What is grief?
The loss of a person we have been close to can evoke deeply painful feelings and confront us with unfamiliar changes and circumstances, which can be very difficult to cope with and adapt to.
Although people have always suffered loss, the way we experience and express our grief is unique to every person and shaped by the nature of the relationship we had with the person who has died, the circumstances of their death, our past experience of loss as well as the culture we live in.
Coping with grief
Sometimes the experience of grief and mourning is overwhelming, making us feel we can't cope and function anymore. Certain types and circumstances of death, such as the unexpected death of a person close to us, loss from suicide, a child's death, miscarriage or stillbirth, can result in more complicated or traumatic responses to grief. These responses can make it difficult for us to mourn without some professional help.
All cultures recognise that a grieving person benefits from the support of extended family, friends, neighbours and religious institutions to help them mourn and adapt to the many life changes a death may force upon them. However, when family, friends and neighbours are not available, are also grieving or are uncomfortable with talking about death and mourning, we can be left with no one to share our grief with and resolve our loss.
Where traditional sources of support for a grieving person are lacking or a person's reaction to loss is complicated or traumatic, a grief counsellor can offer the time, space and skills which can help a person to work through the pain of loss and mobilize their resources to accept and live with the absence the person leaves behind. The aim of bereavement counselling for complicated and traumatic grief responses is to understand and work through the difficulties which prevent a person from being able to mourn, being consumed by their grief or unable to end grieving.
What does a bereavement counsellor do?
A bereavement counsellor can help you to express the myriad of feelings, thoughts and behaviours you are experiencing in response to grief, reduce the intensity of grief symptoms, guide you through the mourning process and help you adjust to the absence of the person who has died.
When is bereavement counselling helpful?
If you feel disabled by the intensity of your grief, find it difficult or impossible to function or see any meaning in life, then bereavement counselling is likely to be helpful to you. Similarly if you do not have a supportive network of family and friends, or if you prefer to speak to someone outside your circle of support and trust, then bereavement counselling can help you through the process of mourning.
How long does it take to grieve and to feel better?
How long a person grieves varies from person to person and depends on many factors including whether they have emotional support to help them with their grief. In general acute grief may last three or more months and the average time most people need to consistently feel better about their loss is about a year.