After the Funeral - Grief Counseling
By S Matthews
When a loved one dies, we all react differently. For
some people, accepting the inevitable loss of a
87-year-old much-loved grandfather following a lengthy
illness is not that difficult. For others, it is an
unbearable task. Similarly, some people seem to "get
over" the loss of a small child in a relatively short
period of time, while others never seem to recover.
For the many people who find it hard to cope with a
death, grief counseling often can help them make the
transition. Its goal is to help people grieve within a
normal, healthy period of time and eventually resume
their daily lives. Grief counseling can be a long-term
process, a short-term affair or even a one-off, and can
occur on a one-to-one basis or in groups.
For people for whom grief counseling is not enough,
grief therapy may be the answer. It helps people with
complicated or abnormal grief reactions deal better with
the conflict of separation, using specialized techniques
to help them eventually function again as a happy human
Five Stages of Grief
Psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first
introduced this model in 1969 in her book On Death and
Dying. She wrote it particularly for people who were
dying themselves as the result of a terminal illness.
However, her five steps later became identified as the
five stages we all go through when someone else dies,
and are now widely seen as a useful tool for people
going through the grieving or bereavement process. They
- Denial. The first phase we all go through. Either you
deny that it is happening to you or you find yourself
"forgetting" that the event has happened at all, by
continuing to set a place at table for the deceased,
buying them a present or talking to them.
- Anger/Blaming. This stage occurs once the denial is
over, when you get incensed over what has transpired and
seek to lay blame. You might blame your husband for
something he did "wrong", you might blame yourself.
- Bargaining. Trying to bargain for time, saying you
will do this and that if the inevitable does not happen.
Some people try to bargain with God to get their loved
- Depression. Once you have begun the process of
acceptance often you are faced with intense depression,
and seemingly don't care what happens any more at all.
- Acceptance. When the depression begins to lift an
acceptance of the inevitable begins, and you can begin
to rebuild your life and move on.
How Grief Counseling Can Help
In today's society it's generally accepted that grieving
is a normal process, but unfortunately we don't all know
how to grieve. Grief counseling can help us to express
our feelings and adjust to the loss. Please be aware,
however, that in specific situations - such as when a
child dies or a homicide unexpectedly occurs - that
specialized counseling may be warranted.
Here are some basics about the grief counseling process:
- Grief counseling is specific for people who are
bereaved. Grief counselors can be clergy people, trained
therapists or social workers, and can work individually
with bereaved individuals or in groups.
- The counseling seeks first of all for an expression of
grief, and to understand that their feelings are normal
and, hopefully, only temporary. It can be helpful to
consolidate memories, learn how they affect us, and then
- Some people feel so shocked or numb following the
death of a loved one that they are unable to cope.
Talking about these feelings and getting them out in the
open can help them go forward.
- Sometimes there are unresolved issues between the
person who is being counseled and the deceased.
Counseling can help resolve them.
- As grief counseling helps consolidate feelings, it
sometimes is implemented after a loss of a different
kinds other than death, ie, the break-up of a
relationship or the loss of a job. In many cases, the
grieving process is the same. Loss of a feeling of
personal safety following a trauma or even the loss of a
dream many require similar counseling.
- When a child does, the two parents may deal with their
loss differently - and at a different pace. Everyone
grieves differently, although it can be hard for people
to understand that when they are suffering the same
loss. Couples grief counseling can help partners to
understand each other's needs and not place blame on
Many people wrongly assume that the funeral spells the
end of the grieving process, when it actuality it's
often the beginning. Grief counseling - and occasionally
grief therapy - can help people come to terms with their
loss and continue on with their lives.
Experts in the field have recognized that there is no
set timetable for getting over a loss, and that it's not
always important to stay strong. Everyone grieves
differently, and you may feel numbness, disbelief,
shock, anger, pain, fear and even physical symptoms such
as headaches, chronic fatigue and panic attacks.
Getting the right support you need is paramount, not
just from other family members and friends but also from
support groups and professionals. Finding someone who
has gone through similar trying times can help greatly,
as can finding someone to talk you through the myriad
changes you are experiencing.
If your grief is turning into depression, it's time to
face things head on and get professional support.
Treatment can lift you up throughout the mourning
process, so ask for help - and get it. Coping with grief
is not an insurmountable task, but it's one that many of
us need help to get through.