Grief counselling – what to expect

March 29, 2018   //   No Comments

SAIF thanks Luella Glover Wilson of Professional Help for this article:

If you have never experienced counselling before, the idea can be a little daunting at first. You might be feeling lost and vulnerable and you really want to feel better and counselling is supposed to help – but you find yourself anxious and unsure about the process or about what expectations you should have or which there might be of you.

The counsellor is there to listen, not to judge, and there are no expectations of you. They are there to hear about your feelings, your experience and your thoughts, which will be unique to you. You can share as much or as little as you choose. The counsellor will show you that they have properly heard you; they may reflect back to you using your own words, or they may use their own words to repeat what you have told them. They may, occasionally, want to clarify what you have said to show that they have properly understood. The counsellor is there as someone who might be a little more aware of the effects of loss and bereavement than you might be, and that makes them not an expert, but a guide – as you navigate the grief. Indeed, it is you who is the expert – on yourself. You know what is ‘usual’ for you and what is not, so what you feel ok with, and what you do not. If there is a reaction or emotion which seems very strange or out of place, the counsellor will hope to reassure you it is natural to feel that way. The counsellor will aim to enable you to accept what is happening for you, and what your feelings are, without guilt or blame.

Grief can seem to take a long time to accept, and the length of time before this can happen varies greatly from person to person, and with different losses. This is because each bereavement is unique. The counsellor will aim to help you to understand that, and to enable you to allow yourself the time that you (and no one else) need. You might experience pressure from friends or other family members to have ‘got over it by now’, or to be ‘feeling better by now’, which feels impossible, and this can cause isolation, guilt and shame, which can lead to feelings of depression. The counsellor will aim to encourage you to recognise ways, which you might already use, that can help you protect yourself from pressure to conform to others’ expectations of you.

The space provided by the counsellor will offer confidentiality and a sense of safety. Each session will be for an agreed length of time, usually about 1 hour, which is exclusively for you, as regularly as you need it. The number of sessions will be confirmed at the start of counselling but can be fewer. If more sessions are needed then this can be talked through.

Professional Help provide SAIF Care, our bereavement counselling service which provides a telephone helpline, email advice and up to six face to face sessions. It is available for free to any family who arranges a funeral with a participating SAIF independent funeral director. 

SAIF Members may opt in to this additional service to the usual membership subscription. Find out more details, including costs, on the Member’s area here. (You’ll need to login to the Members’ area first.)