Grief Counseling: Assessment and Perception Problems for Grievers and Grief Helpers

Whether operating as a pastoral counselor, licensed counselor or a close friend and confidant in the grief process for a bereaved person, certain biases and perceptions from both the griever and grief helper can hamper the healing process or cloud assessment entirely.  In past blogs, we have talked about grief myths, grief bullies and both the griever and the grief helper’s own biases.  In this blog, we will put all together as one core unit in how these issues can culminate in preventing healing and also hamper one’s ability to help the grieving.

Helping others through grief is naturally composed of both healthy and unhealthy perceptions, biases and sometimes myths about loss itself.


Grief Myths

Grief myths exist in society and can attach to a particular griever, grief helper, or grief bully.  They prevent true healing because they mislead about the true nature of normal grieving itself.  They help form bias within the individuals toward a particular grieving process.  In Junietta McCall’s text, “Bereavement Counseling: Pastoral Care for Complicated Grieving” there are various problematic implications that occur due to bad perceptions.  Among them, McCall lists the denial of the necessity of grief work, the fact grief should always be simple, that any type of extended grief is due to immaturity or pathology, that grieving is feeling sorry for oneself or seeking attention and finally that grieving and any outward manifestation displays weakness in character or lack of faith (2012. p. 182-184).  When individuals believe grieving is not normal, or that is an attention seeking process, then these myths become problems that infect the person’s bias in both helper and griever.

Personal Bias

Grief bullies are particular guilty of personal bias.  They set timelines for grief and assert rules for expression of grief.  Most are harboring their own interior issues and cannot grieve properly themselves.  These individuals will assert that individuals are seeking attention, or weak in character.  Some may grow with a bias that “real men do not cry” or that it is simply time to “get over it”,  Others who are less bullies but more observers may dismiss other’s grief due to their own bias and simply state “the person never talks about it, so I leave it be” or “I avoid this person because it will turn into a sad and uncomfortable conversation every time” or “I would rather say nothing instead of bringing up the pain” or “She needs to simply have more faith” (McCall, 2012, p. 179-182).

From this comes a series of problems grievers face in their own perception of their loss.  They may question the amount or lack emotion displayed.  They may question if they have grieved or felt bad long enough or not enough.  Common exclamations such as “I should be over this by now” or “It is time to move on” or “I feel obligated to cry more” are all nagging pains within the person as the person encounters the grieving process over time.  Some may feel a religious obligation to feel happy that the person is in a better place and any crying is selfish or may question other emotions of anger or guilt. Others may feel ashamed they are angry with God or have not shown enough faith that the person is in a better place.

Others may feel conflicted based upon relationships with deceased or the nature of the loss itself.  They may feel guilty for not maybe noticing an illness soon enough, or not paying enough attention to someone who passed away and feel it is partly their own fault. The person may feel guilt for not visiting enough or appreciating the person enough.  This perception as well other perceptions can create future issues in the grief trajectory and how a person heals.  The only way these issues and emotions can be properly diagnosed is through talking and identifying them.

The Pastoral Counselor, Licensed Counselor or Grief Helpers Bias

Many times, even those who work as primary help of the bereaved enter into conversations with their own bias. While grief and loss are objective realities, everyone has  particular unique and subjective experience in their reactions to grief.  This incorporates a history of grieving that has good and bad things.  Some things may also be neutral and worked for oneself while one grieved but may not work for others.  This is not to say sharing experience and coping ideas are bad but it has to be done when invited.  Comparing grief and offering solutions that may have worked for one’s personal self may not work for others.  One should not be upset if one’s particular advice does not lead one to healing but understand that a grief helper is there to listen and sojourn with the bereaved and the griever’s own particular loss in the griever’s own particular way.  Biases of past experience hence can be helpful or detrimental based on a case by case basis.

Yet, biases inherently are part of the care and healing process and when used correctly can supply large doses of wisdom and knowledge to healing. The care process, according to McCall, involves both the griever’s bias and the helper’s bias.  This leads to two sets of perceptions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs (2012, p. 175).   In healthy outcomes, this feedback loop meets the needs of the given grieving situation and promotes healthy healing.

Grief helpers can play key roles in helping identify issues that relate to griever’s bias, beliefs or perceptions due to grief myths or personal complications within the grieving process.  McCall lists numerous ways pastors, counselors or friends can help the bereaved through difficult times.  McCall lists the critical importance of making careful observations, building healthy relationships, furthering necessary treatment and promoting professional and healthy behaviors (2012, p. 186).

