Topic Overview

Grief counseling is short term and focuses on working through the
grieving process related to a major loss. Grief
counseling is also called bereavement counseling. The term “bereavement”
usually is used only when referring to the loss of a person through

Grief counseling typically has four components:

  • Learning about grief and what to expect when grieving. In grief counseling, people are taught the normal
    grieving process, including expected feelings and thoughts. They are also
    taught how to tell the difference between normal grieving and other conditions,
    such as
    depression, that can develop from
  • Expressing feelings. People are
    encouraged in grief counseling to express all their feelings, whatever they may
    be. Sometimes people who are having trouble expressing their feelings are
    encouraged to talk about their loss or to use other means of expressing
    themselves. For example, they may be asked to speak with the lost person as
    though he or she were there. Other techniques that help people express their
    feelings include writing letters about their loss or writing to the lost
    person, looking at photos and remembering the lost loved one or object, or
    visiting the grave of a loved one who has died.
  • Building new relationships. This component of grief counseling
    helps people develop a new relationship with the lost person or object. Memories usually linger for years and can sometimes be troubling, so emphasis is
    placed on learning how to incorporate memories of the past into the
  • Developing a new identity. During
    grief counseling, people are taught how to develop a new sense of self after a
    loss. For example:

    • A man who loses his only sibling strengthens his or her self-perception as a grandfather and a volunteer instead of
      as a brother.
    • A widow who has lost her husband of 45
      years begins meeting with other women in her building for tea every morning.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jean S. Kutner, MD, MSPH – Geriatric Medicine,
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofOctober 6, 2017