselling or bereavement therapy to help them come to terms with their loss.
What is grief counselling or therapy?
The word ‘therapy’ refers to ongoing treatment to improve a condition. Most often, this refers to emotional or mental conditions. Counselling is a type of therapy that involves talking about your thoughts and feelings with a trained professional.
A therapist or counsellor who specialises in grief will be experienced in helping people cope with the death of a loved one. They will be trained in different theories of how grief works, as well as how best to help different people cope with the unique and difficult emotions that come with bereavement.
Grief counselling or therapy will often be one-to-one. This means that it is just you and the counsellor in a private space where you are free to talk openly.
Group therapy is also available. You will sit and talk to a group of people who have also been bereaved, with a trained counsellor there to offer support. Some people find it helpful to meet people who understand what they are going through.
Who should have grief counselling?
Specialised grief counselling and bereavement therapy can be very helpful for anyone coping with grief. Being able to talk to someone who is neutral and non-judgmental can be a relief, and allow you to express thoughts you couldn’t say to your friends and family.
You may find grief counselling particularly helpful if:
- You’re struggling to cope with your grief, even a long time after your loved one’s death
- You have complicated emotions or had a difficult relationship with your loved one
- You feel unable to express yourself or acknowledge your feelings
- Your loved one died suddenly or unexpectedly
- You’re using drugs or alcohol to numb the emotional pain
- Relationships with your friends or family have gotten worse since the bereavement
If you’re experiencing thoughts of self-harm or feel unable to cope, talk to your Doctor immediately. You can call Samaritans on 116 123 for free, confidential support.
Different types of grief therapy
Counsellors and therapists who specialise in grief may use a combination of different types of therapy to help you. If you are unsure, they will be able to explain any techniques they are using in a way you understand.
Here is an overview of some common types of therapy:
- Counselling – This type of therapy lets you talk through your problems in a safe space. Counsellors may ask questions to prompt you to look at different issues, though they will usually be flexible and let you decide what to talk about.
- Psychotherapy – A trained mental health professional will talk with you about your problems, teaching you strategies to cope with painful emotions.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This type of psychotherapy aims to change your behaviour by first changing how you think. CBT is used to treat many types of mental health conditions by breaking cycles of negative thinking and destructive behaviour.
- Mindfulness – Linked to meditation, mindfulness involves becoming more aware of everything you are thinking and feeling. People who practise mindfulness believe that it can help you better understand and cope with emotions.
- Art therapy – Creative hobbies such as painting and sculpting can be used to help you express yourself. Art therapists will often ask you to talk about your art and what it means to you.
- Family therapy – Some therapists will sit with several members of a family to talk through issues together. This can particularly help if you’re struggling to talk to your family, or if there is a conflict that is causing problems.
How to find a therapist or counsellor
If you think you’d benefit from having grief therapy, your GP may be able to refer you to a therapist or counsellor, or provide information on where to find one.
You can also contact a bereavement support organisation for help and advice. Some bereavement organisations provide grief counselling free of charge.