Responding Skills in Counseling

In the previous blog, we discussed listening skills and observing skills of the client.  Good listening and observation set the stage for proper responses.  In this blog, we will shortly review core concepts in turning listening into positive and productive  counselor responses that help the client through the counseling process.  Attending skills are essential in any type of counseling, especially grief counseling.  When these basic skills are absent, the client can feel neglected or misunderstood.  Good grief counselors, whether licensed clinical counselors or non-clinical counselors, are able to incorporate these skills to enhance the therapeutic nature of counseling and keep the client as an active and on going participant in his/her mental health.  Bear in mind, good responses are not necessarily saying the most profound or theory correct statement, but the particular response that is best for the particular stage of counseling and needed comment.  Sometimes the responses may be short or longer, statements or questions, informative or probing, but they all have a particular reason and are the tools of the trade in discovering issues and helping clients find better outcomes.

Identifying Emotions in Counseling

Grief Counselors need to identify emotions when preparing a response or prompt to help the client’s story proceed smoothly

In the last blog, we spoke about the vital importance of observation and how a grief counselor needs to identify verbal but as well as non-verbal cues in a client that can illustrate a particular issue or feeling.  In formulating therapeutic responses, grief counselors and other counselors need to identify the particular emotion of an attending client.  This involves identifying the words associated with the emotion, implicit and unspoken emotions, and any non-verbal cues of the emotion expressed (Ivey, 2018, p., 170).   Based from the core universal feelings across cultures, a counselor should watch for sad, mad, glad and scared (Ivey, 2018. p., 171).   These are root words for all emotions and a grief counselor can build from these words to more complex emotions.

It is crucial to employ empathetic responses.  Like the previous blog, which emphasized empathetic listening, again, the word empathy appears in counseling.  The grave importance of empathy allows the counselor to become involved in the client’s state of being in a true and understanding way that helps the counselor produce productive and positive change.  Empathetic responses help the client feel understood and not judged, or admonished.  Hence, responses to emotions need to be empathetic and caring in nature.   Egan reports three important types of empathy in responding from the work of Arthur Clark.  He first lists subjective empathy, which puts the counselor literally in the client’s life and helps the counselor understand the emotional state of the client.  Second, he lists the term objective empathy which ties to the studies of the counselor and the counselor’s own personal experience in counseling.  Tying these together is a third type of empathy referred to as interpersonal empathy, which ties together the client’s feelings and the way the counselor is able to communicate it as well as any needed information (Egan, 2019, p. 132-133).

Interpersonal empathy involves the ability to perceive the issues, the know how to state it and the assertiveness when to input it (Egan, 2019, p. 134-137).  Grief Counselors need to perceive the emotion on display, the ability to articulate it and the assertiveness to sometimes address it when uncomfortable.  It is important to report what is said back with empathetic accuracy (Egan, 2019., p. 137).  Ivey also emphasizes the importance of accuracy in naming particular emotions.  He points out that counselors should use the words to describe the emotion by the client and also attempt to articulate the emotion with name and when only seen non-verbally as close as possible to what the client is experiencing (2018, p. 171).  Egan continues that is important when naming emotions to remain sensitive when naming them, as well as to not over-emphasize or under emphasize them.  He also encourages counselors to be aware of cultural sensitivities as well when naming particular emotions (2019, p. 139-142).


Prompts in Counseling

Some clients may speak openly about issues of loss, trauma or everyday issues.  They are a flood of information.  Other clients may be more shy, untrusting, or quiet in how they detail their issues.  Obviously, building trust is key within the therapeutic relationship and plays a large role in receiving vital information during the listening phases. However, sometimes it takes various prompts, nudges, or encouragements to help a client discuss difficult issues.  The art of counseling involves keeping a steady dialogue and flow between client and counselor and this falls upon the counselor’s shoulders to ensure this productive process.  According to Egan, probes are extremely beneficial in helping clients engage more fully, especially with more reluctant clients, in identifying experiences, feelings and behaviors.  They further help clients open to other areas of discussion and engage in conversation with more clarity and specifics.  They can also help clients remain on target and on important issues (2019, p. 177).

