Grief counselors do the emotionally charged and sensitive job of helping people cope with loss, move through the mourning process and move on. Although your clients primarily deal with the deaths of loved ones, they may come to you to address any kind of loss, such as loss of a job or home or even when they make a transition to a new area. It's best to have a master’s degree and most states require a professional license as a psychologist, social worker, nurse or clergyperson.
Allow Emotional Expression
Many people experience numbness and shock after a loss and may have difficulty expressing their feelings. One of your primary responsibilities is to assist clients in identifying and expressing their emotions in a healthy and constructive way, which can look different for different folks. You can’t impose your ideas of proper grieving or emotional expression on your clients. Your role is to create a safe and supportive environment in which the clients' free expression is possible. This is crucial for the healing process, since unexpressed grief can lead to long-term consequences such as drug abuse and depression.
Assist with the Process
You’re there to help clients figure out what is the most appropriate process of mourning for them. You act as a facilitator to help them find meaningful ways they can use to get through the grief. You might help them make decisions about funeral arrangements, whether to take time off from work, what to do with the possessions of the deceased, how to deal with other family members and what to say in a death announcement. While you can make suggestions, you’ll act as more of a partner through the journey, rather than a guide.
Push for Acceptance
The bereaved can only move on with their lives once they’ve accepted their loss as a reality, which, painful as it may be, is not the end of their lives. Denial, withdrawal, anger, fear, and attempts to prevent further losses are natural parts of the grieving process you’ll see on a regular basis. You can’t rush patients to a point of acceptance, but you can be firm and honest with clients to help them recognize their loss as a reality. You can lead clients to reflect on the deceased and the roles they played in the lives of their loved ones. You can’t pander to their self-pity for long, but instead must help them explore the meaning of loss and how it fits in with their views of reality.
Teach How to Move On
The real goal of grief counseling is to help clients find a new "normal" daily life, which incorporates the loss in its proper perspective but is not dominated by it. Moving on means developing a reasonable routine after the loss. You can show your clients how to make adjustments. Sometimes the bereaved will have to take on new responsibilities they never had to do before. Others may simply need to continue with their old routines and take time each day to fondly remember their loved ones. Ultimately, your job responsibility is to help the bereaved effectively integrate into a world where their loss is a reality.
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