Choosing the Right Bereavement Counselor
After the funeral planning is done and you’ve said your goodbyes, the real work of bereavement begins. For many people, it takes a lifetime of hard work to learn to cope with the loss of a loved one—and getting support right from the start is an important step in doing this.
Bereavement counselors are mental health professionals trained to work with people facing the loss of a friend, family member, or even a public or heroic figure. Grief hits everyone in a different way, and there is no right or wrong way to have feelings and process this grief. That’s why it is so important to find a bereavement counselor who is right for you. As is the case with any medical professional, there needs to be a foundation of trust and understanding before you can make the commitment to begin healing.
Finding a Bereavement Counselor
The best way to find a bereavement or grief counselor is to get a recommendation from someone you trust. Church figures, funeral homes, hospice organizations, hospitals, and friends who have gone through similar circumstances are usually the best place to start looking for referrals. You can also ask your regular doctor, who may be able to point you in the right direction.
There are also several national organizations that can help you find the right support. These include the Association for Death Education and Counseling, The American Academy of Bereavement, the Hospice Foundation of America, and The National Hospice and Palliative Care Website.
What to Look For in a Grief Counselor
- No one is going to be able to make all the pain go away. Losing a loved one is something most people never fully recover from—it is merely something you learn to live with. Avoid any counselor who promises complete healing.
- Grief should be a process of growth and personal development. This may take a few months or it may take a few years. Find a counselor who can help you to not only deal with your feelings now, but who can teach you the necessary skills to continue growing even after your relationship together ends.
- A counselor doesn’t have to share your culture or beliefs, but it can certainly help. Oftentimes, being able to derive spiritual comfort is a key part of healing. You should find a counselor who either shares your beliefs or is open enough to support whatever worldviews you have.
- Look at the counselor’s credentials. You don’t have to see a doctor or someone with a PhD in order to get the right kind of counseling—but you also don’t want just anyone. Look for training through an educational institution, religious organization, or an group like hospice.
When you choose to find a bereavement counselor is up to you. Some people find that the support is necessary during the funeral planning stages even before death occurs (in the event of a long-term illness), while others many not seek help until a few years later. No matter where you are with your grief, there is support out there—and there is nothing wrong with asking for the help you need to move on and enjoy what you can out of your life.