5 Things Every Grief Counselor Should Know

Five Things Every Grief Counselor Should Keep In Mind

  • Know the Risk Factors of Dangerous Grief
  • Active Listening and Body Language
  • Don’t Assume Situations are Similar
  • Respect Professional Boundaries
  • Know the Signs and Stages of Grief

Grief counselors support and advise those who have suffered a tremendous loss. These people may need to seek out these professionals. It is a challenging job, but one that is meaningful in helping individuals and families move on from the loss of a loved one. While there is much that a grief counselor should keep in mind, here are the top five things for every professional to remember while doing this work.

Know the Risk Factors of Dangerous Grief

While some people recover from grief in a short amount of time, there are others who may be dangerously affected by the grief they experience. This can be caused by little to no support system in an individual’s life, an extremely close or codependent relationship with the loved one who has passed away, multiple losses in a brief period of time, history of abuse or abandonment, and physical problems. Dangerous grief can cause harmful symptoms in the individual who is affected, including shortness of breath, anger at authority figures, depression, substance abuse, reckless behavior, and even self-harm. Counselors need to be aware of the signs of dangerous grief so they can take the appropriate action to help their clients.

Active Listening and Body Language

Individuals experiencing grief need an outlet for their emotions; this is the job that grief counselors were trained for. However, it is important to remember that individuals will fare better in counseling if they feel as though their counselor is an active listener. This means that a counselor listens more than they speak and has a demeanor that is appropriate and calming for the individual. This can include sitting on the same level and orienting their body towards their client, maintaining an open posture with no crossed limbs, maintaining eye contact, and not fidgeting or looking nervous. These body language signals, as well as active listening, will enable an individual to talk out their feelings without feeling as though they are being judged or looked down on because of their emotional reaction to grief.

Don’t Assume Situations are Similar

Grief counselors are trained to deal with grief, and that can come in numerous forms. However, over time, a grief counselor may come to think that there are types of situations and viable counseling tactics to deal with each one. This can be seen as disrespectful to the client because who they are and their grief is different from someone else that professional has counseled before. No two situations are exactly alike, so grief counselors must approach each case as a brand new grief process. The best way to understand what a person needs for their particular grief process comes from active listening.

Respect Professional Boundaries

Grief counselors may sometimes get overwhelmed with the emotion derived from their work; in fact, some may even lean into being more compassionate than the situation deserves. While it is difficult to be firm with anyone who has recently lost a loved one, a grief counselor is not a client’s friend nor should they be the target of any inappropriate behavior. These professionals must set firm boundaries between themselves and the client; they also should set firm boundaries on what type of behavior is appropriate for grieving. For example, a client who is indulging in substance abuse or other self-destructive behavior needs to have this addressed by a counselor; no matter how hard that conversation may be, it is in the client’s best interest for the grief counselor to move them on in a healthy and positive manner.

Know the Signs and Stages of Grief

There was a time in psychology when there were five accepted stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, humans are more complex than the stages would have society believe, and therefore the stages are no longer as widely accepted as before. Grief counselors should know that individuals are unique, that they may go through the stages or may not, that they may have different reactions to death, and that there may monumental consequences from the death of a loved one. Counselors should spend sessions with their clients understanding exactly where they are in their own grief process and move forward from there.

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Grief is never an easy thing; the loss of a close loved one can sometimes feel like part of person’s soul has been ripped from them. However, with good counseling and a professional grief counselor, it is possible to move on. As long as these professionals keep the above five things in mind, they will do a world of good for their clients.