Careful observations push the intuitive abilities of a helper to notate issues that may be arising during the grieving process.  This involves not only note taking but also looking for non verbal clues as well as understanding the person’s past history to better identify issues that may be affecting the current grief process.    Three key consultation questions arise.  First, what is the counselor paying attention to and what could he/she be missing or taking for granted? Second, is something unsettling oneself or making oneself uncomfortable about a particular griever and what is it about? And finally, is the counselor helping the person or getting in the way? (McCall, 2012, p,. 196).

Beyond observations emerges the importance of building a healthy and professional relationship with the bereaved.  One that is helpful and not leading to co-dependence but one that is promoting a healing process where the bereaved will be able to again move forward in life.  This involves identifying with the person and forming an understanding of their pain.  It involves empathy, listening, communication and helping the person form connections from past, present and future (McCall, 2012, p. 189-192).

The third key according to McCall is integrating treatment based upon perceptions.  These treatments are unique for each individual griever and may depend on the griever and the nature of the loss.  Treatments can range based on the person but it involves good note taking and documentation of challenges and issues that appear during the grief trajectory.  These notes and documents help the grief counselor make better assessments and plans of action.  Maybe a particular griever needs a particular therapy best performed by a specialist in it, or maybe the griever needs to be seen by a licensed counselor instead of merely a pastoral counselor.  Maybe CBT is a better resource than a Humanistic approach, or psychodynamic approach?  Maybe this individual would benefit from journaling, or instead of journaling, other forms of artistic expression?

Finally, a review of oneself is critical.  It illustrates how one is reacting to the griever and how effective one is being in terms of helping the individual in his/her progress in grieving.  In analyzing oneself, one is better able to see how one has been successful and not with this particular griever and what things may need adjusted or even if one needs to step back and allow another with more experience or expertise to resume the role in the care plan.


The grief process is about human beings.  The griever and helper are on a mutual journey upon the grief trajectory.  Perceptions, bias and process are all part of it.  Some individuals have unhealthy bias and myths about grief and their perceptions are detrimental while others have healthy perceptions which aid in healing.  The dyad process of two individuals and their past, perceptions and ideas all constitute part of the care model and ultimate healthy grieving outcomes.

The care model of helping others through grief is between the bereaved and helper. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification


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.


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

Additional Resources

“6 Myths About Grief”. PsychCentral.  Access here

Williams, L. (2015). “64 Myths About Grief That Just Need To STOP”. What’s Your Grief.  Access here

Feldman, D. (2019). “Five Myths About Grief You May Believe”. Access here

Haley, E. (2017). ” “I should have known…”: Understanding Hindsight Bias in Grief”. What’s Your Grief. Access here



Humanistic Approach in Counseling and Grief

There are many schools of thought in treatment of individuals facing emotional and mental distress.  Psycho-analysis, behavioral and cognitive schools look at each different human lens of existence to help individuals find balance and happiness.  Psycho-analysis delves deep into the past to find answers to trauma, pain, pathology or issues plaguing a person.  In this venue, we see the seed of Sigmund Freud’s thoughts.   Behavioral strategies look how one’s behavior can be modified to alter mental and emotional issues.  Ivan Pavlov demonstrated the role of classical conditioning on the a person’s behavior.  Cognitive schools emphasized the rethinking aspect to helping others overcome mental and emotional issues. Aaron Beck in the 1960s would combine behavior and cognition as a way to help others via Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Another type of way to address human distress is Humanist Therapy.  This type of behavior which has success for many is holistic in nature and looks at the now instead of the past to find healthy balance within a person.  It is far more patient based and subjective in nature.  Due to its greater emphasis on self-happiness and subjective view of self, it focuses more on the person’s emotion in the present and its interaction with others.  It looks to restore and find balance within the person.  It finds its conclusion through authenticity with self and room for self growth in the present and relationships with others (Sherrell, Z,, 2023)

This has many implications within grief.  Grief can shatter a person’s self image and world view.  Humanistic approaches can help restore confidence and hope. It is very sensitive to the needs of the person.  While it may not alone suffice for all cases, it can definitely contribute to specific needs of the grieving person.  In this blog, we will shortly review the nature of the Humanistic Approach for grief, its strengths, its weaknesses, and how it can be incorporated.

