Strategies and Prompts in Helping Others Grieve

Grief is a life long process.  Individuals deal with grief or loss to some extent on a consistent basis throughout life. The more significant losses remain with individuals and the ability of the individual to process the loss, understand it, incorporate it and exist with it are key to normal grieving styles.  Those in the field of grief counseling on both the non clinical and clinical side need to sharpen their talents in helping individuals process the loss in a healthy way and be able to find continuing meaning in life.  This involves not only understanding the various therapies on the more broad spectrum of treatment but how to micro handle daily sessions with individuals with minor positive interventions.  Hence while one may employ CBT as the broad approach to help one heal, the daily encounters and how these encounters occur, allow the overall therapy to take root finds its productivity in certain skills and abilities.   Some of these skills deal with how the grief counselor reframes thoughts, repeats words, shows empathy, or other verbal strategies to help emphasize certain parts of treatment, but positive interventions during treatment involve notation of certain parts of the journey within the inner dynamics of whatever treatment.  As the person tells their grief story, finds self, relationship, memories and continuity within the grief story of one’s life, the counselor plays a key role in highlighting these points.

Grief Counselors can help individuals find meaning in loss through various strategies and interventions throughout the process.



Junietta Baker McCall’s text “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving” lists a variety of positive strategies and helpful interventions in chapter 7.  She discusses how the therapists or grief counselors can help guide the person in the person’s grief story, sense of self and relationship, and the building of memories and continued continuity in healing through various prompts and interventions during sessions.  These insights go far deeper than a general discussion of a therapy, or utilization of counselor skills, but look at certain points in therapy at a much more micro level where the grief counselor can better help the person through a particular session and goal.  She states that specific strategies and interventions can be “used to respond to grief … and suggest possible ways to engage the grieving individual (McCall, J. 2012, p. 223).



Strategies in Narrative Therapy

Grief Narrative is a therapy within all overall models of CBT, Psycho Dynamic or Humanistic approaches.  It is the re-telling of the person’s loss and trauma.  It is where everything begins in the healing process.  It permits the person to vocalize the inner feelings and share the loss.  It permits communication and healing and allows for reframing and eventual change in understanding the place of the loss within the person’s life.  Obviously for it to be successful, depends not only the story being told but how the grief counselor is able to guide the individual.

Counselors should utilize the story as a way to develop a caring model relationship that enables them to understand their client.  The story needs to be encouraged to be told no matter the sadness and shared.  In doing so, the grief counselor should grant the person space and time to comfortably tell the story.  The grief counselor should repeat words that need repeated for the person to hear his/her own words echo, as well as show empathy and interest in the telling of the events.   In this way, the grief counselor shows engagement and can later model future healthy grieving models (McCall, J. 2012, P. 225).

Throughout the story, it is important for the grief counselor to accept the therapeutic nature of the grief story.  What matters most is the here and now of the story, not what others think.  At this moment, the important part of healing is the subjective truth of the story to the person.  How does the person feel at this moment in the here and now (McCall, J. 2012, p. 226).  Remain empathetic throughout the story and remain an advocate for the person as the story continues and upon completion of the story within the session, ask the person if the story has been told to the person’s satisfaction.  Upon completion of the story, share observations, address emotions and remain honest in assessments with possible referrals or information to help the person continue the story for next time (McCall, J. 2012, p. 228-229).

With guidance, the story’s initial subjective truths can correlate with objective reality.  The person may recognize various issues within the story, such as blame, or guilt, or anger that once existed that no longer should exist.  In addition, one can begin to reframe the loss within an objective truth as the person heals.

Regaining Self and Connection

Within the grieving process, many times, the person loses sense of self.  One may have had such dependence upon the other that one can no longer function.  Maybe one identified as a spouse, parent or position and when these things are taken, a person loses this important self image.  Again, obviously various CBT or Humanistic Approaches to help cognitively reframe or heal broken images can be utilized, but it is within the smaller bits of communication with the bereaved, where one moves from one point to the next.

It is critical to address and measure a person’s sense of self within sessions.  Asking questions that relate to a person’s self image and how a person may feel since the loss.  Maybe the person is withdrawing from hobbies or no longer finds interests.  These are important notations that can help one measure if one’s sense of self is damaged due to the loss.   McCall recommends utilizing the term loneliness not to just mean when one is alone but a feeling that can occur in any circumstance.  In addition, she uses the term isolation to refer to any inner experience to withdraw from others (2012, P., 237-238).  The grief counselor while helping the person’s self re-find itself, needs to also help the person find relationship with others.  The counselor can describe ways for the bereaved to reach out to others and in what ways

Reclaiming Memories and Meaning

Grief healing occurs when old memories are properly collected, understood, and properly recalled with the present and possible future.  One is able to find meaning of the loss, no matter what it was, and able to tie the loss together within the chapters of one’s life.  The loss has meaning but does not define completely the self or person.  The person continues with the loss, albeit in a healthy way.  The person is able to build new relationships and write new chapters, despite the existence of the loss.

Helping individuals understand memories and how they connect to meaning and healing are important in grief work. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification


In helping individuals, whether through CBT or Humanistic Approaches, grief counselors can pay close attention to particulars and emphasize and carefully monitor certain aspects of this transition during sessions.  It is important to see the gradual transformation of the bereaved throughout the process.  A good grief counselor will see when certain parts are not lining up and where to intervene and help the client proceed to the next important step of adapting to the loss.

The grief counselor should utilize all mind, body, soul connections tied with ritual and belief.  These ideals within the person can play key roles in anchoring the person with meaning in the loss. It is also at this point to ensure the bereaved understands the value of working through grief and that while the first step is to survive the loss, there is so much more beyond just surviving (McCall, J, 2012, p. 252-256).  McCall points out it is crucial for the person to understand that surviving the loss is vital to growth but it still not quality of life.  As the person recognizes this survival, the person will start to set aside other destructive maladaptive coping habits.  These habits need addressed in any counseling.

The grief counselor can help the person progress by asking the client to discuss how it was before the loss.  In addition, discuss current accomplishments, as well as offer encouragement.  Ask the client to fantasize what one hopes life to be like in the future (McCall, J. 2012,. p. 257).

In remembering, teach clients that memories can be unbearable and that is OK.  Ask the client what the memory means to him/her.  Let the client know some events make no sense in life and cannot be made into order.  Let the client know he/she cannot change the memory or event, but he/she can learn to grow with it.  Use other examples of similar stories of how others coped, or present ways to help put an intrusive thought to the back mind.  Helping individuals focus on issues when it is safe instead of intrusive and inopportune times helps the person handle emotion and bad memories (McCall, J. 2012, p. 260).  As time progresses, help the person reframe bad memories for more positive outcomes and valuable ways to see the past so one may move forward to the future.

Finding meaning in the present and future also means recognizing healing.  So many times, one only focuses on the trauma, but it is equally important to focus on healing and transformation. McCall recommends to help the person focus on the mystery of life.  Let clients know that they have control of their lives and can dictate what the future holds.  Help clients identify healing moments without guilt.  Let individuals know beyond being aware of healing moments to embrace them, pray for them , hope for them and practice gratitude when they occur (2012, p. 265).

It is interesting to note that Aaron Antonovksy famous for his theories on “salutogenesis” which emphasizes health as something more aligned with well being than focus on pathology speaks of the importance of coherence in health.  For well being and health to exist, he points out three key elements that I feel are important to reframing grief and finding meaning.  He first lists comprehensibility as the belief that things/stressors/loss happen in an orderly fashion.  Obviously, world views can be shattered with grief and any type of well being is destroyed initially after loss.  Secondly, Antonosky points out manageability as crucial to well being in the belief that one has the ability and skills to cope with stressors or loss.  In stress, when an organism is over-whelmed, then breakdown begins, so it is not surprising that Antonosky would point out that for well-being, one must be able to manage stressors or loss.  Finally, he lists meaningfulness as source of coherence and well being.  Meaningfulness is what defines a person’s existence and why one pushes forward.  In grief theory, when meaning in life is loss, then well being suffers.  It is the purpose of grief counseling to help the person adjust to loss by again finding meaning in life with the loss.


