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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is it best to see a therapist to deal with grief?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2




    The Compassionate Friends is a peer support organisation offering friendship and understanding to bereaved parents and siblings following the death of a son or daughter, … View Profile

    There are several important points influencing an answer to this question.

    1. First, each person is very complex. People have different personalities, different strengths/limitations, they come from vastly different backgrounds, and they differ on the range of resources they are able to draw on in times of crisis. Therefore there is no ‘one path suits all’ in coping with a serious personal loss.
    2. Secondly, because each person must create their own individual (and complex) pathway, the loss of someone or something that is personally very significant requires time before an acceptable level of comfort is reached – commonly years.
    3. Thirdly, our experience, backed by research, suggests that when a serious loss occurs, an inner drive is automatically activated to try to understand the loss. Therefore it seems that we cannot avoid directly confronting a loss at some stage – if we are to comfortably integrate the impact of the loss into our future life and relationships –
    4. BUT the up-side of this inner pressure to confront and deal with a loss is that it is OK to do it slowly, or ‘work’ in short bursts, or have rests. Because grieving a major loss is hard tiring distressing ‘work’, so delays, ‘putting off’, or having rests, are not only common and normal, but probably sensible. In fact most people do ‘work’ in bursts and take needed rests along their journey, and if the loss was particularly traumatic, delays and ‘switch offs’ are accentuated.

    With these points in mind, back to the specific question about seeing a therapist to assist after a serious loss.

    The first point to make is that the majority of people confronting this situation find their basic support needs are met by ‘talking out’ their pain, feelings and related issues with trusted friends or family members – although many grieving people following this “normal” or “natural’ or “common” bereavement support pathway with friends and family, often find the base care and love they receive is not sufficient, and feel a need for additional more ‘knowledgeable’ support.

    This is when the help of experienced professionals, such as a counsellors or therapists may be invaluable. This especially occurs when friends and relatives are grieving the same loss, or are struggling because they lack knowledge about grief and grieving. Trained counsellors can offer more objective assistance.

  • 1


    Carolien Koreneff

    Counsellor, Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE), Diabetes Educator, Psychotherapist, Registered Nurse

    Carolien Koreneff is a Somatic (body-oriented) psychotherapist, Health Coach, Counsellor as well as a Credentialed Diabetes Educator with over 20 years experience. She currently sees … View Profile

    Compassionate Friends Victoria has given a very thorough and good answer on this question. I would like to add that if you feel you are not coping with the loss, if you are overwhelmed with grief, it may be useful to seek professional guidance. 

    Grieving a loss does take time, but time shared is time reduced. Grieving in an “appropriate way” will help speed up the process somewhat. 

    All the best during this difficult time.

  • 1




    Dr Anthony Nicholas

    Clinical Psychologist, Forensic Psychologist, Psychologist

    Dr Anthony (Tony) Nicholas is a practising Clinical & Forensic Psychologist since 1982. I am experienced in helping with reactions to trauma and grief from … View Profile

    • Grief is understood to be an emotion which is a logical and natural consequence to a loss. The emotion is usually deeply felt and its intensity is in response to the nature of the loss and its meaning to the bereaved person. 
    • The nature of the loss usually has a profund effect on the intensity of grief felt and how long it will be felt. It is very important to “do the grief work” because that allows over time to work though the loss.The importance of support from family and friends is essential but sometimes it is not suffiecient.
    • Some losses are catastrophic and the grief so overwhelming that the person may “get stuck” in the grieving process and become overwhelmed by it.
    • Such losses may be  associated with  violent circumstances or be sudden and totally unexpected. They may be associated with the death of a child or an infant.
    • While grief and bereavement have no timetable, enduring grief arising from catastrophe often requires assistance outside that support given by family and friends.
    • Psychological help be effective in assisting in the grief work. It often provides a "breather' where the bereaved person can put more effort in moving their life along without feeling guilty.

