Grief Counseling Techniques


Grief counseling techniques.

In my domestic violence educational groups, I see the participants struggling with lots of grief, personally and from a community perspective.

The participants who are black routinely are faced with the loss of friends and neighbors in their community who are murdered in random violence, usually drug or gang related.

Many participants grieve the loss of parents, wives, relationships, and many of them grieve the loss of contact with their children in divorce.

Typically these clients have little in the way of training about grief, little permission to move through the process, and no sense that not moving through a grieving model ties up energy and trust for their next relationship.

So I like to spend time talking about the Kubler-Ross model, especially the part about grief being non-linear, and explaining the stages, and indicating that one can get stuck in the anger stage and stay there for a long time. (Remember the friend who recites the gruesome details of his divorce over and over again to any willing listener, even ten years later?)

From the Grief Counseling Techniques Resource Guide-A Field Manual

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has taught us that we must see the bereaved people we serve and counsel as our teachers. We need to allow them to teach us what their experience is, rather than constructing some set of goals and expectations that we expect them to meet and achieve. In Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki wrote, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the experts mind there are few."

We are not the experts on anyone's grief. As bereavement workers we must meet the grieving without expectations about what should happen or what they should be feeling. There are no experts in this work.

See the link above for the rest of the field manual. John Welshons, in his fine book entitled Awakening from Grief, states: So there is no way to apply systems, rules or emotional road maps. Our job is to be a presence, rather than a savior. A companion, rather than a leader. A friend, rather than a teacher. (p 159)

The Companioning Model of Bereavement caregiving developed by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is one in which we as bereavement caregivers help people to integrate life's losses by being present to them and observing them companioning. He tells us that observance comes to us from ritual. It means not only to watch out for, but to keep and honor, to bear witness.

Wolfelt elaborates on the companioning idea:

Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.

Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.

Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.

Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.

Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.

Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with words.

Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.

Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about directing those struggles.

Companioning is about being present to another person's pain; it is not about taking away the pain.

Complicated Versus Uncomplicated Grief

There is a distinction between grief counseling and grief therapy. Counseling involves helping people move through uncomplicated, or normal, grief to health and resolution. Grief therapy involves the use of clinical tools for traumatic or complicated grief reactions. This could occur where the grief reaction is prolonged or manifests itself through some bodily or behavioral symptom, or by a grief response outside the range of cultural or psychiatrically defined normality.

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