Helping individuals throughout the grieving process involves identifying issues and helping people one step at a time. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals

Sense of meaning is critical to overall health.  Without a sense of meaning, health itself can suffer.  So when sense of meaning is restored and connected with past, present and future, then true adjustment can occur.  Grief Counselors play a key role in helping individuals regain this balance and sense of health.  It is sometimes in intense sessions where minor observations and interventions occur that grief healing occurs.  It does not occur immediately, but results in multiple months and sometimes years, helping the person adjust to the loss in a healthy way.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in grief counseling.


McCall, J. (2012). ‘Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving”. Routledge

Additional Resources

“Salutogenesis”. Wikipedia.  Access here

Sutton, J. 2018. “10 Grief Counseling Therapy Techniques & Interventions”. Positive Psychology.  Access here

“The psychology of grief – applying cognitive and behaviour therapy principles”. InPsych 2011 | Vol 33. APA. Access here

Kelly, L. (2021). “7 Grief Therapy Techniques for Coping”. TalkSpace.  Access here


Last Rites Video

From a spiritual and religious perspective, ritual has a soothing effect on the dying as well as the bereaved family.  It symbolizes comfort and peace in the uncertainty.   Spiritually, Last Rites as a series of sacraments manifest within the soul a particular grace received that helps the person prepare for happy death.  Confession, Communion and Anointing constitute this series of religious rituals.

Last Rites not only spiritually prepares the soul for death but also gives hope and peace to the mind and family of the dying. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

Christ Himself gave comfort to the dying and in the story of Lazarus not only comforted the family but brought him back to life.  As one of His greatest miracles, Christ showed mercy and compassion.  Last Rites can have physical miraculous effects but this is rare and far between but exists more so for the spiritual wellbeing of the soul.  The mental and emotional side effects are also important for both the person dying as well the family surrounding the person.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as its Christian Grief Counseling Program for already existing grief counselors.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.

In addition, please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification for those who work within in the ministry of the dying.


Please review the video below

Christian Counseling: Faith and Loss

One’s faith is a critical component to self identity.  It is a world view that acts like a compass when times of trouble occur.  It is an anchor that keeps the person in place as the various “isms” of the world alter society.  Hence, when loss challenges world view or spiritual belief, the person can find him/herself in an existential crisis.  Many with spiritual and religious background respond strong to loss with certainty and faith, but when faith is misplaced, or when the loss is traumatic, there can be mild, moderate or even severe faith challenges to the individual.

Christianity as a faith plays the same psychological basis as any faith for a person with a world view.  A Muslim, Jew, or Hindu can weather the storm of loss and grief from a psychological standpoint if their faith plays a key role in identity of the person.  Likewise, spiritual individuals who may have no religious affiliation can also have strong roots in facing adversity.  In addition, even atheists or agnostics, although subject to possible turmoil more than spiritually based individuals, can also have world views that allow them to show resilience in loss.  Obviously, family and communal support plays a key role as well, so to merely judge one’s resilience on faith alone without considering support can lead to disparities.

Faith is a powerful tool in helping grievers find peace and healing. Healthy faith gives connection to God, beliefs and others within the community and helps one readjust and find meaning in the loss

In conclusion, for most, faith and ritual play critical roles in helping individuals understand the loss and its suffering.  Rituals help heal wounds and find closure but also understanding and hope.  Religion offers hope and reunion beyond the temporal world.  It gives a sense of meaning to why we suffer or what we must do.  Faith also gives individuals the sense of being loved by a Divine Being who cares and hopes to heal them.  These are critical aspects of resiliency due the connection with God, meaning and a community of believers.  However, when spirituality is unhealthy, things can go drastically wrong.

A Healthy Faith and Loss

There is also discussion in loss how much a role spirituality plays versus religious.  This stems from healthy versus sick faith.  A devout religious person or a devout spiritual person both have strong views that can help them through loss but also those views can become more adversely challenged when bad things happen.  We hear many definitions of individuals who are spiritual but not religious, or we see on the other hand, individuals who are only outwardly religious but have no spiritual personal life.  I find both imbalances unhealthy and more open to potential pitfalls during loss (if looking at faith and loss alone without any other factors).

The spiritual but religious motif is usually a response to anger towards organized religion.  One is suspect to it or has had a unhealthy encounter with it.  This prevents communal, ritualistic and dogmatic tenets to emerge in the person’s world view.  The person becomes his/her own existential religious guide in determining faith world views.  The person is deeply committed but not held to an objective standard in many cases.  The person is usually also more isolated from communal religious bonds.

The purely overt religious but lacking spirituality is an equally dangerous road.  The person is more concerned with show and communal approval.  The dogmas are more about identity than true motivating source to act.  It creates a proudful and pharisaical image that dominates unfortunately American politics and Christian nationalism. It is faith without love, but also faith without true foundation.

The proper balance is the personal and communal that incorporates the individual’s piety with the collective dogmatic creed and ritual of the religion.  It balances the arrogance of religious identity but also prevents the subjectivity of wandering spirituality that self serves one’s own desires.  It is religion in public and private worship perfectly balanced.  An individual who preaches and who also practices one’s faith is a far more healthy spiritual person and one more adept at handling loss and grief.  They have identity, ritual and communal support but also deep spiritual understanding of the ritual and faith and it nourishes the soul.  It is not a subjective self chosen diet of faith but one that rests upon the tenets of a faith handed down for generations.

Hence healthy faith is critical in responding to loss.  Religious and spiritual individuals may respond to loss in very positive ways due to their faith but when faith is not healthy, it can derail the grieving process in mild, moderate or more serious ways.

Issues in Faith and Loss

Christian Counselors, Pastoral Counselors or Grief Counselors when dealing with faith based individuals and loss should always tread easy when first discussing God and loss with a distressed individual. Individuals experiencing loss are no longer intellectual at first.  They are in a state of shock and numbness.  This follows with denial and an array of emotions, which include sadness, anger and even guilt.   Incorporating a comment as “Your child is now with God” or “Your husband is now in Heaven” can cause a very angry reaction towards God.  This is not unnatural to have anger towards God.  It is not unnatural to doubt God or question God even.  Within the first days of emotional distress, this mild adverse reaction which occurs with some believers, even with the most profound faith is not something to be overtly concerned with.

Individuals may only briefly question, or this questioning may persist through the depressive stage of grief as one tries to understand loss and organize it with life’s narrative.  This is especially true in more traumatic incidents, when a parent loses a child, or an entire town is destroyed by a tornado.   It becomes quite difficult through the depressive and mourning stage to understand God’s presence.  Not everyone can show patience like Job and that is OK.

When the loss challenges the faith and doubt emerges, complications within the grieving process can occur. Usually unhealthy faith is more vulnerable to spiritual complications in grieving but it can occur to anyone

Obviously as pointed out, those with an imbalanced faith, poor foundation of faith, or no faith are more subject to negative spiritual reactions about God and the loss.  Obviously, one has to take into account support systems and the level of the loss in regards to reactions that are mild, moderate or severe but for most part, those with kinks in the armor of faith are more subject to moderate or severe negative spiritual reactions when dealing with a loss.

In addition to imbalance of spirituality and religious, a lack of understanding of faith can play a key role in negative experiences.  Individuals who see prayer as a magic bean and God as a genie willing to grant wishes face a far more difficult grief reaction that an individual who recognizes prayer as communion with God.  Likewise, individuals who consider their power of prayer as a sign of their faith and a correlation of their relationship with God are also more subject to negative spiritual reactions in loss.  Prayer when it is seen as a contract and not a covenant with God creates a distortion of faith.  Instead of seeing God as a genie that grants or does not grant, individuals need to see God as a Father who walks and comforts us.  Can God grant our prayers?  Yes, but does He always, no!.