There are a variety of ways to help a client continue the story through prompts such as paraphrasing, summarizing, or open ended questioning

Some encouragers can be as simple as “uh huh” or a simple phrase of understanding which serves as a bridge for the client to continue speaking (Ivey, 2018, p. 148).  Sometimes, as simple, as saying “I see” or “okay” or “please continue” are strong enough phrases to encourage the client to continue the story. Sometimes the counselor can merely restate the emotion in a particular tone expressed by a client which further facilitates further discussion.  These simple prods can break silence and encourage the client to continue with the story.  Others can be simple non verbal movements, as a nod of the head, a particular look or leaning forward (Egan, 2019, p.161).  Prompts, probes or nudges can also take the form in longer responses.  Counselors can make statements, requests, or ask particular types of questions to better understand the story and also to properly push it forward.

Questions in particular have high value in counseling.  They help the counselor not only understand and clarify points, but they also show the client a sincere interest on the part of the counselor and sometimes can push the client to delve deeper into an issue and find more self discovery.  Questioning, however, for the pure purpose of questioning can be counter-productive and make the client feel they are being interrogated, so questions need to be utilized sparingly and effectively (Egan, 2019, p. 163).   Ivey points out that there are types of questions that are open and closed (2018, p. 124).  Both have their purpose and time but need to be utilized properly in order for the question to be effective.   Open ended questions, as a rule, should be utilized most.  These types of questions do not end with a simple response of “yes” or “no” by the client but look to abstract more information and input from the client.  According to Ivey, most open questions begin with the words “how”, “what”, “where”, “when” or “could” (2018, p. 124). Close ended questions look for a particular concise answer and have value but usually are used when the counselor is looking for a particular answer while the counselor is primarily talking during the session.   Another great question is the “what else question”.  This question looks for any additive elements to the story or if the counselor is missing anything (Ivey, 2018, p. 125).  Remember, if the counselor does not understand something, then questions or statement looking for greater clarity are better than pretending to understand.

Another important prompt involves paraphrasing.  Paraphrasing is a useful tool utilized in responses by counselors to help keep the conversation going or to help the client hear reflectively what the client has stated.  Sometimes the mere power of hearing something back has immense value.  When a counselor paraphrases, the counselor usually states the emotion in a sentence and then concludes with a “because” phrase.  For instance, a counselor may paraphrase to a depressed client by stating, “you are depressed because you no longer feel any energy”.  This paraphrase can illicit additional information or continue the conversation, much in the same fashion as a simple nod, or phrase.  Ivey points out that paraphrasing is not repetition but also adding some of the counselor’s own words (2018,p. 148).  It is important to note that when paraphrasing, if something is worded incorrectly, the counselor should apologize and ask for deeper clarification.  Sometimes, hearing certain things back can trigger an individual, or if worded differently, and the client is not ready to hear the interpretation, the client may respond quickly, or begin to close up.  Cultural issues can sometimes play a key in this.

Finally, Summaries are a critical promoting tool in responding to a client. Summaries are more detailed paraphrases that adds more depth to the conversation.  They are usually utilized to begin an interview to help bridge the previous meeting, or to conclude a meeting, but they have other purposes as well during the session (Ivey, 2018, p. 148).  Egan points out that sometimes a more detailed summary can help during a session when the discussion is not going anywhere.  They can also be utilized to help the client see a new perspective (2019, p. 178-179).   A counselor utilizing a summary for purposes of illustrating a new perspective can state “I’d like to get the bigger picture… or “I’d like to put a few things together” (Egan, 2019, p. 179).   According to Egan, it is also important to help clients create summaries.  The counselor can ask the client to put together the major points or concerns of the issue and to articulate them Egan, 2019, p. 180).

Carl Rogers saw the importance of these ways to respond.  In this Basic Listening Sequence BLS, he saw the skills of the counselor in how he/she responds to be most crucial.  The utilization of open/closed questions, encouraging, reflecting feelings, paraphrasing and summarizing were all critical elements in the empathetic relationship and understanding the story (Ivey, 2019,p.194).

Pitfalls to Avoid When Responding

Responses while helpful can also be detrimental when not properly utilized by the counselor during a session.  A counselor needs to avoid certain responses that derail the process or make the client uncomfortable.  Not responding or asking too many questions are two extremes to avoid.  Not responding can remove merit from a statement or display disinterest to the conversation.  While sometimes silence can be powerful, not saying anything or responding is usually non productive to the counseling session (Egan, 2019.p. 155).  It is also a dis-service merely to respond for the sole purpose of it.  Counselors should avoid parroting or repeating without context  Parroting dismisses any empathetic response (Egan, 2019, P. 156)

Counselors need to avoid distracting questions when working with clients

In addition to not responding, some counselors misuse questioning.  They can either over utilize it and make the session appear as an interrogation, or ask distracting questions that inflame rather than heal.  For instance, instead of responding with empathy, some counselors can ask inflaming and distracting questions that upset the client.  Instead of focusing on the client’s feelings, the question looks at how the client may have responded. “Did you confront him” or ” Did you do anything at all” or “Are you positive you cannot resolve this” (Egan, 2019., p. 155).  These questions again distract from the story and the emotion and can cause irritation in the client as he/she focuses on a personal injustice or slight.

