Skip Navigation LinksHome > Therapy101 > Types of Counseling > Grief Counseling
Find a therapist

What Is Grief Counseling?

If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, especially if such a loss was unexpected, you may be referred to grief counseling. The idea of grief counseling may be intimidating to some, especially those who have never participated in any kind of therapy before. However, if a loss feels completely overwhelming, counseling may present an ideal option for helping a person overcome lose and eventually resume normal functioning.
Many cultures have built in traditions and systems for managing misery. These systems allow an individual to mourn a loss, integrate the loss into his or her life, accept the loss, and move forward. Those who did not grow up in such a culture, or for whom the cultural system is not effective, may be caught up in a cycle of grief. Grief counseling can help an individual break that cycle and move on with his or her life.

Grief counseling can take a number of different forms. There can be one-on-one counseling, where the individual works only with the counselor. There can be group grief counseling, where a counselor works with a number of people in varying stages of unhappiness, allowing these grieving individuals to share their experiences and over support to one another. There can also be family grief counseling, where the rest of the family works together to grieve over a lost member. There can also be a combination of these different approaches to grief counseling.

Who Can Benefit from Grief Counseling?

Even those who are undergoing a healthy period of grief may find that period eased by effective grief counseling. However, the most benefit may come for those who have continued to have trouble functioning beyond a normal, healthy proscribed period of grief. As with most counseling, the counselor’s goal will be to provide a healthy framework for coping with and moving through the grief.

How Does Grief Counseling Work?

The grief counselor may begin working with the patient before the loss, as when a loved one is in the final stages of a terminal illness, immediately after the loss, or even some time after the loss, when it is clear that the time for completion of a healthy grieving process has passed. Grief counseling typically has two goals: Helping the patient complete a healthy grief cycle and helping the patient deal with other pathologies, such as crippling anxiety or depression, which may have been triggered by the event which caused the grieving.
It’s important to note that the completion of a successful, healthy grieving process does not mean that the object of the grief is forgotten, or that sadness is not felt when the loss is remembered. It simply means that the person has accepted the loss and that life will continue without the beloved person. In fact, after successful grief counseling, it may even be possible to remember the lost loved one more robustly and fondly, as the memories are not still tied up in that overwhelming grief.