Faith that has a strong understanding of the human condition and suffering is key.  Within Christianity especially, suffering is seen as part of a fallen existence due to sin.  In Christianity, God becomes human and suffers with humanity.  Jesus Christ shows individuals that God’s will is not always the easiest or least painful but one that is necessary.  If Christ Himself suffered, what can we expect?  In the Christian faith, Christian Counselors can utilize the motif of Christ as “Suffering Servant” who suffered first as an excellent coping example when loss and grief occur.  Christ suffered first.  However, with that suffering and death came also victory.  Christ conquered death and rose.  So shall all who suffer in Christ, shall rise in Christ.

So while many individuals may feel abandoned or betrayed by God, like Job, like Christ, one can find light at the end of the tunnel.  Even Christ, felt abandoned on the cross.  It is OK to feel this and important to express it, as Christ Himself expressed.  In the Garden and on the cross, Christ felt completely alone and abandoned, but pushed forward in faith.  Hence, when we feel alone or abandoned in loss, we must realize that Christ is with us and it is important to emphasize this in Christian Counseling when dealing with loss.   Christ is not always here to take away the cross, but He is definitely here to help one carry it.

Finally, in addition to misunderstanding of suffering, those with an unhealthy faith have key misunderstandings of the essence of God Himself.  They can easily fall prey to the philosophical traps of the atheistic world which challenges God.  The famous query, “How can a Good and All Powerful God permit suffering?” is all too used in atheistic and agnostic circles without rebuttal.  If God is good then suffering should not exist, but if suffering exists, then He must not be all powerful, for a good being would never permit suffering.  So the atheist or agnostic leaves the suffering individual with only two false options.  Either God is not all good and a sadist being, or He is not God and not powerful enough to stop evil and suffering.  This two answer only option is the trap.  The fact remains, God is both good and all-powerful, but suffering and evil exists because He created intelligent beings in His image with the ability to do good or evil.  Evil and suffering is a result of free choice not God.  God does not wish to prevent freedom to love or hate because that would be the ultimate rejection of human and angelic freedom.  The source of evil is choice, not a good God and God’s power is not in question as He permits the consequences to carry out in a fallen world.

Interventions in Spiritual Complications with Grief

The stages of grief are outlines of human experience with the grieving process.  They obviously are not always linear.  They can skip steps, revert back to former steps and oscillate between each other in intensity.  Different individuals, depending on a variety of subjective circumstances react differently to different losses, but we can form a basis for understanding of the universal reaction to grief and draw a blue print of what is healthy and what is not healthy.  When spiritual complications arise, it can derail the grieving process.  Spirituality as something that is usually a anchor and help in healing can, as stated, create mild, moderate or even severe complicated grief reactions.

In the first stage, individuals respond with shock, disbelief and denial.  Even the most devout and spiritual person will feel the shock and pain of the loss.  How could this happen?  With emotion swirling, intellect and what one consciously believes can sometimes be swept to the side.  The individual may question God, or become angry with God.

For many, mild complications of grief and spirituality can lead the person back to God with more strength realizing their dependence upon God

As grief and the reality of the loss sets in, the individual enters into the dark night of sadness and pain.  Some will find consolation in faith, while others may feel a desolation.  Some may feel abandoned by God.  This is not necessarily a complication but a natural reaction to loss.  In this desolation, is there a merely a feeling of “Where are you God”, or is a more intense belief that God does not exist at all, or even a reaction of hatred towards God.  While it is still too early, especially considering the varying natures of loss to consider anger towards God or disbelief in God as a severe reaction, it still nonetheless a mild reaction that could complicate spiritual readjustment later.  It should be closely monitored to see how it develops in the spiritual life of the person.

In the despair and pain of loss, individuals go through three phases of spiritual reconnection.  McCall, in her text, “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving” points out the trials of despair, discernment and conversion during the process of mild, moderate or severe estrangement from God.  She mentions that during the despair moment, some individuals never reclaim the peace and joy of God, but instead remain haunted by the loss and a emptiness with God.  They are unable to reconcile from the depression and pain, a logical bridge between the loss and their worldview.

It is following this phase, that discernment occurs.  The individual either continues breaking down his/her worldview and its incompatibility with the loss, or finally finds guidance from grace or the aid of others to connect the loss with faith and the world view.  This leads to renewed energy to seek forgiveness from God.  Others discover how much they need God in the loss and despair.  Sometimes in the darkest days, we discover how much we need God by our side.  We realize that we cannot stand alone but need God.  This recognition can lead to a deeper and stronger faith.  However, sometimes, it can complicate things with guilt for how one behaved or create a pseudo response where one accepts one’s world view but still nonetheless with less energy and commitment as before.  If not, this continues to lead further breaking down of the worldview and faith. When answered it leads to the renewal of faith and rituals, but if does not occur, then the person is unable to reintegrate the faith into one’s life at this point.

These steps are clearly seen in C.S. Lewis’ “Grief Observed” where Lewis experiences the spiritual battle between his faith and the pain and loss of his wife.  He writes about his despair and depression and journals his anger and sense of abandonment.  (Clearly exhibiting a mild spiritual existential crisis in his life)  He however in later chapters discerns the loss, reconnects it with God, and finds meaning.  He then reintegrates his faith with the loss.

After suffering, individuals enter the final stages of grief which involve acceptance of the loss.  McCall lists a two fold process that involves re-organization as well as recovery itself, albeit recovery is a false word in grieving.  Adjustment seems to be a far better word in grieving because no person truly recovers from loss but only learns to adjust to it in healthy ways with meaning.  In the case of spirituality, one is able to connect the meaning of loss with their faith and incorporate again a healthy relationship with God via former spiritual practices.  However, complications in spiritual grief become severe when this stage is unattainable.  The individual does not recover his/her faith in God but instead either hates God or completely denies His existence.  In even more adverse reactions, removal of all memories of the faith before, including images or statues occur, as well as a bellicose attitude towards religion or anyone who holds a religious view.  The person refuses to attend rituals or pray and has completely removed their previous held worldview.  The ability to tie the loss with their previous worldview is impossible.  This causes a complication in the grieving process that prevents the person from finding peace or readjusting to the new narrative in a healthy fashion.

As the parable of Christ states, sometimes the seed of faith falls in fertile ground and can overcome all adversity while seeds that fall in thorny ground are never able to produce fruit.  This is sometimes the sad reality but as Grief and Christian Counselors, we can try to help individuals in the infant stages of loss with support and love.  During the later phases of searching and yearning, we can emphasize the true nature of suffering, its meaning, and how Christ suffers with us.  It is important to help and encourage healthy grieving practices that are adaptive and not maladaptive.  Support and care can prevent further despair and help the person find gratitude and hope in others and again in God.  It can help individuals realize that God is still present despite the loss.


Faith is usually an important anchor in grief adjustment but sometimes due to a variety of reasons it can complicate the grieving process. Faith that is healthy gives connection and meaning to the grieving person to a Deity or Higher Power, as well as worldviews and a communal support system.  However, sometimes faith and the loss cannot find meaning and when this occurs an existential crisis can complicate grieving.  When previous held beliefs are no longer integrated and tied to the loss, then readjustment into life can become difficult and complications in grief can arise.  It is important to identify issues that may arise in spiritual and religious people at the earliest phases and help not only counsel and educate but give them hope that life continues.  Christian and pastoral counselors as well as grief counselors can help spiritual individuals find hope in loss.

Christ is the ultimate examples for Christians when dealing with loss and pain. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.

For certified grief counselors, please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counselor Program.  The program explores grief, loss and suffering from a Christian perspective.


C.S Lewis. (1961). “Grief Observed”

McCall, Junietta. (2012). “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving”. Routledge

Additional Resources

Mendoza, M. (2020). “Complicated Spiritual Grief”. Psychology Today. Access here

Williams. L. (2022). “The Missing Link: Spirituality and Grief”. What’s Your Grief.  Access here

Feldman, D. (2019). “The Power of Rituals to Heal Grief”. Psychology Today.  Access here

“Easing grief through religion and spirituality”. (2015). Harvard Health Publishing.  Access here







Psychodynamic Therapy and Emotion

For many experiencing complications with emotion, notably grief or anxiety, individuals turn to therapy.  Not all loss is simple and sometimes emotion itself is far from simple or easy to identify its source.  Anxiety and depression plague individuals and can have crippling effects on their mental health and social interaction.  Therapists and licensed counselors usually turn to some type of medication to help balance the neurotransmitters in the brain or hormones in the body.  Others will also look to cognitive behavioral therapy to help articulate the issue from a rational way, introducing adaptive coping strategies, better responses and overall reframing.