Cliches are another responses that should be avoided.  In grief counseling,  cliches are counter-productive.  In general counseling, they are also counter-productive.  Cliches can minimize the conversation and cheapen it.  They attempt to replace understanding and empathy with a more generic and impersonal response (Egan, 2019, p. 155).  Clients can hear cliches from the next door neighbor, they do not need to hear them from trained professionals that are their to help assist them in resolving issues.

Another pitfall is how counselors advise clients.  In the counselor-client model, most people expect advise from a counselor.  Other cultures may demand it.  However, in counseling, the counselor does not exist to advice a course of action, but presents a host of options for the client to choose. The client is in control and the counseling relationship is one of teamwork and collaboration.  When the client is told what to do, then the counseling relationship strips the client of self discovery and self healing.  The client is not looking for a family member to give un-wanted advice, but a set of options.  Instead of saying what to do, instead utilize “if I was in your situation, here are a few options that I might look into” (Egan, 2019, 156).

Interpretations based on theories and models are also tempting responses that have a time and place but usually not in responses.  A counselor may have a wealth of knowledge to share, but when interpretations and labeling of an client’s state of mind overtake empathetic responses, then the process of counseling can become derailed.  Instead of giving a moralistic interpretation based on past study, respond to the client’s feelings (Egan, 2019. p. 155).

Counselors need to be also honest in their responses to a client.  Pretending to respond with ingenuine “Uh huh” or “Ok” can lead to later issues when the counselor is expected to remember or understand something previously stated by the client.  Hence if, one loses sight, or track of a story, it is far better not to pretend to understand but to ask for clarification.  This is not only polite and professional but it also shows genuine interest and also pushes the client to better explain the issue which alone may be beneficial (Egan, 2019, p. 157).

Finally, a counselor’s response should not be sympathetic and agreeing for the sake of being so.  Empathy is far different than sympathy.  Many times sympathy can drown logic and allow one to lose focus on the facts.  An empathetic counselor while caring remains grounded.  The counselor response is not overtly sympathetic or judgmental but one that addresses emotion and the issue in a caring way.  The client is looking for help beyond a shoulder to cry on (Egan, 2019, p. 157).


A grief counselor’s response to a client is key in helping the client tell the story.  The response is tied to good observation of the client’s emotions.   Good responses are helpful in transitioning the story, moving it forward, but also in in proper feedback about the story.  Empathy is the guiding force in responding.  Grief Counselors can utilize nudges or prompts with verbal and non-verbal responses. Some verbal responses can be one word or a phrase, while some may include paraphrasing or summaries.  Good counselors utilize responses like an artist and interweave them throughout the counseling process.

Please review AIHCP’s multiple mental health certifications including Grief Counseling and Christian Counseling

Please also review AIHCP’s numerous mental health certifications that involve counseling skills.  AIHCP offers a Grief Counseling Certification, as well as a Christian Counseling Certification.  Other topics include crisis counseling, stress management and anger management.  All of the programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.








Egan, G & Reese. R. (2019). “The Skilled Helper: A Problem-Management and Opportunity-Development Approach to Helping” (11th Ed). Cengage

Ivey, A. et, al. (2019). “Intentional Interviewing and Counseling: Facilitating Client Development6 in a Multicultural Society” (9th Ed.) Cengage





Additional Resources

Bennett, T. “Empathic responding (or active listening) in counseling: A basic, yet essential response for counselors to master in their practice”. Thriveworks.  Access here

Sutton, J. (2022). “Communication Skills in Counseling & Therapy: 17 Techniques”. Positive Psychology. Access here

“ENCOURAGERS, PARAPHRASING AND SUMMARISING”. Counseling Connection.  Access here

“What Are The Benefits Of Paraphrasing In Counseling”. Processing Therapy.  Access here