Humanistic Approach

Humanistic Therapy is a more holistic and emotional direct therapy that focuses on emotion in the present and how to deal with those emotions in relationship to self and self worth


The idea of meeting human needs to find balance has many strengths in psychological thought.  Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs sketched a thorough outline of how when human needs are not met, pathology and dysfunction can occur.    Carl Rogers, however, established the Humanistic school of thought.  Rogers wished to treat the entirety of the human person and felt the imbalance or lack of fulfillment in life constituted the biggest problem to individuals.  He labeled the term congruence to distinguish between healthy balance in life that reflected interior perceptions with the outside world.  When balance occurred, Rogers believed human beings display healthy mental and emotional behaviors.  When incongruence emerged or imbalance between self and the world, then person’s mental and emotional health suffered (Mcleod, S., 2024).

Rogers Humanistic Approach centered upon the needs and desires of the person.  It revolved around the now and the relationships within the person’s realm.  The first key elements were regarding self image and self worth.  A person’s self image correlated with how the person viewed oneself in life, his/her existence and relationship with others and how the person fits (Mcleod. S. 2024).  Self image focuses on a person’s perceived value (Mcleod, S., 2024).   In contrast, the existence of the real self, the actual depiction of the person’s existence can cause distress and imbalance.  Identifying the real self is essential in understanding oneself in all the good and bad that exists within.  It is the starting point to reaching the ideal self.  The ideal self is what one hopes and strive to become.  When the ideal self and self image are imbalanced, congruence is not achieved and a state of incongruence exists that causes unhappiness and discontent as well as unhealthy psychological conditions (Mcleod, S., 2024).

According to Rogers, it is hence important to have a high positive regard with self worth.  Individuals with a high self worth can grow and handle stressors and difficulties, while those with a lower self worth encounter difficulties in life and have a hard time growing from negative events (Mcleod, S., 2024).   Rogers believed that a full functioning person reaches a state of actualization when congruence occurs ands is able to better live a fulfilled life.  He identified five primary characteristics to congruent individual.  He pointed out that one is open to new experiences, living existentially in the moment, trusting one’s feeling, displaying creativity  and living a fulfilled life (Mcleod, S., 2024).

The Humanist Therapist hence needs to help the person cultivate a higher self worth and find congruence.

Humanistic Techniques

In cultivating higher self and congruence, unconditional positive regard is employed that accepts the person for who he/she is and offers little criticism.  Rogers felt that conditional positive regard later put conditions on love or behavior that could negatively shape an individual’s development.  This less structured technique embraces the authenticity of the person and looks at the subjective needs of the person.  It places the Humanist Therapist into a place more of guide and equal than true authority figure in counseling.  The counselor utilizes deep empathy and rephrasing skills to help the person find congruence and balance.

One critical technique employed by the Humanist Therapist is Gestalt Therapy.  Gestalt Therapy focuses on the present and its emotions and how to better understand and grow from them (Dexter. G., 2022).  It helps one be more mindful of current situation and emotions and how emotions interact with current relationships in life.   It helps an individual better identify emotions, utilize them and communicate them with others (Dexter, G., 2022).   Some common themes found within Gestalt Therapy includes the “Empty Chair” where one pretends to speak to someone and role playing with the therapist to communicate emotion (Dexter, G. , 2022).

In addition to Gestalt Therapy, Humanist Therapists utilize a very Patient-Centered approach that acknowledges the needs of the patient and places a great importance on equality between client and counselor.  The counselor plays a key role in building the person’s self worth and avoiding judgement.  The therapy again is focused on the present and is more broad spectrum holistic instead of focusing on one particular issue.

Other techniques include Narrative Therapy which identifies values, Existential Therapy which identifies place in the world, and Logotherapy which focuses on helping individuals cope with difficulties and trials in life (Cherry, K., 2023).

Benefits and Disadvantages

When Humanistic Therapy is utilized there are benefits and disadvantages.  Obviously, helping one’s self esteem can empower someone to retake one’s life and move forward in life.  Self image and how one perceives oneself is essential to mental and emotional well being.  This holistic approach treats the entirety of the human person, helps one find empowerment, self acceptance and confidence, and grants the client an empathetic and non-judgmental guide (Sherrell, Z., 2023). However, there are limitations and possible weaknesses to the therapy.  It has the potential side effect of creating a dependency on the therapist, as well as not addressing acute issues in one’s mental health.  The lack of structure can also be counterproductive to certain personalities, as well as being very intensive emotionally and time consuming than other therapies (Sherrell, Z., 2023). It is also very subjective in nature.  The ontolology towards happiness is not a particular code but instead revolves around what one needs and wants.  This can sometimes create a disordered approach to what is right and wrong versus what makes someone happy.