Psychodynamic therapy looks at the subconscious root of depression and how to unblock the healing for better relationships with others.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Professionals from the Freudian school also can utilize Psychodynamic therapy which can also have equal benefits in helping individuals not only with deeper pathologies but also depression and anxiety.  Psychodynamic Therapy looks within the person’s emotions and past to help decipher the reasons for depression, anxiety or emotion.  Stemming from Freud, the idea suggests that all emotion or behavior stems from one’s subconscious and also partly early childhood experiences.   Through various internal mechanisms both inherited biological and learned through experience, one learns to balance these emotions and feelings but when imbalance occurs, anxiety can result, which can also lead to subconscious repression.  Psychodynamic therapy looks to the unconscious to find these events that has caused these unconscious feelings that are now manifesting in one’s life.

Through this process, the therapist hopes to discover the root of the issue, identify it and help the person learn from it.  The person then is guided to the root cause of his/her issue and learns how this unconscious feeling is causing havoc in one’s life and how to better regulate it.  This involves a type of talk therapy where the patient discusses their feelings and the therapist attempts to discover the source of the emotional imbalance.  Erick Erickson, a disciple of Freud, introduced how emotional issues can arise when individuals do no meet certain eight stages.  His psychosocial approach identified 8 stages of development within human life from infancy to old age and how two opposite outcomes can occur when needs and goals are not met.  Individuals who do not successfully meet certain needs or goals experience regression or incompleteness manifesting in depression or anxiety.  Therapists with psychodynamic therapy can help guide individuals discover unconscious feelings about certain events that can lead to deeper reasons why someone feels depressed, angry or anxious.  Sometimes, individuals may not be able to form relationship bonds, or have trust issues.  These issues usually are a result of some earlier childhood experience that once identified and discussed can find ways to better resolve it.

These types of talk therapies usually last anywhere from 40 to 45 minutes once a week and can continue for a few months or up to a year.  The key within the process is to uncover the root cause for the emotional balance within the subconscious mind and help identify it.  This allows the person to recognize the issues and its root and better move forward without repeating the same mistakes.  With understanding of the source, better ways to respond to it, and coping mechanisms, one can better find balance and move forward. In essence, one can understand the emotion, recognize patterns caused by it and form better relationships from this enlightenment.  The therapy looks to unblock one from the past and allow one to move forward.

Comparisons and Differences Between CBT and Psychodynamic Therapies

While looking more at emotion, this therapy differs from CBT which obviously looks at unhealthy ways of thinking and how one can reframe and better oneself.  Both CBT and Psychodynamic therapy can look at better ways to manage how we react to things, but they have different starting points.  Both are considered effective methods, but it ultimately it depends upon the person.  It also can depend upon the type of trauma.  Proponents against Psychodynamic theory may contend it takes away free will due to the unconscious drive, but one can modify the strict Freudian values and say emotional trauma at early age can greatly affect a person decision making but not necessarily strip one of conscious decisions.

CBT offers reframing solutions to perceptions and ideas one faces.  It looks to remove distortions of reality and how to better reframe it and respond.  Psychodynamic may be better at explaining the deeper cause of it but both methods look to understand the emotion and find better ways of dealing with it.  In essence, Psychodynamic looks to find what is blocking a person from proceeding forward and ends, while CBT looks at how to cope with the issue through a variety of adaptive coping methodologies.  Some therapists may only use one pure form, or combine the two, with one helping the person cope and then later delving into the source of the issue.

A good example of someone facing deeper pathological issues with depression and self image would to be utilize CBT  and Psychodynamic therapies.  With CBT, the therapist would set out to dismiss from an intellectual standpoint the false image of self that is destructive.  Therapy would look to help the individual realize the distorted self view and then offer ways to think differently when low self esteem emerges.  It would point out that low ideals of self are not true and how to better deal with these thoughts through meditation, journaling or other self affirmative practices.  It would teach one to better reframe these distortions.  The Psychodynamic portion would investigate the source of the low self esteem in earlier life, the emotion itself, how to manage the emotion, and proceed in relationships. Once the unconscious source is identified, the individual could better understand why one feels a certain way, recognize patterns and triggers for the emotion and form healthier bonds.  In this example, while not purely one therapy, one can see the benefit of both schools of thought being utilized.


Human beings are complex emotional beings.  We have a intellect and will.  We are rational and emotional.  According to Freud, we are torn between internal impulses and external systems.  Subconscious and conscious events can occur which create a variety of imbalances.  How we find balance depends on what therapy is best for us.  Talking therapies, like CBT and Psychodynamic are useful therapies to help from emotional or rational standpoints.  Sometimes, talk therapies are also supplemented with medications to help any neural or hormonal imbalances as well.  Ultimately, Psychodynamic therapy is a an excellent option for some.

Psychodynamic therapy has Freudian roots. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

Please also review AIHCP’s behavioral certifications, especially its Grief Counseling Certification.  While grief counseling is clearly not a pathological type of counseling because it deals with a direct loss, it can sometimes turn pathological and require a licensed professional.  AIHCP certifies both licensed and unlicensed human service professionals who offer different level of services within grief.

Additional Resources

“CBT vs. Psychodynamic Therapy: What’s the Difference?” Zencare.  Access here

Mcleod, S. (2024). “Psychodynamic Approach In Psychology”. Simply Psychology.  Access here

Davis, K. (2023). “How does cognitive behavioral therapy work?”.  MedicalNewsToday.  Access here

Dresden, D. (2020). “What is psychodynamic therapy?”. MedicalNewsToday.  Access here

Cherry, K. (2023). “What Is Psychodynamic Therapy?”. VeryWellMind.  Access here



Role of the Funeral and Cultural/Social Wakes in Grief Recovery

It is often said, funerals are for the living, the dead no longer need anything.  Funerals, wakes, and other cultural forms of communal grieving are all essential elements in helping individuals grieve the loss of a loved one.  It is a coming together where individuals can express sympathy and acknowledge the loss.  Research shows that cultures that emphasize communal grieving usually have far less prolonged grief disorders when the loss itself is not complicated.

Funerals and wakes help the bereaved accept the reality of death, mourn collectively, remember the person, and offer prayers for the deceased


Hence, funerals and wakes play a critical role in the bereavement process for the living.  While religious beliefs hold firm that these events are also spiritual and prayers are offered for the dead in the afterlife, the psychological implications of mental health for the living are obvious and clear.  The article, “Funerals: Study shows Irish wakes may help more with grief” by Matt Fox looks at how such communal events during grief help a higher percentage of individuals avoid complications in grief.  In regards to Irish wakes and grieving, he states,

The authors of the research, which has been published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. said that “cultural differences with regard to death may be an explanatory factor” to the reduced levels of the disorder in Ireland. “For example, in Ireland, it is customary to hold a wake (i.e., social gathering prior to a funeral) during which family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and acquaintances can come to pay their respects and support the bereaved,” the authors said.”

“Funerals: Study shows Irish wakes may help more with grief”. Fox, M. (2023). BBC News.

To read the entire article, please access here


On the surface one may only spiritual needs of the deceased being met.  From a religious standpoint, prayers are offered for the deceased.  In Christianity, a solemn service of memorial and prayers is completed after prior to burying with ritual prayers said at the grave site.  Other Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, offers a Funeral Mass for the soul of the deceased as well.  In other cultures, days of prayer are also offered. In Hinduism, there are a series of days with various rituals to prepare the soul for the transmigration into the afterlife in finding a new vessel.  So the importance of the funeral and wake are still very spiritual for the deceased, but again from a psychological standpoint, the memorial of life, the gathering, and the funeral itself is very much for the living.

