About Bereavement Counselling

Bereavement is the sense of grief and loss you experience when someone close to you dies. When this happens, you go through a process of mourning: numbness, anger and sadness are all feelings you may experience. Grief is a normal natural process. It affects people in many different ways and grieving – or an inability to grieve – can lead to emotional issues and even physical reactions, such as sleeplessness, loss of energy and/or appetite. Working through your grief with your counsellor’s support can be a painful process, but it is often necessary to ensure your emotional and physical wellbeing later.

Coping with grief?

The death of someone close is a major event which is likely to affect all of us at some point in our life. Coping with the normal responses of grief can be very difficult. Everyone reacts differently. You may have feelings of loneliness and isolation, experience anger, fear or guilt as well as helplessness and/or physical aches and pains. It can be overwhelming. You may even think that you are “going mad”. Whilst friends and relatives may be around for support, they may avoid talking about painful feelings or feel after a while you “should be over it by now”.This may the time when talking to a bereavement counsellor could help you.

The stages of grief and common feelings

Feeling emotionally numb

This is often the first reaction to a loss. This may last for a few hours, days or longer. In some ways, this numbness can help you get through the practical arrangements and family pressures that surround the funeral, but if it goes on for too long it can become a problem.

You may feel guilty.

Dwelling on issues you had might have had with that person who has died, on emotions you wish you had
expressed, or things you could have said. You may also be angry that the person has “left” you, or that others failed to prevent your

Intense Sadness

Next may come bouts of intense sadness or depression which can lead to withdrawal from family, friends and colleagues. At any time, you may be prone to sudden outbursts of tears, set off by reminders and memories of the person who has died. Usually over time, the pain, sadness and depression start to lessen and you begin to see your life in a more positive light.

Final Phase

The final phase of grieving is to accept the loss of the person who has died and carry on with your life without them, though it cannot be the same as it was before. Although it’s important to acknowledge you will always feel the loss, in time you learn to live with, and accept, the pain.

What if you feel you cannot cope?

Sometimes, the grieving process is especially difficult. Some find it impossible to acknowledge the bereavement at all, which can mean that their feelings aren’t worked through properly. This sometimes happens after a miscarriage, stillbirth, termination or other sudden death. It may also happen if you don’t have time to grieve properly, perhaps because of work pressures or if you are looking after your family. Some people are unable to move on from their grief, remaining in the numb stages,finding it hard to believe the person is dead. Such difficult grieving can lead to recurring bouts of depression, loss of appetite and suicidal feelings.
According to Mind (the National Association for Mental Health), you are more likely to have a difficult grieving process if:


  • You are on your own and have no support from your community, family, or friends
  • You have unresolved issues with the person who died
  • The death was caused by a particularly difficult event such as a national disaster or an unsolved murder
  • The person goes missing or it isn’t clear exactly what happened
  • You are unable to attend the funeral or there isn’t one.
Other circumstances around the death can lead to a difficult grieving process, including:


    • A sudden or unexpected death
    • The death of a parent when you are a child or adolescent.
    • Miscarriage or the death of a baby
    • Death due to suicide
    • The death of a co-habiting partner, same-sex partner or partner from an extramarital relationship
    • Deaths where the bereaved may be responsible
    • Situations where a post-mortem or an inquest is required
    • Multiple deaths at the same time (i.e. an accident)
    • The death of an absent or estranged parent or sibling.

Getting help from your GP

Bereavement is probably one of the toughest things we have to face in life. But while it’s a very painful time, you can usually cope without needing to see a doctor. However, if, for example, you find that you’re sleeping badly, and this goes on for long enough to affect your daily life, talk to your GP. He or she may prescribe you with some sleeping tablets for a few nights. If your feelings of depression are worsening, and are seriously affecting your energy, appetite and sleep, your GP may prescribe antidepressants.

About bereavement counselling

This is a time for you to explore your feelings with someone who will listen to you in confidence and support you during your grief, and as you adjust to the changes in your life following your bereavement. Counselling is not about giving advice or making judgements.

What the counsellor will commit to:

To provide confidentiality


Confidentiality is central to our work and your bereavement counsellor is not allowed, under professional codes of ethics to discuss you with anyone, with the following exceptions:


      • All counsellors are obliged to attend monthly supervision meetings in small groups when the work they are doing with you is discussed. Your identity is protected throughout. Supervision sessions are an ethical and necessary undertaking and are to ensure that you are being properly looked after.
      • In accordance with Bereft’s Good Practice policy, your counsellor may be obliged to contact your GP or another professional if for any reason she/he feels concerned that you are at risk of harming yourself or another. The counsellor will always try to enlist your consent before doing so. On exceptional occasions, contacting the GP may have to be done without your consent. In either case, this would only be done after the counsellor has discussed the situation with their supervisor and/or Bereft’s Manager.

Help you to help yourself


Bereavement counselling is not advice-giving or about making judgements. It is about supporting you and helping you adjust to the emotional changes following your bereavement.

To listen


Bereavement counselling is a time for you to explore your feelings following your bereavement in a safe environment.