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Death is too little acknowledged in contemporary culture, except as a rather inconvenient fact to be dealt with without too much fuss. When someone close dies, it is very natural to mourn. Yet many who feel a deep and very powerful sense of loss find that, once the formalities have been dealt with and sympathies have been appropriately expressed, others around them appear to feel that they should simply move on and forget, whilst they themselves find it difficult and perhaps disrespectful to do so.

Equally others may find that, because of circumstances or sometimes temperament, feelings of mourning and loss don't emerge immediately, as if they had been anaesthetized by events.

These are some of the kinds of reaction to bereavement (though not the only ones) that may lead people to seek the help of a counsellor.

Bereavement is emotionally confusing

This may sound like stating the obvious, but needs to be considered carefully. A bereaved person is highly likely to be in a state of heightened emotion. Grieving is by its nature emotional. When we are emotional, we are less likely to think clearly and may hence be more vulnerable. Worldly decisions that can have vital consequences can seem very unimportant against the silent mystery of death.

It is well known, for example, that some unscrupulous criminals exploit bereaved people because they know they may provide easy prey. And then of course prolonged intense grieving may merge into depression and other negative emotional conditions that can make a person less able to engage with life.

Intelligent bereavement counselling
  • Accepts that grieving is natural and healthy and does not oppose it
  • Does not, however, encourage clients to introspect excessively nor to become too dependent on grieving emotions
  • Assists clients in managing and coping with normal grief and developing acceptance
  • Helps the clients to recognize when grief has become exaggerated
  • Encourages clients to make use of relaxed and focused states
  • Does not ignore the dead person
  • Helps clients to adapt to new circumstances and to make healthy changes
  • Helps clients to understand how they may best meet their own needs in changed circumstances
  • Where necessary, helps clients to deal with any traumatic memories associated with the death
Bereavement counselling is usually short term

Whilst good counsellors will not hurry clients through their grief and will continue to be available for additional support when sessions are ended, they will also not prolong therapy unnecessarily beyond the point when goals have been reached. In some cases, one or two sessions will be adequate; in others five or more spread over 2 to 6 months may be more appropriate.


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