In various cultures, intense periods of grieving are granted to the deceased. Within Judaism, there is a series of days of grieving assigned for the family.  Other cultures have similar days of mourning.  Some cultures have very loud and mournful events where crying and waling is encouraged, while other cultures remain more reserved.  As seen above, the Irish themselves offer a wake prior to the funeral instead of merely after it.  The article by Fox, emphasizes the importance of how communal events that emphasize grief outwardly and permit individuals to express it are far more healthy in the long run.  Cultures, as well as individuals families, that express grief communally and come together have a far less chance of experiencing prolonged grief or even depression.

The Wake and Funeral

The wake and funeral is not only an expression of sadness for the entire family and a social expression of it, but it also aids the family in accepting the reality.  Many individuals may be in denial.  The funeral, calling hours, or wake give these individuals the ability to witness and come to terms with the reality of the death.   The funeral itself is the exclamation mark of the true end of one’s earthly life.  It verifies, it seals and ends all debate.  The person is no longer with us.  This permits individuals to accept but also find consolation with others in expressing the grief and pain.

The funeral in many ways is more for the living than the dead. It helps prepare the living for the long bereavement process. Those who grieve collectively are less likely to face prolonged grief and other grief disorders

In addition, the communal event permits others to cry together and to be there for each other.  Instead of grieving alone, one finds solace with others.  Others who may be experiencing a harder time are given the care and attention they need at the funeral.  The mutual support benefits all parties involved.  While its fine to celebrate the life of the deceased, it is important not to negate the mourning aspect with an overt toxic positivity.  Many events celebrate and remember.  Remembrance is definitely part of it.  It is also an important part of the entirety of the process in accepting the death.

It also gives recognition to the person.  It shows the love for that person.  This creates a sense of happiness in a way to see how many loved the deceased.  It can give comfort to the mourning that their closest loved one was treasured and loved by so many.  It is good to see how the deceased was so beneficial and important to so many other people.  This is especially beautiful for veterans, when the flag covers the casket and the shots are fired to the sound of a trumpet.

Funerals are for the Everyone

The misnomer that children should not attend a funeral is finally being dismissed as a myth.  Children should also be able to express their grief and witness the finality of a person’s life during a wake and funeral.  They can express their feelings, witness the finality, say goodbye, and share their feelings with others. It is an excellent example of life for children to be at a family members funeral.

Funerals again capture the finality of death and help others come to grips, find consolation, and the ability to move forward.  For those closest to the deceased, funerals are the first step to a long bereavement.  Those not as attached may shed a moment of sadness, but they are able to proceed in life well after the funeral, but for those closest to the deceased, the funeral is only the start of accepting the lost.  It helps, but it far from heals the open wound.


Funerals and wakes are key to healthy bereavement.  While some families may prefer to postpone it, the event itself, according to studies, helps prevent many prolonged grief disorders. They are mostly important for those who attend to come to grips with the loss.  The social setting helps others grieve together.

Funerals allow us to grieve collectively. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling and also its Funeral Associate Program


Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification, as well as its Funeral Associate Certification.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“Understanding the 6 Purposes of a Funeral”. Hospice Basics.  Access here

“Should We Celebrate Funerals?”. Doka, K. (2021). Psychology Today.  Access here

“Psychologist On Why Funerals Are Fundamental To Processing Grief”. Kelly, M, Doubek, J. (2020). NPR. Access here

“The Primary Emotional Purposes of a Funeral or Memorial”. Friedman, R. (2014). Psychology Today. Access here

C.S Lewis and Grief

C.S Lewis is a classical English writer of the 20th Century.  His observations on grief are insightful as well intense as he documents the grief felt of losing the wife, H.  Throughout, his work, “A Grief Observed” (originally published in 1961),  the loss torments the writer as he proceeds through the various struggles of an English Christian husband who lost a wife.   His struggle includes the intensity of the pain of the grief and its many adjectives and similes, as well as the outward feelings towards others, his past, his beliefs, his anger, his desolation, and finally his renewal.  In it one sees the numerous phases and oscillations of the messy roadmap of mourning. It is not only an emotional journey, but also a philosophical one that questions pain and suffering and how it can co-exist with a good God.  It captures the the progress and regression of how one laments one day but rejoices the next, curses another but venerates later.  It is in essence a progression of grief that illustrates the despair, the anger, and ultimately the adjustment to the loss.  It does not offer a true happy ending but an appeasement and contentment that naturally overtime proceeds from loss.  One never truly heals from loss but learns to live without but with a sprinkle of hope.


C.S Lewis masterfully captures some of the raw emotion associated with intense and acute grief following loss.  He states, “Noone ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning and swallowing” (Lewis, C.S, p. 1).   He continues that it sometimes feels like “invisible blanket between the world and me” (Lewis, C.S. p. 1).

C.S Lewis masterfully captures the raw pain and existential crisis caused by the loss of a loved one. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Certification


Lewis mentions the continual acute phases of grief that overtake him.  He feels fatigue that prevents him from doing the littlest things, such as even shaving (Lewis, C.S. p.3).    In the grief, he feels the shame of being seen by others in public.  He comments how some wish to walk away, or others try to say the right thing or how an younger married couple may think that he is a symbol of their future (Lewis, C.S. p. 10-11).   He also fears publics places he once ventured.  He is afraid to return too soon to places where he and H. once shared good times.  He compares it to as “sending a pilot up again as soon as possible after he’s had a crash” (Lewis, C.S. p. 11).   He in particular takes offense to the good willed sayings of others within the congregation who remark that H. is now in God’s hands.  This only frustrates him more, as he asks, if she is in God’s hands, how can it be any better, if she was in God’s hands on Earth and suffered? (Lewis, C.S. p. 27).   This is an excellent example of how in grief counseling, individuals should not try to fix the bereaved but sojourn with them and acknowledge the pain instead of trying to lift it.

A great fear of most grievers is losing the memory of a beloved.  Lewis is haunted by the fear of losing her memory.   He states, “I have no photograph of her that’s any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination” (Lewis, C.S. p. 15).   Others tell him, she will live in your memory, but he laments that idea of living.   He exclaims in fear and anguish, “What’s left?  A corpse, a memory and (in some versions) a ghost? All mockeries or horrors.  Three more ways of spelling the word dead” (Lewis, C.S. p. 20). He further revels in the fear of those who have finally come to peace with loss.  He remarks how he cannot envision how a man with a hoe and watering pot visiting the churchyard, happily exclaimed it was time to visit “mum”.   Lewis remarks, “A six-by-three foot flower-bed has become mum” (Lewis, C.S. p.21).  Yet, Lewis is not yet at the point to understand the continuation of bonds.  The pain is still too raw, too soon, and too painful.

Wishing to see her again also, sways him back from grief to guilt.  He wishes to see her but then sees this wish to bring her back is a selfish love.  He corrects himself and realizes that this self pity is horribly selfish and to wish her back is a cruel endeavor, especially with the suffering she endured to escape this world.  He speculates, “They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal? (Lewis, C.S., p. 41).

He reviews within his mind a mixed guilt of possibly getting over something too soon.  Someone truly does not recover from such an operation.  He compares this grief to someone losing a leg.  One learns to adjust, but it forever affects oneself.  When one awakes, or dresses, the reality is always there, even if one finds joy in day to day situations.

He also asks himself though, if there is shame in finding happiness, or if one is obligated to prolong one’s own unhappiness (Lewis, C.S. p.52-53).  This is classical in grieving.  One feels an obligation to grieve a certain time.  Grief has no time table and each individual needs to process the grief and then without guilt, heal. It is obvious that Lewis understands this concept but poetically displays the inner pain of those who suffer loss.


