'Why bereavement counselling?' as published in A Local Life, Bradford on Avon, July 2010
Working with bereavement is a little like gradually unwrapping a package: a client will often start by telling their story of the death, which then leads on to other layers that slowly unfold.
Grief is complex. An unfinished or unaddressed bereavement can lead to anxiety, depression, loss of concentration, problems at work or home, lingering anger, guilt, loss of interest in life or feeling numb, and questions about one’s identity. These experiences are all normal and human and deserve attention. Talking them through can bring relief and acceptance.
A death may bring up emotions and memories connected to earlier losses that were, for whatever reason, not experienced fully enough at the time. When the death is sudden or early, or the bereaved person was also a carer, this adds more layers of complexity to the grieving process.
Friends, family or employers may have ‘had enough’ of listening, not know how to talk about it, or judge that the person ‘should have moved on by now,’ which is where a trained counsellor can be a useful resource. Clients often say they feel relieved to take the time and space they need and to have their experiences witnessed and affirmed. They may well finish therapy having found a renewed sense of hope, acceptance and meaning in life.
Bereavement work can be short- or long-term, depending on the issues involved and on the client’s individual needs. Every person is unique – there is no textbook answer or ‘right way’ to process a death. Yet in my experience it is never too late for the person left behind to work towards a satisfying ending for themselves.
Humanistic Psychotherapy and Counselling for Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire and Somerset