The Loss of a Child and Grief Counseling

The loss of a child is an unimaginable tragedy that plunges parents into profound grief. This article explores the multifaceted journey of bereavement, offering insights into the grieving process, the role of faith, and the importance of support systems. It serves as a guide to help bereaved parents find solace, navigate their relationships, and ultimately foster resilience and hope for the future.  Many parents who lose become lost and need counseling again to find meaning to the loss and incorporate it into life.  Certified grief counselors can help with non pathological issues while licensed and certified grief counselors can help parents with more serious issues.  Regardless, child loss  (adult or young) is considered the most extreme grief loss that exists and most require deeper counseling and many years to finally accept the loss and incorporate it.  This involves many days of emotional outpouring, anger, temporary loss of faith, possible family breakups and a multitude of other secondary losses.  To help grieving parents as a certified grief counselor, then please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the stages of grief and the emotional impact helps parents to acknowledge and cope with their loss over time.
  • Faith and spirituality can be vital sources of comfort and resilience, providing a framework for understanding and enduring the pain.
  • The dynamics of marital and family relationships can shift significantly after a child’s loss, requiring open communication and mutual support.
  • Creating memorials and engaging in legacy projects can offer therapeutic benefits and help parents honor their child’s memory.
  • Professional support, such as counseling and support groups, plays a crucial role in helping bereaved parents navigate their grief journey.

Understanding the Grieving Process After Child Loss

The most horrifying loss imaginable is the loss of one’s child.

Stages of Grief in Bereaved Parents

The loss of a child is an incomprehensible tragedy that thrusts parents into a complex grieving process. This process is often characterized by a series of emotional stages that, while not linear, provide a framework for understanding the myriad of feelings that bereaved parents endure. The stages of grief, as conceptualized by Elisabeth K”ubler-Ross, include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each stage represents a different response to the loss, and parents may oscillate between stages or experience them simultaneously.

  • Denial serves as a temporary defense mechanism, often manifesting as shock or disbelief.
  • Anger may be directed towards oneself, others, or even the circumstances surrounding the loss.
  • Bargaining reflects a desire to negotiate a way out of the pain, accompanied by ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ statements.
  • Depression signifies the deep sorrow and emptiness felt in the wake of the child’s absence.
  • Acceptance, while not indicative of happiness, represents a gradual coming to terms with the new reality.

It is crucial to recognize that these stages are not prescriptive; they are descriptive of common patterns observed in grief. Each parent’s journey is unique, and the duration and intensity of each stage can vary widely. The acknowledgment of these stages can serve as a guide for parents and those supporting them, providing a language to articulate their experiences and a lens through which to view their emotional landscape.

Emotional and Psychological Impact

The emotional and psychological impact of losing a child is profound and far-reaching. Parents may experience a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These conditions can persist for years, altering the very fabric of a parent’s well-being.

The loss is all-encompassing, casting a shadow over every aspect of life, where hope seems distant and joy feels like a distant memory.

The journey through grief is marked by various stages, each with its own set of challenges. Parents often grapple with intense emotions such as:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Profound sadness
  • A sense of emptiness

These feelings can disrupt daily life, affecting relationships, work, and the ability to engage in previously enjoyed activities. The pain of loss cuts deep, leaving scars that may never fully heal, and every waking moment can be filled with a deep sense of loss, a void that cannot be filled.

The Role of Time in Healing

The journey through grief after the loss of a child is deeply personal and varies greatly among individuals. Time does not heal all wounds, but it does provide the space for healing to occur. It is a gradual process that unfolds in its own rhythm, without a prescribed timeline. The notion that healing happens gradually and cannot be forced resonates with the understanding that grief is a complex and non-linear experience.

The passage of time allows for the emergence of new coping mechanisms and the gradual acceptance of loss. It is a period of adjustment where bereaved parents learn to integrate the reality of their child’s absence into their lives.

While some parents may begin to find solace within weeks or months, others may take years to reconcile with their loss. This variability underscores the importance of patience and self-compassion during the grieving process. The table below illustrates the diversity in the duration of grief among bereaved parents:

Timeframe Percentage of Parents
< 6 months 10%
6-12 months 20%
1-2 years 30%
> 2 years 40%

These figures are not meant to set expectations but to highlight that each person’s journey is unique and should be honored as such.

The Role of Faith and Spirituality in Coping with Loss

For many, religion can give comfort but for many, anger can be directed towards religion for a very long time throughout the healing process

Seeking Comfort in Prayer

In the wake of child loss, parents often turn to prayer as a means of solace and support. Prayer serves as a spiritual sanctuary, offering a private space for the expression of grief and the search for comfort. It acts as a conduit for the complex emotions that accompany bereavement, allowing individuals to communicate their pain and seek understanding in a higher power.