Within the initial shockwaves of pain, Lewis articulates his frustration and anger with God.  He points out that God is always around when one is happy, but when you need Him, he refers to it as ” a door slammed in your face” (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He does not fully come to any conclusion to deny the existence of God, although he does question the goodness of God.  He points out that Christ too was forsaken, but does that make it easier to understand? (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He begins to view God as being who really does not care.  In later chapters, he reflects on this anger. He states, “All that stuff about the Cosmic Sadist was not so much the expression of thought as of hatred.  I was getting from it the only pleasure a man can get; the pleasure of hitting back”.  He continues that what he thought he knew was not true, but felt that at least it might offed him or other worshippers (Lewis, C.S. p. 40)

Many become angry with God in the initial phases of grief but according to Lewis the door is never slammed shut and bolted. He is always with us


Philosophically, Lewis does not dismiss the existence of God, but in acute grief, comments how one may believe God is far from good.  He points out that “Is it rational to believe in a bad God?  Anyway, in a God so bad as all that?  The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile? (Lewis, C.S, p.30).  He wonders if this is good, then how is God good?  He later reprimands himself for feeling this, but continues to question the reason for this cruel suffering.   He laughs at himself how once he could tell those who suffered loss that their beloved one is in a better place.   He remarks that he knew bad things could happen and even warned and prepared himself not to place happiness in the world, but he points out that once it happens to you, it is far different.   Once being a source of faith, he know sees his faith as a house that has collapsed.  He states, “If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it a house of cards” (Lewis, C.J. p. 37).  He mocks how he once so easily gave advice, but now cannot it for himself.  Was it because he truly did not care about others, or that he never truly understood the severity of it?


Stemming from the long suffering and pain, Lewis slowly begins to heal.  He begins to realize his love remains and he can even sometimes hear his wife in a different way.  He remarks his great fear of losing her memory, but now has a sense of her.  He comments, “She seems to meet me everywhere.  Meet is far too strong a word.  I don’t mean anything remotely like an apparition or voice.  I don’t mean even any strikingly emotional experience at any particular moment.  Rather, a sort of unobtrusive but massive sense that she is, just as much as ever, a fact to be taken into account” (Lewis, C.S, p. 51). He also remembers how easily he could misjudge a man in a similar situation who now has happiness despite the loss. He remarks, ” I might have said, ‘He’s got over it.  He’s forgotten his wife’. but the truth was, ‘He remembers her better because he has partly got over it'”(Lewis, C.S., p.45).


Lewis learns that healing is not forgetting but remembering in a healthy way.  Please also review AIHCP’s Grief and Christian Grief Counseling Certifications


He further remarks that even with God, he no longer feels the door is slammed shut.  He states that sometimes God is there but one is too frantic to hear or be saved, as if a drowning man kicking and screaming (Lewis, C.S. p 46).   He asks if God is the vet or the vivisector (Lewis, C.S. p. 40).  Is God truly healing and helping the person through the pain into a better life. Lewis ultimately understands that God does not wish suffering but walks with the sufferers and relieves them of the pain and transforms them into life.  While those on Earth, may not understand the ultimate mystery, and may refuse to hear, God is not the sadist, he thought in anger, but a rescuer.   He sees God as the giver and H. as the gift.  H. becomes the garden and God the gardener, or H. the sword and God the smith.  God perfects His gifts in the next life and this gives Lewis comfort (Lewis, C.S. p. 62-63).

He confirms to himself that the road to H. is through God, but he also corrects himself and reminds himself that God should never be a means to an end.  He realizes that through loving God, he loves H. and they will find union in that love together (Lewis, C.S., p. 68-69).   He furthermore realizes that God no longer did not answer his knocking of the door or reject his needs.  Lewis states, “it is not the locked door.  It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As through He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question.  Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand'”(Lewis, C.S. p. 69).


From a Christian perspective, Lewis explains the emotional pain of losing someone and still being a believer.  He triumphantly captures the nature of grief but also adds elements of Christian grieving.  He proceeds through the phases and oscillations of grief and faces many existential questions.  While reading the words, one truly can start to prepare or recall the true abandonment one can face in the pain of grief and how hard it is again to find solace and peace.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Those who are already Grief certified are eligible for the specialty program.  Like the Grief Counseling Certification, the Christian Grief Counseling Certification is online and independent study.


“A Grief Observed”. Lewis, C.S. (1961).  Harper Collins Publishers. (1994)

Additional Resources

“C.S. Lewis”. (2021). Biography.  Access here

“C. S. Lewis”. Wikipedia.  Access here

“A GRIEF OBSERVED”. Harmon, J. (2013). C.S Lewis Institute.  Access here

“The boredom and the fear of grief”. Grady, C. (2021). Vox. Access here

Anointing of the Sick and a Peaceful Christian Death

Death entered into the world as a result of sin but through Christ, new life and a new beginning is granted.  While fearing death is natural, the Christian can see death as a transition not a final chapter.  It is a doorway to new life and the fullest life possible.  It is not in the temporal world, where humanity’s nature is complete and unbroken, but only in the next life.  In the next life, the soul is reunified with God and through the promised General Resurrection, the guarantee of unification of again and body and soul.  Hence death is not an end but a phase of existence that is only temporary and an opening into a world so much larger.  It thus extremely important to ensure that transition to the next life is a priority.  This is the case for all world religions, but also the same for Christianity.  With Heaven or Hell for eternity in the balance, ensuring a proper and good death with God is essential and vital.

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament in Catholic and Orthodox faiths and a sacred ritual in other Christian denominations for the spiritual renewal of the dying person


Christianity has since its conception emphasized the importance of preparing for death.  The Anointing of the Sick has its origins in Scripture. The Apostle James comments, “is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).

Different Christian traditions all believe in the value of anointing in the sick and terminally ill, but others classify it differently.  In Catholicism and Orthodoxy it is a sacrament.  The Anglican Church considers it to have sacramental character and in most Lutheran and other Protestant denominations, see it as a critical ritual of the faith.   As a sacrament, The Anointing of the Sick, and in the past, Extreme Unction, is an outward sign used to manifest and give grace to the soul.  As a sacrament, it gives grace through the source of Christ’s death on the cross that flows through the Holy Spirit to the soul.   It can be received multiple times depending on the grave danger of the person’s condition.   Hence, it can be received in multiple terminal or possible death situations, whether in the hospital or home.  In the Orthodox, it can also be utilized in communal services.  In the West, under extraordinary circumstances, such as before war, soldiers and certain qualifying groups may receive it.

The matter, or visible sign, is the blessed holy oil.  This oil in the West is blessed by diocesan bishop on Holy Thursday.  In the East, this oil can be received throughout the year at the end of Liturgy on certain feast days but in itself is not the sacrament but used for overall physical and spiritual healing and continued good health.  The form of the sacrament constitutes the various prayers and words offered by the priest or minister during the administration of the sacrament.

Holy Oil is used to anoint the sick. It is the visible sign of healing and presence of the grace of God preparing the soul for the next life


Last Rites is sometimes confused with Anointing of the Sick.  It is important to note in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, Last Rites entails three sacraments.  Anointing, confession and reception of the Eucharist.

The effects of the sacrament and ritual has multiple sacramental and grace infused benefits to the soul.  It forgives sin but also prepares the soul to peacefully accept death and prepare it for reunion with God.  Physically it can heal but healing and miracles are alone determined by the will of God.  There are miraculous cases but these are extraordinary examples and not the norm.  Death is natural and the healing is more so focused on the spiritual than physical.  Although from a physical and psychological standpoint, the ritual can bring mental peace and a presence of God within the mind of the person.  It is comforting to know that Christ is present with one in one’s suffering and death.

Throughout the study of suffering and Christian grief, the Christian does not seek to escape death, deny it, or even escape suffering, but is called to carry one’s cross and unify it with Christ as one’s High Priest.  Christ is the ultimate example of the Suffering Servant and His example of accepting death and suffering should inspire other Christians to do the same.  While always praying for a cure or miracle, the Christian should also be accepting of God’s will.  One should primarily seek spiritual healing and God’s presence in one’s final moments.

