6 counselling techniques to cope with grief and loss

Whatever the circumstance, helping someone cope with grief and loss can be incredibly challenging. Not everyone deals with losing someone they love in the same way and we all have different coping mechanisms, which often, others may not understand.

When it comes to grief and loss, everyone is different. And there’s no time limit on how long it should take someone to come to terms with a loss – some people never do, they just find ways to cope.

Many people turn to counselling to help them to accept the reality of their loss and help them move forward, adjusting to life without their loved one and work through the pain.

We’ve created a guide outlining our top six counselling techniques to help your clients cope with grief and loss.

What are grieving thoughts and behaviours?

Grief isn’t just limited to feeling sad, it goes way beyond this and can bring to the surface a whole host of different emotions including anger, regret, guilt, yearning and sometimes relief if a loved one has been suffering for a long period of time.

There are five linear stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

To move through this journey, counsellors use a variety of different therapy techniques to help those grieving to cope and adjust.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used to help people to talk about and overcome the many emotions that are associated with grief and loss. The main goal of cognitive behavioural therapy is to identify negative thought patterns so that they can be changed.

Ultimately, it is all about helping individuals to cope with their negative thoughts and understand how to deal with their behaviours. Once they begin to open up, talking can help to relieve a number of grief symptoms that may be having a detrimental impact on their day-to-day life.

How does it work?

Cognitive behavioural therapy works by helping clients to become aware of their negative thought patterns, which often lead to behaviours that make it difficult to process grief. During a session, you should focus on asking your client to discuss how they are feeling about their loss and how these feelings are consequently affecting their behaviour. Common techniques used include cognitive reframing or restructuring and targeting behaviours.

Acceptance and commitment therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy involves using the power of mindfulness to help clients to process grief and accept loss. This type of therapy is most successful when working with a client suffering from prolonged or complicated grief, lasting for more than a year.

The main purpose of this therapy is to help clients to reprocess a loss emotionally and eventually achieve acceptance. This can be done by using the following techniques:

  • Accepting negative feelings and emotions
  • Distancing from negative feelings and emotions in order to understand them better
  • Focusing on the present
  • Observing yourself experiencing different situations and circumstances
  • Identifying your values
  • Overcoming difficulties through the use of the previous techniques.

Traumatic grief therapy

Traumatic grief therapy is used to help clients to deal with sudden trauma-related grief such as losing a loved one suddenly or in horrific circumstances. This therapy centres around looking at trauma response and the emotions and grief process that comes hand in hand with an unexpected death.

Complicated grief therapy (CGT)

Complicated grief therapy is also extremely effective and involves helping clients to address the symptoms that come hand in hand with their grief. This can range from intense feelings of sadness to feelings of hopelessness and depressive episodes.

These types of symptoms can have a huge impact on all areas of a person’s life and can make them feel overcome with emotion, so much so that they are unable to function and move forward with their life.

Group Therapy

Finally, group therapy can also be extremely beneficial when it comes to helping people to deal with their grief. This type of therapy involves encouraging individuals to gather to share their thoughts and feelings with others who are also grieving.

In this situation, groups are put together based on bringing together people who are recovering from similar experiences, providing a safe, open and supportive group for people to talk freely.

Become a counsellor

If you’re interested in becoming a counsellor to support those dealing with grief and loss, find out how to become a counsellor or sign up for one of our Chrysalis Counsellor Courses.