Prayer can be particularly potent as it taps into the deep reservoirs of faith, providing a sense of connection and hope. For many, it is a practice that brings a measure of peace in the midst of turmoil:

  • It wraps the sorrow and despair, offering consolation.
  • It roots individuals in faith, giving strength to withstand adversity.
  • It serves as a reminder that they are not alone in their journey of grief.

The strength derived from prayer is like the sturdy trunk of a tree, providing stability amidst the stormy waves of grief.

Prayer also functions as a means of honoring the memory of the lost child, as well as a way to articulate the often inexpressible feelings of loss. The title ‘Why, Lord?’ is an appropriate invocation for grieving parents, encapsulating the profound questioning and search for meaning that follows the death of a child.

Religious Practices and Bereavement Support

Religious practices offer a framework for bereaved parents to express their sorrow and seek solace within a community of faith. These rituals and customs provide a sense of continuity and stability during a time when life seems most chaotic. For many, participating in religious ceremonies or adhering to spiritual traditions can act as a bridge between the pain of loss and the journey toward healing.

The communal aspect of religious practices is particularly significant. It allows parents to feel less isolated in their grief as they connect with others who share similar beliefs and experiences.

  • Acceptance of divine will and seeking peace through prayer are central to coping with the loss of a child.
  • Religious communities often extend care beyond immediate family, recognizing the collective nature of mourning.
  • Spiritual guidance can prepare parents for the long and unpredictable path of grief, offering resilience and hope.

The integration of faith into the grieving process can be a powerful tool for parents grappling with the loss of a child. It is not only about the personal solace found in prayer but also about the support and understanding that comes from being part of a religious community.

Spiritual Resilience and Recovery

In the aftermath of child loss, parents often seek a foundation upon which to rebuild their shattered lives. Spiritual resilience emerges as a cornerstone for many, providing a sense of continuity and hope. This resilience is not a quick fix but a gradual process, akin to the regrowth of a forest after a wildfire. It involves a deep connection with one’s faith, a steadfast belief in a higher power, and the utilization of spiritual practices to foster healing and recovery.

The journey towards spiritual resilience may include several key elements:

  • Embracing spiritual beliefs as a source of comfort and strength
  • Engaging in religious or spiritual rituals to honor the memory of the child
  • Finding solace in the community and support from faith-based groups
  • Reflecting on spiritual teachings that offer perspectives on suffering and the afterlife

While the path to spiritual resilience is deeply personal, it is also marked by common milestones. Bereaved parents often report a renewed sense of purpose and a redefined understanding of their own spirituality as they navigate their grief. It is important to recognize that this process is not linear and may ebb and flow with time.

Navigating Marital and Partnership Dynamics Post-Loss

Following a traumatic loss, family relationships can be strained

Challenges in the Marital Relationship

The loss of a child can precipitate a profound identity shift within a marital relationship, often leading to an increased focus on marital issues. Couples may find themselves navigating an ’empty nest syndrome’ prematurely, which can create feelings of uncertainty and may lead to questioning the purpose and direction of their marriage. This period of adjustment is marked by a need for mutual support and understanding as each partner grieves differently.

  • Communication becomes paramount in maintaining a healthy relationship post-loss.
  • It is essential to recognize and respect the individual grieving processes.
  • Finding common ground and shared rituals can help in coping with the loss together.

Allow us to lean on each other and to find solace in each other’s presence. Give us the wisdom to know when we need to be alone, and when we need to be together.

While prayer and spiritual practices can offer solace, they may not resonate with every couple, particularly where beliefs differ or in the case of single parents. The challenges faced are multifaceted and require a compassionate approach that acknowledges the unique dynamics of each relationship.

Communication and Emotional Support

In the wake of child loss, communication becomes a pivotal element in the support system for bereaved parents. It is through the exchange of words and emotions that couples can begin to understand and process their shared grief. Open dialogue allows for the expression of individual pain, but also for the sharing of memories and experiences that honor the lost child.

Effective communication can take many forms, from verbal exchanges to written notes or even shared silence. Each couple may find different methods suitable for their unique situation. However, the goal remains the same: to provide a safe space where feelings can be acknowledged and validated.

  • Encourage open and honest dialogue without fear of judgment.
  • Listen actively and offer empathy, not solutions.
  • Recognize and respect that each partner may grieve differently.
  • Use written communication if verbal conversation is too difficult.

In this journey of grief, it is crucial for partners to remain connected, offering each other the emotional support needed to navigate the turbulent waters of loss. By maintaining a line of communication, they can help each other find a path toward healing, even in the midst of sorrow.

