Counselling

How to Talk About Grief and Loss With Your Clients

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Grief and loss and are normal, natural, and needed aspects of life. The very act of living and loving is a vulnerable process. We cannot know love without loss. One of the constants in life is change. When there is a change to a valued relationship, there is a loss, which can include grief. Despite this long-standing relationship with loss, it is a difficult relationship.

The very act of living and loving is a vulnerable process. We cannot know love without loss.

One of my earliest memories of personal loss was my extreme disappointment in not making the A-level hockey team. As a nine-year-old child growing up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, hockey was everything. I had played on the B team the year before and assumed the natural process was to advance to the A team. I remember hearing of the team roster divisions and keeping it together until I got to the parking lot, where I burst into tears.

Remaining on the B team for me was utter failure. My father sat with me in the car and noticed the coach walking by and invited him in. Both my coach and my dad sat with me as I cried. In the end, I was still sad, but I felt better. Looking back, this experience demonstrated a number of things to me:

  • Loss comes in many forms. Experiencing loss sucks!
  • Support can make it better.
  • The loss itself does not change, but the meaning given to the loss can shift.

Insights and Guiding Principles for Counselling Others Through Grief and Loss

In my work as a counsellor, I am often asked about strategies to move past the grief. Grief is uncomfortable and painful, and it takes time and effort to deal with it. However, if grief was a container and we had the opportunity to look into it, we would see that it could teach us about what is important in our lives and the world around us.

Grief is uncomfortable and painful, and it takes time and effort to deal with it.

One of my key learnings on grief is to not rush away from it. Turn towards it. Press into it. Get to know it. Carry it with you. Learn from it.

As helpers, we can assist others in their grief responses if we are informed by a basic understanding of grief. The following guiding principles inform how I work with individuals and families experiencing diverse stories of grief and loss. 

01 | Get to know grief 

Define mourning, grief and loss as part of the person’s story.

02 | Explore the meanings around loss

It is important to be curious about the person’s own meanings associated with loss. Sometimes the meaning is more significant to the person than the loss itself.

03 | Explore life in the aftermath of loss

Curiosity is also key for understanding the common and unique ways people may feel the impact of their loss.

04 | Respond to grief and loss

Thoughtful, intentional, and active support is important.

05 | Understand grief as a process

Grief does not follow a prescribed model.

06 | Reflect on stories of loss and resilience

Experience is the greatest teacher. Understanding other’s experiences of loss and resilience can help better equip us to support others.

In the end, it is important to simply acknowledge that love and loss are two sides of the same coin in relationships. Understanding the value in grief and helping others explore the meaning and impact of their losses can play a huge role in how a person grieves. This, in turn, can foster the continued growth of their love, even in the midst of their devastating loss.

We can assist others in their grief responses if we are informed by a basic understanding of grief.

This blog is an excerpt from the book Counselling Insights – Practical Strategies for Helping Others with Anxiety, Trauma, Grief, and More. For work with children check out our wordless book, Once a Wizard – A Story About Finding a Way Through Loss


For more FREE RESOURCES on this topic and others, visit our free resources page.  

Author

John Koop Harder

MSW, RSW – Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

John is a co-author of CTRI’s book, Counselling Insights – Practical Strategies for Helping Others with Anxiety, Trauma, Grief, and More. This book is available on our website.

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© CTRI Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute (www.ctrinstitute.com)
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