This page was clinically reviewed by Willis Atherley-Bourne, Integrative Psychotherapist in 2022.
When you are bereaved, allowing yourself to come to terms with your own emotions within your own timescale is important when learning to cope. Initially, it may seem as though finding peace or acceptance following the death is a challenge. Over time, such feelings may come and go as you continue to work through your grief.
What is bereavement?
Bereavement relates to the period of time after we’ve lost people we love, and describes how we adjust to the significant amount of change that usually follows.
The depth of the bereavement may vary depending on the significance of the relationship between the deceased and the bereaved. An overwhelming sense of loss may be accompanied by emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, frustration and anxiety, which often follow immediately after the death. This period is often described as ‘being in mourning.’
Depending on your individual circumstances, such as whether the person’s death was sudden or anticipated, your response to grief can affect you in unexpected ways. You may experience feelings of anger or unexpected changes in your mood/temperament, which can affect your view of your own life and those in your life going forward.
Bereavement counselling at Priory
Bereavement counselling at Priory can help you to grieve while managing your day-to-day life, knowing you are getting support at a crucial point in your life. Such bereavement support is designed to reduce the risks of depression, prolonged grief reactions, anxiety and other associated indicators of complicated grief.
Our wide range of outpatient options exists alongside more structured approaches, including an inpatient stay at one of our nationwide network of Priory hospitals with access to psychological group therapy programmes and regular sessions with a specialist consultant. This is often used when treating associated symptoms and illnesses of bereavement including depression.
What is involved in bereavement counselling?
The unique and complex nature of your bereavement process and its intensely personal nature are recognised at Priory, with therapists providing tailored treatment programmes suitable to your level of need. However, there are some commonly used therapy methods used to help you manage your thoughts and feelings. These include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- Online therapy
A mixture of these therapy methods can be used to help you understand grief, reflect on memories, and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Therapy also enables you to gain valuable insights, share anecdotes and find coping methods surrounding loss that suit you.
Reasons you might need bereavement counselling
While the death of someone you care for may seem like the obvious cause of bereavement, the type and nature of the death plays an important part in the grieving process and how the event ultimately impacts on your life.
Some of the primary causes of bereavement and intense grief include:
Death of a parent - the loss of our parents is an unfortunate event many of us have to prepare for during our lives. This will be a particularly significant death if you maintained a close attachment with your parent, and can leave you feeling isolated, with close family support important for helping you cope with the situation, particularly from siblings going through the same emotional journey.
Death of a child - outliving your child or experiencing death of a child can be one of the most painful periods of bereavement. The death of a child or adolescent is unexpected in the natural flow of life, you may experience feelings of reduced hope and sadness of your child not getting the chance to fulfil their potential and seeing them grow up, which understandably changes your life forever.
Death of a spouse or partner - as we spend so much of our adult lives with our spouse or partner, their loss can make you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself and your ultimate companion. The support of friends and family is imperative in this circumstance, as they can help protect you from experiencing complex grief reactions and realise there is still hope for the future.
Death of a sibling - whether you are a child, adolescent or adult, losing your sibling can be very difficult at any life stage. As you have grown up with your sibling, you may have a very close bond with them, although feelings of jealously or comparison during their lifetime can make you feel regret. If a child has lost their sibling, it is important to involve them in the grieving process such as making funeral arrangement and preparing them for the range of emotions to come.
Death through suicide - losing someone to suicide is one of the more difficult and complex forms of bereavement you can go through. The more common emotions and symptoms felt during the grieving process can be further complicated by feelings of anger and regret directed either at your loved one for leaving the world, or towards yourself for either not fully understanding their state of mind, or feeling as though you could have done more to help them while they were alive.
The stages of grief
There are five widely recognised stages of grief, although there have been some studies that have asserted there may actually be as many as seven.
It is important to understand that these are not sequential. They can occur in any order and people can experience several stages at the same time.
- Denial, disbelief, and numbness - initial feelings of shock and disbelief can lead to denial and numbness.
- Anger or blame - grieving individuals may experience anger or blame, directed at themselves or others.
- Bargaining - religious individuals may go through a bargaining stage, making promises or personal sacrifices.
- Depressed mood and sadness - depression is common in those grieving a loved one, and seeking help from therapists is crucial.
- Acceptance - while not guaranteed, acceptance is the final stage of grief, characterized by a sense of calm and readiness to move forward.
Bereavement and grief counselling at Priory is made up of expert bereavement counsellors who can help you with the stages of grief and some of the most difficult experiences you may face. Our team of highly experienced bereavement therapists work with you to understand the nature of your loss and create a therapeutic plan to help you cope with your grief and prepare for the future. Bereavement therapy is about supporting you to come to terms with something you cannot change, but may help you to understand how you can continue to take care of yourself and grieve at the same time.