Strengthening Bonds in the Wake of Tragedy

The loss of a child is an unparalleled tragedy that can either fracture or fortify the bonds between partners. In the aftermath, couples often find themselves navigating a complex emotional landscape, where the shared sorrow can become a source of deep connection or a dividing chasm. It is essential for bereaved parents to actively engage in open communication and mutual support to strengthen their relationship.

  • Open communication allows for the sharing of grief and the expression of individual needs.
  • Mutual support provides a foundation for understanding and empathy, crucial for healing.
  • Joint activities, such as creating a memorial, can serve as a therapeutic process and a means to honor the child’s memory together.

While the journey through grief is personal and unique, the concept of ‘continuing bonds’ offers a framework for understanding how relationships with the deceased can evolve and integrate into ongoing lives.

The delicate balance of maintaining individual grieving processes while supporting each other is vital. It requires patience, compassion, and often, the willingness to seek external support or counseling. By nurturing their partnership through this harrowing time, parents can find solace and strength in one another, paving a path toward collective healing.

Supporting Siblings and Family Members

It is important not to forget other siblings during the loss of a child.

Addressing the Needs of Surviving Children

In the wake of a child’s death, the emotional well-being of surviving siblings often necessitates special attention. These children may struggle with complex feelings of grief, guilt, and confusion. It is crucial for parents and caregivers to create a supportive environment that acknowledges each child’s unique experience of loss.

  • Open communication is essential, allowing siblings to express their emotions and ask questions.
  • Age-appropriate explanations about death can help demystify the experience and reduce fear.
  • Encouraging the expression of feelings through creative outlets such as drawing, writing, or music can be therapeutic.
  • Maintaining routines provides a sense of stability and normalcy amidst the upheaval.

It is important to remember that surviving siblings might need to celebrate their deceased sibling’s life in their own way. This can be a vital part of their healing process.

While parents may be consumed by their own grief, it is imperative to monitor the surviving children for signs of depression or behavioral changes. Professional guidance from a child psychologist or counselor can be beneficial in navigating this difficult journey. The family should also consider involving the children in memorial activities, which can serve as a bridge to discussing and processing their feelings.

Maintaining Family Unity

In the aftermath of a child’s death, the fabric of the family unit is often tested. Maintaining family unity becomes a paramount concern, as each member processes the loss differently. It is essential to create a supportive environment that acknowledges individual grief while fostering collective healing.

  • Encourage open communication, allowing each family member to express their feelings without judgment.
  • Establish family rituals or activities that honor the memory of the child and provide a sense of continuity.
  • Seek external support if necessary, such as counseling or support groups, to help navigate the complexities of grief as a family.

The family’s ability to remain cohesive and supportive of one another is a critical factor in the healing process. It is through this unity that the family can find the strength to face the future together.

The concept of family unity is not only about staying together but also about growing together through the adversity. It involves adapting to a new family dynamic that respects the absence of the child while continuing to cherish their memory. This delicate balance is crucial for the well-being of surviving children and the marital relationship.

Extended Family and Community Support

The loss of a child not only affects the immediate family but also resonates through the extended family and community. Extended family members often play a crucial role in providing support and maintaining a sense of normalcy during such a tumultuous time. They can offer practical help, such as taking care of daily chores or providing meals, which can be a significant relief for grieving parents.

The community’s involvement is equally important, as it can offer a wider network of support. Community members can come together to provide emotional support and assistance, creating a buffer against the isolation that often accompanies grief.

The following points highlight the importance of extended family and community in the healing process:

  • Extended family can provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, offering emotional support that is both familiar and comforting.
  • Community groups, including faith-based organizations, can organize events or services that honor the child’s memory and allow for collective mourning.
  • Neighbors and friends can help with everyday tasks, giving parents the time and space needed to grieve.
  • Local businesses and organizations may contribute resources or services, such as venues for memorials or fundraising for causes important to the family.

Prayer as a Source of Healing and Acceptance

Crafting Personal Prayers for Comfort

In the wake of a child’s loss, crafting personal prayers can be a profound source of comfort for bereaved parents. These prayers provide guidance, healing, and a sense of connection with a higher power as they navigate their grief and find the strength to carry on. Personal prayers often reflect the unique relationship between the parent and the child, encapsulating memories, hopes, and the deep sorrow of separation.

During these challenging times, prayers offer a path of healing and a source of strength. As parents pour out their feelings of grief before the throne of grace, they are reminded that they are not alone in their journey. Through prayer, many find a perfect peace that surpasses all understanding, which can be a crucial step towards acceptance and healing.