  • 1


    Ralph Graham


    Ralph Graham, Counsellor, Psychotherapist, helping those who are affected by:grief, loss, anxiety, phobias, panic attack.And those who have been traumatised by:crime, assault, sexual abuse and … View Profile

    You will know when it is time to see someone. Bear in mind that you deserve support, and if it comes from a professional it may be the kind of support not found elsewhere.
    I lost my brother and my father one month apart. The following weekend my mother in law. I handled it well and did eulogies at three funerals. It was hard but I was lucky I was in a frame of mind that I could get through it.. Some years later I lost my sister and had a lot more trouble. Perhaps because it was an accident and so sudden. I was doing grief and loss at the time in my counselling training and that was a help.  If you are finding it hard see a professional.
    One man in his 60's lost his wife and did not step out of the house for 18 months. What a shame he did not have someone to help him get unstuck.
    Hope this helps.

  • 1


    Bruce Jenkins

    Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    ABOUT BRUCE Registered psychologist since 1991 Broadly Humanistic approach with special interest in Person Centred therapy Over sixteen years experience as a supervisor Taught Counselling … View Profile

    The comments already offered are relevant and I hope have provided some support.

    Loss is part of life; inevitable. One of the things that supports us in any change is connection with others. If you have a stable supportive network then that will help enormously with the grieving process.

    Another way to get human support is via counseling or therapy. I would always recommend talking to a potential counsellor on the phone as a part of finding a good ‘match’.

  • I am a registered psychologist with many years of counselling experience in the field of relationships and fertility issues. In particular my focus is on … View Profile

    It depends on the individual experiencing the grief. It can be an invaluable experience talking to someone about the grief. However one needs to be mindful of the person and how much support they have what stage they are at how long ago they experienced the loss. 
    There is certain evidence that suggests for some people it is important to allow them to grieve in the early stages and not feel or suggest that a few months after the loss of a loved one they should be over it and be able to return to their previous social commitments.
    It is also true that some cases of grief prolonged and complicated by other factors can cause depression but it would not be feasible to diagnose depression in someone who lost a spouse of a lifetime and suggest they are depressed if they are stilling sad 6 mnths later.
    I would recommend asking and suggesting to the person that is bereaved to talk to someone especially if it is a suicide or sudden death but ultimately there is not one fit answer.

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    Ash Rehn

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Sex Therapist, Social Worker

    Mental Health Medicare Provider of focussed psychological strategies, Counsellor & Therapist specialising in ‘sex addiction’, pornography issues, gay counselling, online therapy. For more information: View Profile

    Many people find it helpful to discuss bereavement with a professional therapist. Keep in mind that not all therapists, counsellors or psychologists specialise in this area, so it is worth ‘shopping around’ to find someone appropriate. Think about the kind of person you would like to talk with as well. Perhaps their age or gender is important to you. Read their website and consider asking questions before you go ahead and book an appointment. Sharing personal matters can take courage and release emotions, so it can be a good idea to find someone with whom you feel comfortable speaking.

    Some therapists focus on ‘letting go’ and coping with loss which is a more traditional approach, at least over the past 50 years. But there is a growing movement amongst therapists around Re-membering Practices: keeping your affiliation to the person who has died, or even choosing what to let go of and what to hold onto. Some would say we can choose the kind of relationship we continue to have with our loved ones after they have died. And it can take some conversations to develop this. Your therapist should be able to work collaboratively with you and work in ways that reflect the significance this person holds for you.

  • 1


    Lucy Appadoo


    I am a Registered Counsellor and Wellness Coach who specialises in grief and loss, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger management, and stress management. I have … View Profile

    Grief is experienced differently by different people, and it does depend on previous losses, personality factors, level of resilience, the attachment towards the deceased person, the meaning given towards the loss, and so forth.  Given this, it depends on how the grief experience influences your daily functioning and whether it impacts on your social relationships to a significant degree.  Approximately 75% of the population can grieve in the normal way and do not need to see a therapist.  The remaining 25% may require one session or many sessions of grief therapy, as they may be experiencing, what is known as ‘complex grief’ that hinders progression in life.  Generally speaking, it depends on how the grief is impacting on your life and whether you feel that you can come to terms with the grief with the support of friends and family, or whether the issues to moving forward are more complex, such that, with social support, you still require professional help.  Good luck!

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