Grief Counselling – Who Needs It?

by Glynis Sherwood MEd

There’s much debate in the academic research community regarding the usefulness of grief counselling. The debate seems torevolve around whether grief counselling is necessary for recovery, or if it even does any good. There seems to be some agreement that for ‘normal’ grief, counselling isn’trequired for healing to take place. Healing tends to happen on its own, over time. However, most researchers agree that normal grievers can receive valuable support, understanding and normalization of grief feelings from counselling. This can be immensely valuablefor grieving people whoencountersocial attitudesthatreflectlittle understanding of theprocess of grief or the needs of grievers, andcan pressure grievers to’get over it’ long before their healing has actually even started. The truth is, we live in a world that has little tolerance for death except as a form of entertainment. So ‘normal’ grief counsellingcan playan important role as both a source of comfort, and a coping bridge between the griever’s heartache and the world outside. But is counselling truly necessary for normal grief to heal? Probably not.

Where grief counselling can become a lifeline is in cases of chronic or ‘stuck’ grief. Chronic grief is experienced by up to 20% of all grieving people, especially those who have been impacted by sudden and/or traumatic loss. Stuck grief is normal grief that has lost its way, and does not know how to heal. This kind of complicated grief is often characterized by hopelessness, loss of meaning/belief systems,intense longing, a lingering sense of disbelief about the loss, avoidance of situations or thoughts that are reminders of the loss, pre-occupation with a lost loved one, and sometimes distressing, intrusive thoughts related to the loss that are reminiscent of trauma symptoms. Left untreated chronic grief can lead to clinical depression, substance abuse and suicidal thinking. Chronic grief recovery requires a specific approach,and tends to generalrespond well to counselling designed totreat both grief and trauma. Studies have shown that the grief recovery ratefrom specializedchronic grief counselling is twice that of regular grief counselling. So is complicated grief counselling necessary for recovery from chronic grief? I would argue that not only is it necessary, but thatchronic grief counsellingis avital supportthat helps people stuck in grief to regain an investment in life theyfear has beenlost to them forever.


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Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor, specializes in helping people recover from all kinds of Loss, Grief and Stuck Grief – aka ‘the pain that won’t go away.  I look forward to hearing from you and helping you achieve the peace of mind you want and deserve.