Crafting a personal prayer involves introspection and a heartfelt dialogue with the divine. It is a private moment where emotions can be expressed without reservation, and comfort can be sought in the midst of pain.

The process of creating personal prayers may include several steps:

  • Reflecting on the child’s life and the impact they had on those around them.
  • Expressing gratitude for the time spent with the child, no matter how brief.
  • Seeking solace and understanding in the face of incomprehensible loss.
  • Asking for strength to endure the pain and for wisdom in navigating the aftermath.

This intimate form of communication with the divine can bless parents with wisdom for effectively handling the challenges that arise post-loss, including financial concerns and finding opportunities to make more income. Even in the midst of uncertainty, the act of prayer can bring a sense of stability and hope.

The Therapeutic Power of Prayer

The act of prayer serves as a profound therapeutic tool for bereaved parents. It offers a sense of solace and a means to articulate the depth of their sorrow. Prayer becomes a conduit for expressing the inexpressible, transforming internal turmoil into a shared spiritual experience. This shared experience fosters a sense of community and solidarity among those who grieve.

  • Prayer provides a connection to a higher power, offering reassurance and guidance.
  • It acts as a communal symphony, where each individual’s grief is met with collective support.
  • The hope offered by Christian faith, through the narrative of resurrection, can serve as a comforting balm.

The strength derived from prayer is not just spiritual but also emotional, providing stability and resilience in the face of overwhelming grief.

The practice of prayer not only addresses the spiritual needs of grieving parents but also contributes to their emotional well-being. It is a source of comfort, akin to a warm blanket on a cold night, enveloping them in hope and consolation. As they navigate the turbulent waters of loss, prayer remains an anchor, steadying them amidst their storm of emotions.

Acceptance and Moving Forward

In the wake of a child’s death, parents may find themselves grappling with the concept of acceptance. Acceptance does not imply forgetting or diminishing the significance of the loss, but rather, it involves acknowledging the reality of the situation and learning to live with it. This process is often nonlinear and can vary greatly among individuals.

For many, the journey towards acceptance is facilitated by engaging in certain practices or rituals that honor the memory of the child. These can include:

  • Crafting personal prayers for comfort
  • Establishing memorialization practices
  • Participating in legacy projects or charitable acts

It is important to recognize that acceptance is a personal journey and may require a redefinition of one’s identity and purpose.

Moreover, the path to acceptance often involves seeking support from various sources. This may encompass joining a support group, consulting with a therapist, or finding solace in spiritual guidance. Taking care of oneself is crucial during this period, as it lays the foundation for healing and moving forward.

The Impact of Child Loss on Individual Identity and Purpose

The loss of a child can affect one’s identity as a father or mother

Reconstructing Self-Identity

The loss of a child is a profound event that can shatter the foundational aspects of a parent’s identity. Parents often define themselves through their relationship with their children, and when a child dies, this sense of self can be deeply disrupted. The process of reconstructing self-identity involves navigating through the complex layers of grief and redefining one’s role in life without the physical presence of the child.

  • Acknowledgment of the loss and its impact on one’s identity is a critical first step.
  • Exploration of personal values and beliefs that remain unchanged by the loss can provide a stable foundation for rebuilding.
  • Engagement in new activities or roles can facilitate the discovery of aspects of self that are independent of parenthood.

The journey towards reconstructing self-identity is not linear and may involve revisiting past stages of grief as new layers of understanding and acceptance are uncovered.

The process is further complicated by the societal expectations placed on bereaved parents. There is often an unspoken pressure to ‘move on’ or to return to a pre-loss state of normalcy, which can invalidate the ongoing nature of their grief. It is essential for parents to find a pace and path that honors their unique experience and allows for the gradual integration of the loss into their evolving identity.

Finding Meaning After Loss

In the aftermath of a child’s death, parents often confront an existential void that challenges their sense of self and purpose. The quest for meaning becomes a pivotal aspect of the healing journey, as it allows individuals to integrate the loss into their lives in a way that honors their child’s memory. This search for significance is not a linear process but rather a gradual unfolding that can manifest in various forms.

  • Some may find solace in spiritual beliefs, seeing their child’s life as part of a larger cosmic plan.
  • Others may channel their grief into action, engaging in advocacy or charitable work that commemorates their child’s impact.
  • Reflection on personal values and life goals can lead to a redefined sense of identity and a renewed commitment to living fully.