Humanistic Approach in Grief

I think the approach has many benefits for grieving, albeit, I do not think it should be the only way one works with the grieving.  Obviously, different people need different strategies.  Some grieving individuals may need more cognitive and behavioral guidance with structure, while others may greatly benefit from a unstructured and holistic approach on emotion.  Some may greatly benefit from a mixture and blending of strategies.

Obviously when dealing with depression and emotion, the self image, self worth and the ideal self is key for happiness. Many depressed individuals have major self esteem issues and the techniques and practices in the Humanistic Approach can play a key benefit in helping a grieving individual find congruence and balance.  It can help the person understand the emotions, their connections with others, and how one can grow from loss and find connection again in life.


The Humanistic Approach has many advantages but its ultimate success depends on the needs of the griever and what therapy is best. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

I feel the Humanistic Approach is  best utilized in an integrative approach with cognitive and behavioral practices to better help the person not only emotionally but also grant the person ways to cognitively reframe issues.  The grave importance of self image, happiness and balance cannot be overlooked and are essential aspects of finding long term emotional and mental health.  Different individuals have different needs.  Some benefit better from a singular approach, while others from an integrated approach. Ultimately, when helping the grieving, the best therapy for the individual is the one that best meets the needs of the person.  If a licensed counselor is not comfortable or acquainted enough with one therapy, then referrals should be encouraged, but for those with comfort in a particular therapy or multiple disciplines, then one can truly begin to help others from a multi-faceted angle.  The Humanistic Approach is definitely one that all licensed counselors or those in grief theory should be familiar with.

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.



Additional Resources

Mcleod, S. (2024).  “Carl Rogers Humanistic Theory And Contribution To Psychology”SimplyPsychology. Access here

“Different approaches to psychotherapy”. APA. Access here

Sherrell, Z. (2023). “What is Humanist Therapy”. MedicalNewsToday.  Access here

Dexter, G. (2022). “What Is Gestalt Therapy?”. VeryWellHealth.  Access here

“Humanistic Therapy”. Psychology Today.  Access here

Cherry, K. (2023). “What Is Humanistic Therapy?”. VeryWellHealth. 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



Certified Grief Counselor Article on the Nature of Grief

Grief is pivotal, central and important emotion in human life.  It is forever tied to the fallen human condition and deeply connected to the emotion of love.  Grief is more than just a sentient emotion but an emotion felt in many animals as well.  Hence grief is beyond intellect but also instinctive and evolutionary.

Individuals do consciously grieve and understand the loss but grief also is a natural reaction to loss at the most simple level.   Grief as a formula is simply put love plus loss equals grief.  Love is a binding emotion.  Love ties one to another person or thing.  Through value of the possessed and habit of possessing, anything that removes that love or thing causes discomfort.  This discomfort is grief.

Grief is a healthy and natural reaction to loss. It helps one adjust to loss and adjust to the change that comes with losing something or someone we love

The grief reaction to loss varies and is correlated to the value of the loved person or thing.  If something has little value, then the loss is inconsequential.  If something or someone has great value in in one’s life, then the loss is very consequential.  Some losses can be small and insignificant while other losses can be life altering.  The greater the loss, the greater the grief.

The loss may be objective or subjective in value according to the person.  Someone who was raised by his or her grandparents will grieve the loss of a grandparent more than someone who only saw his or her grandparents once a year.   Loss can also be subjective in that is may seem odd to others.  For example, some may find it extremely odd to mourn the loss of a pet, while pet owners would disagree completely.  Again the subjective value is key in understanding the loss reaction.

While grief in many ways is abides by universal standards and reactions, one must also realize that the reactions within this wide norm differs extremely.  So while grief is universal it is still unique.

Grief as stated is not only a conscious pain but also a unconscious reaction.  The grave importance of grief is to help the person or animal adjust to the loss.  The adjustment process is a long mourning period where one learns how to cope without the person or thing.  Most non complicated grief reactions to significant loss lasts six months to a year before it becomes labeled as pathological or complicated.   This does not guarantee that grief goes away within a set time, but it does illustrate that new coping strategies are incorporated into the person’s life to better deal with the loss on a day to day basis.

