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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is counselling the best option to deal with bereavement?

    I’d like to seek professional help as I am having difficulty dealing with the loss of my child to cancer 5 years ago, time has stood still for me and i simply cant get on with my life. I'm ready to get out of this dark hole and start to recover, is counselling the best option?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1




    The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established in 1996 to provide a range of education, counselling, research and clinical … View Profile

    Although grief can be very painful, most people (85-90%) find that with the support of their family and friends, and their own resources, they gradually find ways to learn to live with their loss and do not need to seek professional help.
    Sometimes the circumstances of the death may have been particularly distressing, such as traumatic or sudden death, or there may be circumstances in your life which make your grief particularly acute or complex.
    Sadness, is natural and inevitable, however if over time, you find it difficult to manage day-to-day life we would encourage you to seek further support.
    You should consider seeking additional support if:

    • You do not have people who can listen to you and care for you
    • You find yourself unable to manage the tasks of your daily life, such as going to work or caring for your children
    • Over time you remain preoccupied and acutely distressed by your grief
    • Your personal and work relationships are being seriously affected
    • You have persistent thoughts of harm to yourself or anyone else
    • You persistently over-use alcohol or other drugs
    • You experience panic attacks or other serious anxiety or depression
    • You feel that for whatever reason, you need help to get through this experience 
    Grief is different for everyone, and there is no one ‘best’ option for seeking further help. Seeing a counsellor however, is certainly one of the options open to you. Many people also find assistance through a range of self-help and mutual support organisations. Having the opportunity to meet and talk with others who have experienced a similar loss can often be very helpful. The Compassionate Friends, for example, provides support to bereaved parents.
    Counselling is a confidential discussion between client and counsellor. It includes both education and support and can be useful early in the grief experience or many years later. Usually, you do not require a referral to see a counsellor.
    Your local community health service or general practitioner is a good place to ask about local bereavement counselling services. You may also like to contact an agency that specialises in bereavement counselling, or one that works in the particular area of trauma – e.g. Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, SIDS and Kids and cancer support services.  

  • 3


    I work with individuals and couples with everyday problems who want to find better ways of being understood. My aim is to help you find … View Profile

    Yes counselling is a great option when dealing with the loss of a loved one.  Counselling is about talking things through & when going through the grieving process we all need to talk about the person we have lost, what they meant to us, what we did or did not say to them and any future we had planned with them, so they make a very good partnership. 

    Also counselling is not a long term treatment so can fit into anyone's busy life, as we are all task rich & time poor.

  • David Lawson


    We all have times when we need to talk with a person who really listens to us, someone outside our family or social circle - … View Profile

    Sometimes we are unable to deal with the experinces that come our way.

    You have taken a big step in reconising that you are struggling with the loss of your child.

    Taking to someone outside of the issue can often be very freeing.

    Counselling can help you to talk about your loss in a safe and friendly environment.

    All the best on your journey ahead.

  • Patricia Greig

    Counselling Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a Counselling Psychologist with more than 30 years experience. I work with adults and couples providing psychological treatment for depression, anxiety/panic, trauma, grief … View Profile

    Counselling can be beneficial in working through grief. It can help to know what is normal and the various tasks of mourning. It can help also to understand what factors influence the process and how to care for yourself on the journey. 

  • 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

    One reason counselling seems to be so helpful for many people is that counsellors are trained listeners.  One of my clients said to me after some sessions, “This is first time in my life that I've been able to open up and talk about anything at all without feeling self conscious or feeling judged.” Whether or not grief is the central issue, the idea that you don't have to edit what you say or try to be seen as strong or anything else is powerful, helpful and can lead to healing. Other statements like that a client felt ‘truly listened to’ highlights the benefit of this skill of being a trained listener.

    For a good counsellor it is often very much to do with what is not said and the ability to empathise with how a person is feeling. I remember thinking at the end of a recent session that I simply had not done enough for a grieving client. When I asked if there was anything they wanted to say or ask before finishing the session they said that the session had been very helpful and that they were very glad they came.  Again, a reminder of how the process works.

    When grief seems to stick to you and prevent life from moving forward, there are many helpful techniques that a counsellor can call on to more deeply address this.

    To ask a question in private or to have me recommend someone in your area
    click Make an Enquiry

    My very best wishes,
    Ralph Graham

  • Penny Lewis

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I am a Clinical Psychologist with more than 25 years experience working with adults with a broad range of backgrounds dealing with a wide variety … View Profile

    I can only begin to imagine the depth of your loss and how seeing your child suffer with cancer before passing would have been hugely traumatic. Trauma plus grief complicates the grieving process and it is understandable that you have found it very difficult to move on with your life. In addition to the excellent advice you have received about counseling from the other contributors, I would also like you to know about another option that I would highly recommend which is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR).

    EMDR is a type of cognitive behaviour therapy. When EMDR was first developed, there was a lot of scepticism about it as it seemed a bit weird (involving moving one’s eyes back and forth while recalling upsetting memories) and seemed to work much faster than other trauma therapies. This has meant that a great deal of research has been done to demonstrate its effectiveness with trauma. It has also been found to be very effective with complicated grief.  

    I am continually amazed at the power of this therapy to help clients process traumatic grief as it is a therapy that goes beyond words and facilitates resolution of what most would find irresolvable. It enables all aspects of the traumatic loss – the powerful emotions, distressing images, upsetting thoughts and the sensations you have in your body associated with your grief - to be integrated and processed. For more information on EMDR see this website
    and for a list of EMDR practitioners in Australia, see this website

    I wish you all the best for this difficult journey.

  • Georgina Watts

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    I am passionate about journeying with people on their road to wholeness. I work with males and females who are needing to work on self … View Profile

    I agree with all that has been said. however i also want to give a very strong heartfelt -YES counselling is the best option. I may be biased but having watched my father die from prostate and then my mother get put on antidepressants 3 days later because of her grief made me angry. Two years on and she still has not been able to grieve but now also feels guilty because she hasn't been able to cry about her loss since going on the tablets. While this is nothing in comparison to your loss all grief is a natural process that can be worked through at the persons' own rate. I am not against pharmaceutical help in general but not when it is used to stifle the grieving process.

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