A bereavement counsellor is someone who’s specially trained to help people cope with grief. Bereavement counsellors are sometimes called grief counsellors.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What bereavement counsellors do
- How to know if you need counselling for bereavement
- Where to get bereavement counselling
What do bereavement counsellors do?
The role of a bereavement counsellor is to talk to people and ask questions to help them process their grief.
If you see a bereavement counsellor, they’ll encourage you to explore your emotions through conversation. This can help you understand why you’re feeling these emotions and start to find ways to feel better.
This can be difficult at first. You might have to share personal thoughts that you might not be comfortable talking about. But don’t worry – a counselling session is a safe and confidential space. Your counsellor won’t judge you and won’t share anything you say with anybody else.
Bereavement counsellors are trained and qualified to help people with grief, but they’re not allowed to help with other issues. They can’t give advice about money, for instance, or prescribe drugs to help with depression.
How does bereavement counselling help?
Bereavement counselling can be helpful because it gives you a chance to talk about your deepest thoughts and feelings. This includes things you might not want to share with friends and family, such as feelings of guilt or anger.
Talking about these things and getting them out in the open can be an important part of the healing process. Plus, your counsellor can offer practical advice to help you make sense of complex emotions and adjust to how your life has changed.
Do I need bereavement counselling?
Everyone copes with grief differently. Some people can start to feel better with support from friends and family. Others may feel like they need a little extra help from a trained professional.
The important thing to know is this: there are no rules about who can see a bereavement counsellor. So if you think counselling might help you, it might be worth signing up for a session. If you don’t like it, you can stop at any time.
Here are some reasons why people choose grief counselling:
- They don’t have friends or relatives they can talk to
- They have feelings that they’re not comfortable talking about with friends
- They had a complicated relationship with the person who has died
- They want a safe space to talk about their emotions without fear of judgement
- They’ve been grieving for a long time and don’t feel any better
- Their grief stops them from getting on with everyday life
When should bereavement counselling start?
You can see a grief counsellor at any stage in the grieving process.
That said, some bereavement counsellors recommend waiting 3 to 6 months before starting. This is because the first stages of grief can feel very raw and emotional. These first emotions often get easier with time. But if you feel like you can’t cope, it’s important you reach out for help as soon as possible.
And it’s never too late to start treatment, either. Some people start counselling sessions years or even decades after a person has died.
Is bereavement counselling free?
You don’t have to pay for bereavement counselling in the UK. There are several charities you can turn to that offer bereavement support for free.
How to get bereavement counselling
If you’re not sure whether you need counselling:
Here are some things you can try if you’re not sure whether you’re ready for counselling:
- Reach out to friends and family. Simply talking about grief can be a big help.
- Learn more about grief and how to cope. The NHS website is a good place to start.
- Join a local support group. Charities like Mind and GriefShare run free local groups where you can talk about your grief with other people.
- Try a one-off call with a charity. Speaking to a volunteer can help you decide whether you want to continue with counselling.
If you’re ready to see a grief counsellor:
Here are some charities you can turn to:
- Cruse Bereavement Support offers one-to-one counselling over the phone or via video call.
- AtaLoss runs an online chat service with specially trained counsellors.
- The Good Grief Trust has a directory of local bereavement support services in the UK.
Some charities offer specialist support for certain people, such as children, widows or those who have lost someone to cancer. For more information, see our list of bereavement charities in the UK.