It can take months to begin understanding how you feel about the loss of your loved one and why you experience certain emotions. If you feel as though you cannot cope with everyday life because of your grief, or if you are struggling to understand your own feelings, you may want to consider bereavement therapy.
What is therapy?
Therapy is a healing process overseen by a professional that helps you understand yourself emotionally and mentally. Therapy usually aims to help you overcome emotional problems to live a more fulfilling life, with a greater understanding of yourself and an ability to cope better with emotional upsets.
Therapy can be on a one-on-one basis – just you and a counsellor or therapist – or it can be in a group environment, where people will take turns to share experiences. Therapy is usually based on talking and discussing ideas, although other things like drawing and writing can play a part.
Bereavement therapy is focused on helping those who have lost a loved one to understand their grief and deal with their loss. Grief is a unique emotion and can be difficult to understand. Bereavement therapists and counsellors will have experience with how to help you with your specific needs.
What’s the difference between counselling and therapy?
Sometimes the words ‘therapy’ and ‘counselling’ are used as if they are the same thing. Actually, ‘therapy’ is more of an umbrella term that describes ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’.
Counselling is ideal for combatting a specific problem or crisis, especially if you already have some understanding of your emotions and how you deal with upsetting experiences. Counselling can be given over a long period of time, or you may find that one or two sessions is enough, depending on your needs.
Psychotherapy is more in-depth than counselling. A psychotherapist will look at your background, your behaviour and how your mind works. They will help you explore your life and all the things that have led to you feeling and behaving a certain way. This can take a long time and many sessions.
Bear in mind that counselling and psychotherapy do often overlap; a counsellor will use elements of psychotherapy, and a psychotherapist will also act as a counsellor. The most important thing is that you understand what they are trying to do for you.
Does needing therapy mean I’m mentally ill?
Therapy can be helpful for anyone, it does not mean you are ill. It helps you stay mentally healthy and aware of the way you emotionally react to events in your life. Whether you are dealing with a very recent bereavement, or your loss was years ago but you feel you need to talk about it, therapy offers a safe place to discuss your feelings.
How do I choose a therapist?
Choosing the right therapist is important. They need to have experience helping people through bereavement and you also need to feel comfortable talking to them.
A lot of therapists will do a telephone consultation before your first session. This is usually a 10-15 minute conversation in which you can briefly discuss what you want to get out of therapy and which therapy techniques they will use. If you then feel this type of therapy or therapist is not right for you, there is no pressure to go ahead with a session.
Similarly, if you have one or two sessions with a therapist and you don’t feel they are right for you, they will understand if you do not continue with more sessions.
Bereavement counselling and support organisations will be able to help you find a therapist or group therapy session that is local to you.
What to expect
Therapy is not a magic cure. Your grief won’t disappear after a session or two. What therapy can do is give you the understanding you need to cope better in your day-to-day life.
It might feel strange at first. Talking to a stranger about your problems can be difficult, but it can also be a relief. A therapist is trained to not judge, or interrupt, or change the subject. This means you can talk to them in a way you may not be able to with friends or family.
It can be very helpful to discuss with your therapist in your first session what your expectations are. This will help them, and you, think about how therapy can work best for you.