National Grief Awareness Week – Reflections of a Bereavement Counsellor

The witnessing of grief and why seeking counselling may help.

Grief is universal. Grief is messy. At some point in our lives we are all affected by the death and loss of a loved one. For some it may be sudden and unexpected, or for others we have some time to ‘prepare’ and try to shore ourselves up so that we hold together when the inevitable happens. It is my belief that however much we think we are ready, that we never really are; not fully – we cannot experience things by proxy. We are social beings who thrive on human connection with others. The interconnection and interdependence upon others is part and parcel of who we are and what makes our life meaningful. The loss of a loved one can feel devastating and overwhelming, affecting and changing our lives in profound ways.

Reasons to consider therapy:

A container for the feelings we cannot bear.

Loss can feel devastating, leaving us vulnerable, exposed, raw, numb, devoid of answers and in pain- both mentally and sometimes physically. At a time when there has been so much crisis and stress in our wider society, increasingly people are doing their best to get by. There is less time and space to support others when we are worrying about finances, work, health etc. This can leave a bereaved person feeling very isolated and alone. We can feel as though we don’t want to trouble others at a time when we most need to connect. We can feel as though we are too much and embarrassed to express how we really feel.  Within a therapeutic relationship there is space to be and express exactly how you feel, without judgement. All parts of you can be ‘held’ with acceptance and compassion.

You are not going mad.

In a bereavement session with a client this week, my client in relation to the death of her mother talked about having ‘lost my person; lost my anchor’. We can feel as though we are broken or falling apart. A bereavement counsellor can help you to understand that what you are experiencing is part of a grieving process. Having listened to many clients who have lost a loved one, my own conclusion is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ way to grieve. How we cope and move through a loss will depend upon many factors including our past losses and traumas, our personalities, support network, what we learned from our families about emotions for example. We can sometimes hold too rigidly to fixed ideas about stages of grief or how we ‘should be feeling by now’ that hinder and compound our grief.

Counselling can help when a loss has been traumatic in nature

Sadly, death can be additionally traumatic when it has been caused by a sudden accident, we may have witnessed a painful death, or we may have lost a loved one through suicide. Specific kinds of therapy may be helpful in these circumstances. Your counsellor will be able to advise and discuss this with you. There may be times when you experience symptoms like panic attacks or heightened anxiety or feelings of depression and struggle to function in your day-to-day life. Your counsellor will be able to guide you and discuss whether additional help or services are required in these circumstances.

Your grief needs to be witnessed.

We all of us need to be heard and understood. Part of healing is having someone to walk alongside you and understand what your loss means to you. A good therapist will also be someone who holds onto the hope when you feel stuck in despair; the person who knows that things will change, however slowly and painfully.

If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer please get in touch by emailing or or call on 0161 445 2099 or 01904 412551.