Grief allows one’s mental self to heal.  It permits the body to mourn and adjust to loss.  Long ago this natural adjustment and self healing was considered a pathology in itself but psychology now teaches that grief is an important transitional ingredient in healing.  It should not be dismissed or rejected but fully accepted as a normal and healthy reaction to loss.  Seeing grief as something bad or unhealthy is a dangerous view to hold.  Grief instead is the body reacting to loss and learning to adjust to that loss in a more healthy way.   Complete adjustment is a simple lie.   This is the price of love.  Anything worth loving is never worth forgetting or missing but grieving allows our mind to heal and learn to exist differently.

Grief hence has a very important function in healing but grief is also a social sign to others.  In animals especially, signs of grief permits other members of the community to help the grieving animal to recover.  The same social signs of grief, tears, crying and emotional withdraw signify to family and friends that one needs help.   Grieving hence serves a signal to the community to help those who are sad or depressed.  It is a social subconscious distress symbol to family and friends.

Grief because of this is not something bad.  Losing something or someone is bad but the reaction to it is not bad.  If there was no reaction to loss, then one would be merely a non sentient creature merely existing from meal to meal.  Instead, the reaction to loss not only serves as a healthy reaction to loss that leads to recovery, but it is also a sentient reaction to something or someone that was very special.

It allows one to heal and alert others of distress but it forever reminds one the value of what was lost.  It never allows one to forget the beloved and the love that was shared.   This grief becomes part of who we are the moment we enter into love or deep communion with another human being.  If one did not grieve, then what value is that relationship?  Grieving is important in identifying what mattered most and not allowing what mattered most to be ever forgotten.

Grieving in its later stages, pushes individuals to healthy coping measures where acute depression is replaced with action.  Memoralizing and living a certain way in honor of the beloved becomes healthy and conducive expressions of grief.   In national losses, social action for better laws or prevention of future loss are a result of healthy coping produced through grief.   Grief hence is an important emotion in being human and living a healthy human life.

Avoiding grief can lead to complications. We need to accept grief and realize it is price of love. Please also review our Grief Counselor Program

Suffering and loss are products of an imperfect world.  Those of faith pray and hope that the next world will have no suffering and loss.  They pray that grief will only be a necessary emotion in the temporal world and not the after life.  In this, those of faith can cope even better than those of no faith.  The reality regardless of faith though is that one must escape and embrace grief while in this world if they wish to cope and live a healthy life.

Certified grief counselors can help individuals cope with grief and embrace it a healthy way.  Change is never an easy thing but through help, one can utilize grief to better adjust and adapt to loss.  The American Academy of Grief Counseling offers a comprehensive program in Grief Counseling.  Certified grief counselors learn the basics of grieving and are trained to help others.  Beyond the basic Grief Counseling certification, members and qualified professionals can also specialize in Child and Adolescent Grief Counseling, Pet Loss Grief Support, and Christian Grief Counseling.

The programs are online and independent study.  After completion of the online program, one can become certified for four years.  If you are interested in learning more about the American Academy of Grief Counseling’s certification program then please review the program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  Once certified as a Grief Counselor, you can then become able to help others face grief in a healthy and natural way.



Mark Moran, MA, GC-C

Grief Counselor Article on Disenfranchised Grief

Grief or loss has no bounds because loss can be anything.   While most loss is something dear to oneself, there can be a wide variety of losses than fall outside of standards of what some would could consider regular.  Some of these losses are referred to as disenfranchised losses because they fall out of the usual and normative categories.

Society tends to determine what constitutes loss, but grief does not work that way.

Understanding that loss is not only objective but also subjective is key.  Grief Counselors cannot label some things or losses as normal and others as not abnormal or not important.   Yes, there must be a line somewhere but if Grief Counseling only acknowledges normal losses then grief counseling ceases to serve all.

What we consider main stream loss is loss of someone dear.  We tend to as a society rank things and classify them.  Human society also ranks and classifies losses.   Obviously the loss of a parent, or child, or spouse is considered the most devastating types of losses one can endure.   We tend to rank siblings and grandparents next, with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends thereafter.  Yet this type of ranking can sometimes be wrong.  For some, a parent relationship may exist with a grandparent or aunt or uncle.  For others, a dear friend may be closer than a distant sibling.

