Research over the last two decades has helped the Counselling profession more clearly understand its role in supporting people through bereavement in the wake of the death of a loved one. For a long time counselling had been considered a routine and essential intervention to effect a positive and healthy outcome.
However researchers have found that the majority of bereaved persons exhibit resilience in the face of their loss. 1There are a range of ways that people work through this experience, due to differences in individual adaptation to grief and loss. Resilience is defined by Bonanno, a key researcher, as ‘the ability to maintain psychological stability through adversity’.
A counsellor offers support, allowing their client a space for emotional disclosure and help the bereaved person to ‘reinterpret the meaning of their loss experience’. 2
A relatively small percentage of bereaved people are at risk of developing ‘prolonged’ or ‘traumatic grief’. This is a grieving process which disturbs one’s ability to function normally in everyday life.3 This is possibly the legacy of a traumatic, untimely, violent or unexpected death, suicide being an all-too-common example. Research indicates that counselling is extremely beneficial in situations of prolonged grief, formerly known as ‘complicated grief’. Counselling helps the bereaved come to terms with their yearning to have their loved one back, their shock, distress, denial process and social issues which can further complicate the aftermath of sudden deaths.
Counsellors need to recognize the nature of the grief a client is experiencing, so as to best assist each unique grieving process. So, if grief is love that has become homeless, counsellors can help find a new version of home for that love.
Michael Finn is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist offering one-on-one sessions and couples therapy. For bookings & enquiries please contact Michael on 0411 537 394 or send him a message via the Contact link on his Homepage at: www.michaelfinnhealthservices.com.au
1 Bonanno, G., A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience. Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59, (1), 20–28. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.20
2 Stroebe, W., Schut, H. & Stroebe, M. S. (2005). Grief work, disclosure and counseling: do they help the bereaved? Clinical Psychology Review, (25) 395-414.
3 Stroebe, M. S., Folkman, S., Hansson, R. O., and Schut, H. (2006). The prediction of bereavement outcome: development of an integrative risk factor framework. Social Science and Medicine, (63), 2440-2451. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.06.021
4 Bonanno, G, A., & Lilienfield, S., O. (2008). Let’s be realistic: When grief counselling is effective and when it’s not. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39, (3), 377–380.
4 Neimeyer, R. A. (2000). Searching for the meaning of meaning: Grief