During the reception of Anointing, one may be unconscious or awake, but it is critical to voice the need prior of the desire to receive it.  Family or nurses should be made aware of one’s desire to see a minister or priest.  This can be laid out in healthcare directives and becomes critically important if one becomes unconscious and unable to ask for spiritual aid in person.  Also, it is important prior to risky surgery or potential unconsciousness due to drug induced states to request Anointing of the Sick.  Most in everyday procedures that are not risky may simply say a short prayer of contrition and adoration before simple anesthesia but with far more risky procedure one should never leave one’s soul open to possible spiritual risk and danger.

Through Anointing of the sick, Christ comes to us in our dying moments. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program


In conclusion, spiritual preparation before death is critical.  If it happens like a thief in the night, one may receive the sacrament post mortem but one should always pray both morning and night proclaiming love of God and sorrow for sins.  One of the most beautiful things one can pray for is a peaceful death where one is able to receive the sacred mysteries in advance.  This is a blessing that many sometimes never think of due to the fear of thinking about death itself.  However, a peaceful Christian death with grace and the image of God is the greatest gift that may be given in this world.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as its Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“WHAT IS ANOINTING OF THE SICK? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?”. Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis. (2006). Access here

“The Anointing of the Sick – Catechism of the Catholic Church”. Catechism of the Catholic Church. CNA. Access here

“Is Anointing Oil Biblical and Should We Use It Today?”. Riggleman, H. (2021). Crosswalk. Access here

“40 Bible Verses about Anointing With Oil”. Knowing Jesus.  Access here


The Stations of the Cross as a Christian Meditation for All Christians

Christianity focuses on the death of Christ as a focal point to redemption.   Christ is sacrificed for the sins of the world.  The ugliness of sin is witnessed in this death.  The Stations of the Cross capture the ugliness of sin in the horrendous suffering of Christ.   The Stations are widely seen as a Catholic tradition but in reality are a cherished meditation for all of Christianity if all Christians take the time to walk with Christ and this journey.

Walk the stations with Christ and meditate on His sacrifice. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification


It originated in the early centuries in the Holy Land and was brought West by St Francis of Assisi.  Some of the stations have direct biblical reference while others are implied from Scripture.  During Lent, consider walking the journey to Calvary with Christ through this powerful prayer and meditation. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.



Please review the video below

Grief Counseling, Happiness and Nonfinite Grief

Human happiness is very subjective and objective.  It is objective in that ultimately, human happiness exists in a state of complete love that can never be taken away.  In this ideal state of happiness, love is ever present and all desires and gains can never be stolen or taken.  Of course, this type of happiness is in impossible in a fallen world.  It is impossible to find love without the haunting thought of loss.  Everything gained, can be taken back.

With this type of fear, objective true happiness can never exist in this fallen world but only parts of it here and there in the present.   Yet, in this search, others turn to even less tenable forms of happiness that pend upon materialism,  fame and success.  These aspects are even more fragile than the objective search of love.   Love, at least true love, exceeds human limits, albeit it can be taken in the temporal world, but material and social sources of happiness are even on more insecure ground.   In themselves, they are not worthy of an end but only means to an end.

Hence, human beings look for happiness in many wrong places and find usually only fleeting moments in happiness, especially if “means” are designed as “ends”.  Human beings will always face tragedy and loss but it is important to understand happiness cannot be found in this world in its complete sense.  So it is extra crucial to place our values and love in only the most important people and ideals. Loss of anything, even the most valued, produces grief, but when value is over placed in only objects, then one opens oneself to greater grief over small things.  This is why it is crucial to understand the importance of attachment to only the most valued ideals or people.  Some would contend this is placing ultimate happiness in God or a form of life philosophy.

Due to human beings seeking happiness in every venue, people experience loss and grief in immaterial and material things.  When these attachment, whether worthy of love or not, are taken from the individual, a sense of dread and grief is experienced.  This type of dread and loss in the search of happiness can also manifest in things that are not tangible or connected to person, but can be losses associated with something that is not even in one’s possession.   Ideas that surround the ideal of happiness in life can also haunt and cause discord and grief in a person.  Unfulfilled dreams,  lack of opportunities, poor life choices, and non touchable ideals that would grant happiness are not found.

Sometimes grief is not tangible but is nonfinite. It lurks in thoughts of a different or better life.


The person hence possesses an nonfinite grief.  A gnawing grief that chews upon the person’s existential quest of perfection and happiness.

The article, “Grieving the Life You Expected: Nonfinite Grief and Loss” by Litsa from “What’s Your Grief” explores the many facets of nonfinite grief.  The article explores various schemas of how one wishes a particular life may have turned out and how this can cause discord and sadness in life.  The article continues to look at how one can face infinite grief in life and attempt to find happiness in the life that exists.  The article states, ”

“Nonfinite grief is the grief we feel when we lose these non-tangible things, watching our imagined future dissolve. In Nonfinite Loss and Grief, Bruce and Shultz define the grief that exists when life falls short of our expectations. They say that nonfinite losses are losses “contingent development; the passage of time; and on a lack of synchrony with hopes, wishes, ideals, and expectations”.

“Grieving the Life You Expected: Nonfinite Grief and Loss”. Litsa. October 16th, 2022. What’s Your Grief

To read the entire article, please click here


From what we understand then about nonfinite grief, it is not tangible in itself, but is something that exists within the deepest parts of our souls.  It is a discontentment with how life or our trajectory of life has unfolded.  Some may be unware of it, but it is an overall unhappiness sometimes with existence itself.  Wishes, dreams, or what should have been start to play a central role in the life of the person.  This can be a life of the road not taken but also of the road that one wishes would have been available.  Individuals who have heavy crosses to bear, or wish to live a regular life due to an illness or a loved one with a disease. In some ways for those, this becomes similar to secondary losses of opportunity.

Learning to handle this general displeasure with life can be more for others.   Some individuals may carry a different life view.  It is not necessarily based upon how much money someone has or how many cars one owns.  While for some, these material gains may be a measuring stick, for many, we see unhappy wealthy people and very happy poorer people.   Hence it is based upon one’s own convictions and beliefs in what life means and should be.  It is about the ability to cope and adjust.  It is about possessing a world view philosophy or spirituality that guides one through the turbulent waters of life.  Many individuals do not possess an anchor that holds them still in the sea of life and they fall victim to many false faces of happiness.  They find regret and sadness in things and unfulfilled expectations.

Does this mean we should dismiss such general sadness?  While it is important to find a life view that guides a person, it is equally important to help those who do not possess an anchor in life.  Those with anchors can suffer enough, but those without, can find themselves in far more restless situations of unhappiness.

First, it is important never to dismiss any type of negative emotion.  Why someone is unhappy needs to be addressed and validated.  “Whats Your Grief” discusses that many schemas in life do not turn out how one wanted one’s life to turn out.  For example, someone who always envisioned a family and children, who never married or had children can live an empty life.  Others who envision a successful career but are struggling due to the market may also find displeasure with life.  So, the life or road not travelled can become a painful reminder about the current life itself.

It is OK to mourn the life you do not have.  It is OK to look and see what is currently wrong in the existing life.  This is important for a variety of reasons.  First, it is critical to acknowledge feelings so they do not gnaw at oneself from the inside.  Second, reflection leads to real change and adaptation.  While not everything can be changed in life, there are many things that can be improved or altered in a life style to maybe align oneself more closer to the desired end.

However, in acknowledging these feelings and looking for change, one must also realistically separate fact from fiction.  Certain things may not be able to be changed, or improved.  To be at peace with reality and adjust to the reality is key in finding happiness.  Somethings were not meant to be and when acceptance of that finally occurs, there can a be a peace.  This peace can also lead to alternate opportunities.   Furthermore, one does not need to completely despise the existence one possesses in contrast to one’s desired path.  There are good and bad in both viewed existences.

Again, a strong life view, spirituality or philosophy can help anchor an individual with these nonfinite losses and ghosts, but one needs first to understand what matters most in this fallen world.  If one chases objects and worldly things, then grief and loss and discontentment will be a constant in life.   We grieve too much over what matters and what life has given to worry over alternate losses.   This again does not mean to denounce or not try to find change if possible.  It does not mean that these feelings do not need validated either, but it does mean, we can reshape our ideas of hope and our own personal identity to fit the existence we have.  We can change what we can but we can also shape the existence we have into something better.


