Questions About Grief Counseling
Thanatology is the study of death, especially the medical, psychological and social problems associated with dying.
(Thanatos is the Greek word for death, and it is personified in Greek mythology.)
Many psychologists do “grief therapy” along with the other counseling issues. Thanatologists deal exclusively with issues around death and dying, loss and grieving.
Grief counseling is not therapy. It is the support of emotionally healthy people who have suffered a trauma or loss, and helps them return to an emotionally stable, although different, life.
- Death of a close person
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of health, particularly a life-threatening illness
- Loss of country, home, status, work
- Discovering one is adopted (loss of biological parents)
- Death of a marriage (divorce) or other intimate relationship
- Many other specific losses that an individual finds traumatic
Everyone who suffers one of these losses will (and should) grieve. But not everyone who is grieving needs grief counseling. The difference depends on many factors, such as:
- The suddenness of the loss
- Whether the lost one is an adult or a child
- The cause of the loss
- The sufferer´s personal grief history
- The griever’s willingness to accept help
The two types of grief that are considered the most difficult to grieve are:
- The loss of a parent, for a child under the age of 12
- The loss of a child of any age
Any cause of death that involves intent is usually more difficult for the grieving process.
In order of difficulty, these are:
Yes. In fact, it is the refusal to talk to young grievers about death that makes the process more frightening for them.
When you talk to a small child about death, it helps him/her to be part of the grieving group, instead of being left to try to understand what is happening on his/her own. This is a much better way of protecting the child than hiding information. Children of all ages can understand more about death than you might think.
With small children, they can either be counseled directly, or their parents can be given the tools to help them.
Yes. With the vast majority of losses (almost every case), the grieving process has a beginning, a middle and the possibility of an end.
Finishing grief does not mean forgetting the loved one. It does not mean the loved one is never missed or cried over. What then is “the end” of grief?
When someone is in intense grief, usually all of the color and interest leaves life. Joy is a thing barely remembered, not to be touched. When grief is over, the sun comes out again, a sense of meaning again begins to suffuse life, the color comes back, and joy (if it is part of the griever’s original repertoire) can return.
Joy is not the same as laughter. (The real source of laughter is usually pain.) Joy is a deeper satisfied feeling that can return when the grief is past.
Grief is not a sickness and does not require a ‘cure’. However, the time required for grieving to run its course, and the assistance required in coping with that process, can vary greatly according to individual needs.
When people come for counseling, some will want to meet for a year or more to acquire a sufficient understanding of what they are going through. Others will not require more than one meeting to acquire tools for practical coping. It depends on the specifics of the situation, the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, their support system, and other stressors in their lives.
Neither. I am a qualified grief counselor with an MA in Thanatology and Gerontology.
Over 30 years.
I provide counseling for specific situations regarding death and dying:
- People who have life-threatening illness.
- People grieving for someone who has died a sudden or unexpected death.
- People who are grieving for a child or a spouse.
- Grief over death caused by violence and intent (suicide or murder).
I also counsel people suffering from other types of loss not necessarily associated with death:
- Loss of a limb or other body part.
- Adopted persons who feel the loss of their biological parents, despite never having met them.
- Loss of relationship (such as divorce).
Many people deal with their grief very successfully without counseling. The difficulty usually arises with either the taboo surrounding the subjects of death and grief, or the lack of information about what is normal, or a specific type of death that is more difficult to bear.
Sometimes people only need to hear that the symptoms of grief they are experiencing following the death of a loved one are normal – either in intensity or duration, or both.
Other times people need some practical guidance, such as, “Should my children attend their father’s funeral, and if so, is there anything that can be done to prepare them for it?”
I do not prescribe medical treatment. I do make referrals to physicians and psychiatrists as appropriate.
I do not assist people to commit suicide or what is referred to as “mercy killing” or euthanasia under any circumstance. Grief is a process, not a place, and permanent decisions are usually not a good idea during this process.
If a griever´s wish to die is premorbid (before the death of their loved one), I usually refer them to a psychiatrist for medical intervention and therapy.