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Loss and grief are inevitable at some time in everyone's life [1] and at any age[2]. From pets to close friends and family, from moving countries to changing schools, by death of a loved one or after community disaster. It is present getting married (no longer single) and in divorce (no longer married). The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be.

Everyone experiences and expresses grief in their own way, often shaped by how their culture honors the process or not. It is not uncommon for a person to withdraw from their friends and family and feel helpless; some might be angry and want to take action. One can expect a wide range of emotion and behavior. In all places and cultures, the grieving person benefits from the support of others [3]. Where that is lacking, counseling may provide an avenue for healthy resolution. Similarly, where the process of grieving is interrupted for example, by simultaneously having to deal with practical issues of survival or by being the strong one and holding a family together, it can remain unresolved and later resurface as an issue for counseling.


Grief counseling becomes necessary when a person is so disabled by their grief, overwhelmed by loss to the extent that their normal coping processes are disabled or shut down [4]. Grief counseling facilitates: expression of emotion and thought about the loss, including sadness, anxiety, anger, loneliness, guilt, relief, isolation, confusion, or numbness. It includes thinking creatively about the challenges that follow loss, and coping with concurrent changes in their lives. Often people feel disorganized, tired, have trouble concentrating, sleep poorly and have vivid dreams, change in appetite. These too are addressed in counseling.

Grief counseling facilitates the process of resolution in the natural reactions to loss. It is appropriate for reaction to losses that occurred in the distant or recent past that have overwhelmed a person's coping ability There are considerable resources on line covering grief or loss counseling such as the Grief Counseling Resource Guide from the New York State Office of Mental Health [5].

Grief counseling may be called upon when a person suffers anticipatory grief, for example an intrusive and frequent worry about loved one's whose death is neither imminent nor likely. Anticipatory mourning also occurs when a loved one has a terminal illness. This can handicap that person's ability to stay present whilst simultaneously holding onto, letting go of, and drawing closer to the dying relative [6].

Grief therapy

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[7]. 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[8].

See also


  1. Corr, Charles A. "Children, Adolescents, and Death: Myths, Realities and Challenges." Death Studies 23 (1999): 443–463
  2. Wolfe, Ben, and Linda Senta. "Interventions with Bereaved Children Nine to Thirteen Years of Age: From a Medical Center-Based Young Person's Grief Support Program." In David W. Adams and Eleanor J. Deveau eds., Beyond the Innocence of Childhood: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Death and Bereavement, Vol. 3: Beyond the Innocence of Childhood. Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1995
  3. Nadeau, Janice Winchester. Families Making Sense of Death. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998
  4. Neimeyer, Robert. Lessons of Loss: A Guide to Coping. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998
  6. Rando, Therese A. Clinical Dimensions of Anticipatory Mourning. Champaign, IL: Research Press, 2000
  7. Jacobs, Shelby, Carolyn Mazure, and Holly Prigerson. "Diagnostic Criteria for Traumatic Grief." Death Studies 24 (2000):185–199
  8. Worden, J. William. Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, 2nd edition. New York: Springer, 1991

Hammerschlag, Carl A. The Dancing Healers. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1988.

Hogan, Nancy S., Daryl B. Greenfield, and Lee A. Schmidt. "Development and Validation of the Hogan Grief Reaction Checklist." Death Studies 25 (2000):1–32.

Rubin, Simon Shimshon. "The Two-Track Model of Bereavement: Overview, Retrospect, and Prospect." Death Studies 23 (1999):681–714.

Sofka, Carla J. "Social Support 'Internetworks,' Caskets for Sale, and More: Thanatology and the Information Superhighway." Death Studies 21 (1997):553–574.

Staudacher, Carol. A Time to Grieve: Mediations for Healing after the Death of a Loved One. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994.

Stroebe, Margaret, and Henk Schut. "The Dual Process Model of Coping with Bereavement: Rationale and Description." Death Studies 23 (1999):197–224.

Wolfe, Ben, and John R. Jordan. "Ramblings from the Trenches: A Clinical Perspective on Thanatological Research." Death Studies 24 (2000):569–584.