Nonfinite grief is real.  It is the road not traveled.  It is the life not fulfilled.  It is the career never started or the child never had.  It is a life long sadness.  Sometimes it is placed in more valuable pursuits, while other times it is placed upon trivial worldly things.  Regardless, it needs to be validated, understood and utilized to either help with current contentment or adjustment to something better.

Grief Counselors can help the sad of heart validate their feelings regarding “what if” or “how it should have been”, but grief counselors also need to help individuals reshape their identity and hope to the existing situation.  These acknowledgements can help a person fix certain things or at least adjust to the existence that is given and find the good in it.  Again, grief counselors can also help guide individuals to things more worthy of attention and within one’s own control.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.

Additional Sources

“What Is Happiness?”. Psychology Today Staff. Psychology Today.  Access here

“Intangible grief”. Heather McEwen.  August 25th, 2014. By Heart and Hand.  Access here

“What’s Intangible Loss? Definition + How to Cope”. Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, JD, CT.  May 2nd, 2022. Cake. Access here

“What Is Happiness and Why Is It Important? (+ Definition)”. Courtney Akerman. February 16th, 2019. Positive Psychology.  Access here


The Stations as a Source of Counseling for the Bereaved

Stations, Grief and Counseling

Many individuals suffer in life unfairly.  None more than Jesus Christ.  His passion and death serve as an example to Christians how to properly offer suffering to God and carry one’s own cross.  The Way of the Cross is not an easy choice in life.  It involves accepting the will of God and having utter faith in His ultimate plan.  As in the life of His own Son, the journey of the cross may not be a pleasant on earth.  Christians can meditate on the Stations of the Cross to better learn about suffering and the value of it.  It can be a tool to help others appreciate Christ’s suffering and sacrifice and also allow one to see Christ as a model of suffering to follow.   Christ tells all, to pick up one’s cross and to follow Him.  This may not be the news we wanted but it the is the news we need.

Christian Counselors, pastors, ministers, and priests all face suffering everyday when they speak to many who experience the worst in life, but by pointing to the cross, one can find an example of how to properly carry one’s cross in obedience even to death.  Christ as our suffering servant serves as an ultimate example but also shows us the love of God Himself to die on a cross for our sins.  This is why it is important to learn the Way of the Cross and to implement it into our spiritual life especially during Lent.

Many who walk the way of the cross, recount many parts of the four Gospels, while other parts stem from tradition or mere common sense.  From tradition, meditation and other accounts, many incidents that occurred during Christ’s trek to Calvary can be meditated and prayed upon.  It is essential in meditation to think back and suffer with Christ in thanksgiving and sorrow for His infinite gift of life.  One can learn so much by this meditation on the stations and become so much closer to Christ in the process.

History of the Stations

So what are the Stations of the Cross?  The Stations as a custom fall back to the 4th Century, when Christians could again in public walk the path of Christ in Jerusalem.  Upon the meditations, 14 points of emphasis emerged that highlighted Christ’s passion.  Again, some of these points of emphasis stemmed from Scripture, while others tradition.   Examples include the Christ’s multiple fallings and the pain of the women and Veronica.   These would be obvious occurrences and were related through other sources or as understood.  For instance, through the many meditations, devotion to the wounds of Christ on His Shoulder from the weight of the cross, or the bleeding of His knees from His many falls grew within the faithful.

The Stations hence were an early Christian devotion that emerged from the East and still to this day for pilgrims is a spiritual exercise.  It became a more consistent tradition in the West, when St Francis of Assisi brought the tradition back to his monastery from his trip to the Holy Land.  Through St Francis, the journey of Christ’s crucifixion became a more consistent tradition in the West communally and also individually.   To this day, the tradition is practiced in Western Churches during Lent with personal devotion any time of the year.

The Stations themselves consist of 14 stations.  Through the years different prayers have been compiled to accompany the faithful through the meditation of Christ’s sorrow or as it is also called the Way of Sorrow or Via Dolorosa.  The priest, deacon or chosen prayer leader walks to each station usually accompanied by a cross bearer.  Usually each station is accompanied with an opening repetitive prayer such as ” We adore you Christ and we bless you-because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world”  Within each station is a meditation and then a series of prayers with the congregation kneeling at certain points facing the particular station within the Church.   There have emerged different traditions with different focal points.  Some are the more traditional prayers while other ones focus on the thoughts of Mary during her Son’s horrible torture.

The stations teach Christians how to face suffering through imitation of Christ through His suffering and death on the cross


The Stations

We will now list the 14 Stations.

The First station is Christ before Pilot.

The Second station portrays Christ accepting His cross

The Third station recounts Christ’s first fall

The Fourth station accounts for Christ’s meeting with His Mother during His long trek to Calvary

The Fifth station refers to Simon helping Christ carry His cross

The Sixth station mentions the wiping of Christ’s face by Veronica

The Seventh station recounts Christ’s Second Fall

The Eighth station remembers the grief of the holy women

The Ninth station recounts Christ’s third fall

The Tenth station is the stripping of Christ garments

The Eleventh station reminds us of Christ’s horrible torment of being nailed to the cross

The Twelfth station is Christ’s crucifixion on the cross

The Thirteenth station is the removal of Christ from the cross

The Fourteenth station is the sealing of the tomb


As one can see, the stations carry deep and meditative thoughts regarding Christ’s death.  Much of it stems from Scripture.  In this way, both Catholics and Protestants can find common ground in their Christian faith in celebrating and meditating upon these divine mysteries.  They feed the soul through scripture itself and also remind the soul of the great price Christ paid on the cross.  This is also why the stations are so beautiful as an aide to the suffering.

The stations show Christ as the ultimate example of accepting difficulty and hardship and showing obedience to God’s will.  They show the love of many towards Christ during His death and also show the pain of Mary, a mother, over the cruel death of her Son.  The lessons from the Stations and application to them to difficulty in life are without equal.

The stations bring us to the Holy Land, they take us to the heart of Mary, and help us appreciate the beauty and love of God through His death on the cross.  The stations allow us the honor to walk with Christ and to accompany Him and offer Him worship.  It teaches us the humility of Christ, the obedience of Christ, and the love of Christ.  It shows us the power of suffering in a fallen world and how Christ could turn death into life.

From a practical stand point, it helps us face our own crosses and Calvary and shows us to turn to Christ for help in offering our own cross in this life.

How many can learn from Christ through the Stations?

Wrongly accused?

Carrying unfair burden

Losing a son

Accepting one’s cross

Forgiving one’s enemies

Dying for a friend

Displaying humility and dignity in evil situations

In counseling, the bereaved and persecuted can find solace in the Stations while they mediate upon the sorrows of Christ.  Christ as the ultimate example, not only died for our sins, but also taught us through His behavior during His passion how to face evil in this world.

We learn through the Stations, the obedience, humility and love Christ possessed in His heart.



It is very recommended that all Christians participate in the celebration of the stations both communally and individually.  It is an act of adoration and thanksgiving to Christ but also a beautiful way to learn and understand the true meaning of Christian suffering.

Whether Catholic, Protestant or non -denominational, the worship of Christ through the meditation upon the Stations is a universal Christian tradition for all to share as Christians in one Baptism.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.  Those who have already earned the basic Grief Counseling Certification and work in ministry are excellent candidates to earn this secondary certification in Grief Counseling.  The certification captures the unique perspective Christianity has on grief and how Christian Counselors, spiritual advisors, pastors, ministers and priests can better help Christians spiritually grieve in this fallen world.

Additional Resources

“History of the Stations of the Cross”. The Passionists. 2020. Access here

“Stations of the Cross”. Francis of Assisi. My Catholic Life! A journey of personal conversion!. Access here

“Praying Stations of the Cross, a Primer for Protestants”. Selah Center.  April 9th, 2022. Access here

“Four Reasons to Pray the Stations of the Cross Daily”. Philip Kosloski. Access here