So it is very naive to always assume a ranking of loss.  In some cases, unique relationships exist.   Unique relationships can go well beyond human bonds as well.  One of the most disenfranchised type of loss is pet loss.  Individuals assume since the loss is not a family member or human friend that the loss of a dog, cat, horse or even a hamster or rabbit is meaningless.  Again, some individuals create bonds that are very intense.  These bonds need respected.   In the case of a family pet, it can be very traumatizing and hence a serious loss.  As a society, and as certified Grief Counselors, we need to recognize this reality.

Is there a line that needs drawn?   Can a loss become to insanely abnormal?   This is hard to say.  It is true that complicated grief and abnormal reactions can occur but the grief counselor must be very careful in diagnosing what is a normal loss or a complicated grief reaction.  If someone’s plant dies, goldfish, then how far can we begin to see a disproportionate grief reaction to the value.  Again this is difficult because bonds are what determine grief.  Abnormal bonds are subjective but where is the line drawn?  From human to dog, or dog to goldfish?  This is indeed difficult.  People may form abnormal bonds and that needs addressed but one must be careful in assessing what is normal and not normal.  There definitely is a line but it is not as universal as some may think.

Pet loss is an example of Disenfranchised Grief

Beyond the hierarchy of losses which unfortunately can determine what is a “real loss” and what is not, one can find many other types of disenfranchised losses.   Disenfranchised loss views can easily dismiss many who are forgotten in the mourning cycle.   For instance, how many times if the father neglected when a miscarriage occurs?   How many times, is a step father or step mother neglected if a step child dies?  How many times are cousins, or others discounted, beyond siblings during a loss of a brother or a sister.   One cannot dismiss the grief of other people in the life of a person just because they do not fit neatly as son, daughter, brother, sister, or mother and father.   There are numerous other relationships that can be over looked,

Relationships that are not mainstream can also sometimes see disenfranchisement.   Like a boyfriend who may grieve a loss of a girlfriend but not be seen as important to the family, there are numerous same sex relationships, where other partners are neglected in the pain and grief they feel over the loss of their significant other.

In addition to this, certain types of deaths may be seen with stigma.  Stigma can also affect disenfranchisement.  Suicide is a common example.  In these cases, the family needed support, is sometimes neglected because of the delicacy of the subject.

Other types of losses, such as miscarriage, are also commonly downplayed or dismissed.  Even the pain suffered by couples who cannot conceive.

In addition, many losses are also downplayed or dismissed that fail to meet the criteria of death.  A loss of a job, relationship, or the loss of a body part can all be downplayed.  These losses are still very painful and while they may not entail the ultimate loss of death, they still nonetheless carry grief with them.  For many the loss of a fiance or the pains of a divorce are equal to death.  The end of something and the loss of that person is final.

Grief Counselors need to be aware and alert to all types of losses and not quick to dismiss to a social hierarchy of reaction.  Every loss needs to be acknowledged and understood in relationship to the griever.  Unique grieving situations can arise beyond the mainstream.  This is not to say, grief counselors should not dismiss unhealthy grief reactions or abnormal bonds, but it does say grief counselors should keep an open mind about different types of losses.  Disenfranchised grievers can be minimized by merely acknowledging loss.

In doing so, grief counselors must dismiss comparative statements and instead address the loss.  Statements that start with ” at least it was not this or that” or “it could have been worse” or “this is not that big of a deal” need to be removed from every grief counselors treatment.  Grief Counselors need to acknowledge the loss and understand how that loss affects the individual.  Whether it is the loss of a rabbit, or a teenage breakup, the loss must be understood for what it is.  Only the griever can later access the value of the loss in comparison to other things.  In some cases, they may very well consider that loss to still be a significant loss.  An elderly woman may consider the loss of her cat to be very devastating even though many others would dismiss it.

The purpose of the Grief Counselor is not dismiss any loss but to help clients understand their loss, adapt to it and evaluate it on their own terms.  Return to healthy adaptation of the client is the mission of the grief counselor, not loss judgement.

Loss judgement is the key term to remember with disenfranchised grief.  Grief counselors cannot judge loss but only acknowledge and help others deal with it.  When loss is not acknowledged, the griever suffers more intensely.

Please review our Grief Counselor Certification Program and see if it meets your professional and academic goals

Disenfranchised grief will continue to exist because society has its own standard on what loss is.  People have their own ideas and fail to show empathy.   While this is a reality, it should not be a reality in Grief Counseling.  If you would like to become a certified Grief Counselor then please review the American Academy of Grief Counseling’s program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.

Grief Counseling and Issues of Attachment

Grief and Attachment

A lot of literature about grief is overwhelmingly death orientated. This is a good thing in that death is a universal experience but it is not an everyday thing. True, the loss of a loved one permeates one’s daily life long after the event, but the actual event is singular and for the more fortunate, not nearly as regular. The reality is most people go to counseling for relationship lossGrief counselors deal with many people who are devastated by divorce, a cheating spouse, a broken engagement, or the sudden change of not having that person to call, hold, or spend time with. These aspects are very common to the human experience. With proper guidance, the wounds become scars and help one grow emotionally and sometimes spiritually.

The loneliness and the un-needed anxiety people experience in finding a mate can be stressful enough for some, but when one truly believes they found the one, only to be shocked that everything was an illusion can be a horrifying change. Changes in life style from the tiniest schedule can shake the foundation of that person’s life. Even the smallest scent or image can bring a tidal wave of emotional imagery. Unfortunately there are no short cuts in this adaptation period. As so many grief specialists emphasize, one must do their “grief work”. They must experience the change the emotional pain that accompanies it. Of course, as death, there is the acceptance stage, the emotional stage of anger and mourning, and the final adaptation to the new situation.
A good grief counselor will guide the broken person through these phases and encourage emotional release in the healing process. Only after these initial steps, can the person utilize new meaning concepts to a new reality and properly place the lost relationship in its proper perspective of his or her life story.  The question arises why does this adaptation take so long for some people? It all varies based upon the level of attachment.  Attachment theory is a theory that was used in great depth with widows or widowers in their loss of a spouse. The same can be applied to broken relationships that do not involve death, but separation. The attachment will determine the length of the adaptation to the person. So, if someone was in a relationship for many years and suddenly the relationship ceased, one should expect a greater withdrawal and more intense and lengthy adaptation period. The opposite can be said for a short two month affair where there is little attachment and hence less adaptation.
As a grief counselor, it is important not to only deal with death but also every day pains of the heart. Proper understanding of attachment can help one assess the situation and lay a ground work for eventually adaptation and assimilation of the past into the person’s present. One can never give a time frame for recovery, but with a special guidance, a grief counselor can help a person understand the phases and steps and help them take the necessary steps for a happy future with someone else.  You can learn more about grief counseling, including available grief counseling courses and online study and training programs by doing an internet search for the American Academy of Grief Counseling.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C

Grief: The Experience

Everyone experiences grief differently, but there are several stages of the grieving process that are fairly universal.  

  1. Shock and Denial.
    This phase often manifests itself in a sort of numbness, a feeling of disbelief and a sense of helplessness.
  2. Pain and Guilt.
    As the shock abates, it is often replaced with feelings of longing for the one we have lost.  It is standard at this stage to experience guilt and remorse about things we may have done or not done, said or not said, to that person. Overwhelming emotional pain is difficult to deal with, and should not be stifled.
  3. Anger.
    A common question those in grief ask is ‘Why?’ Why Him/Her? Why us? Why me? Finding the answer to this question causes frustration and anger. It is common at this stage to try to find something or someone to blame, or take your frustration out on.
  4. Melancholy.
    You may experience a period of introversion. This stage of the process may leave you feeling low, and you may find you spend a lot of time reflecting on the experiences you had with your loved one. Those close to you will often try to encourage you not to wallow in your grief. However, this is an important part of the process. It allows you to work through your feelings about the one you have lost, as well as reflect on your time together. At this point that you can start to look toward the future, and might even see some hope on the horizon. The worst is over. Often, people in this stage of the process start to think about how they might best commemorate and celebrate the life of the person they have lost.  Deciding on an online memorial can be a great way to honour your loved ones. It allows you to have a permanent reminder of them which everyone can have access to, be involved in creating and even add to.
  5. Hope for the Future.
    The sense of hopelessness and despair you felt will start to lessen. You can now begin adjusting to life without the person you have lost.
  6. Readjustment and Acceptance.
    You will eventually begin to feel that you can settle in to new routines, and maybe even start making plans for your future. Life will seem less overwhelming. If you are experiencing prolonged grief, you may want to seek out the consult of a grief counselor. They can be very helpful in assisting you through the grief process or referring you for more intense treatment if need be.