While the pain of loss may never fully subside, the pursuit of meaning offers a pathway to transform grief into a narrative of love and legacy. It is a testament to the enduring bond between parent and child, transcending the physical separation.

The support of a compassionate community and the guidance of professionals can be invaluable during this time. It is essential for bereaved parents to allow themselves the space to grieve and to seek help and support when needed.

The Quest for New Purpose

In the aftermath of child loss, parents often confront a profound shift in their sense of identity and life’s direction. The quest for new purpose becomes a pivotal aspect of their journey through grief. This pursuit is not about replacing the child or forgetting the loss, but rather finding a way to honor their memory and channel the love for the child into meaningful actions.

  • Reflect on personal values and passions that resonate deeply.
  • Explore activities that provide a sense of fulfillment and connection.
  • Consider engaging in charitable work or advocacy related to the child’s life or interests.

The process of discovering a new purpose can be gradual and requires patience and self-compassion. It is a path marked by introspection and the courage to embrace new possibilities while carrying the love for the lost child forward.

The journey towards a new purpose is deeply personal and can lead to a transformation in how bereaved parents perceive themselves and their place in the world.

Creating Memorials and Honoring the Child’s Memory

Memorials and remembering are painful but as time progresses, they become extremely important

Memorialization Practices

Memorialization practices serve as a vital component in the journey of bereavement, offering a tangible way for parents to honor the memory of a child who has passed away. These practices can vary widely, reflecting the unique life of the child and the family’s cultural, religious, or personal preferences.

  • Some families may choose to establish a scholarship in their child’s name, supporting others in the pursuit of education or a specific passion the child had.
  • Planting a tree or creating a garden can provide a living tribute that grows over time, symbolizing the enduring nature of love.
  • Memorial services or annual remembrance events allow families to gather and share memories, continuing the child’s legacy through storytelling and communal support.

The act of creating a memorial does not just acknowledge the loss; it also celebrates the life that was lived, no matter how brief. It is a step towards integrating the loss into the fabric of the family’s ongoing life.

While the process of memorialization can be therapeutic, it is also important to recognize that it may evoke strong emotions. Parents should be encouraged to engage in these practices at their own pace and in ways that feel most healing to them.

Continuing Bonds with the Deceased

The concept of maintaining continuing bonds with a deceased child is a therapeutic approach that acknowledges the enduring relationship between the bereaved and their loved one. This practice can manifest in various forms, from integrating memories into daily life to creating traditions that honor the child’s legacy. It is a dynamic and personalized process that evolves over time, reflecting the unique nature of the individual’s grief journey.

The idea of maintaining continuing bonds with a loved one who has died is relatively new. It was first explored in the 1996 book Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief.

While the approach is beneficial, it is not without its challenges. Bereaved parents may find it emotionally taxing to reflect on memories, and it may not resonate with those who do not believe in an afterlife. However, for many, it provides a sense of meaningful closure and celebrates the life of the child. Below is a list of potential activities that can foster these bonds:

  • Crafting a prayer focused on cherishing memories and time spent with the child.
  • Establishing a memorial space in the home or community.
  • Participating in charitable acts or legacy projects in the child’s name.
  • Incorporating the child’s memory into family events and milestones.

Legacy Projects and Charitable Acts

In the wake of a child’s passing, parents may seek to create a lasting tribute that encapsulates the essence of their child’s spirit and the impact they had on the world. Legacy projects and charitable acts serve as a means to channel grief into positive action, providing both a memorial for the child and a benefit to the community. These initiatives can take various forms, from scholarships and foundations to community service projects and fundraising events.

Legacy projects not only honor the memory of the child but also offer a tangible way for the bereaved to contribute to the greater good, finding solace in the act of helping others.

The following list outlines common types of legacy projects that parents and families might consider:

  • Establishing a scholarship fund in the child’s name to support education in a field they were passionate about.
  • Creating a foundation to raise awareness and funds for a cause that was important to the child or the family.
  • Organizing community service days to engage friends, family, and community members in acts of kindness.
  • Hosting charity events, such as walks or runs, to gather support and honor the child’s memory.

Each of these endeavors not only keeps the child’s memory alive but also creates a ripple effect of positivity that can help the bereaved find a renewed sense of purpose.

Professional Support and Therapeutic Interventions

After the loss of a child, many require grief counseling while others may require higher forms of therapy

Counseling and Psychotherapy

In the wake of child loss, counseling and psychotherapy emerge as vital resources for bereaved parents. Professional guidance can offer a structured approach to navigating the complex emotions that accompany such a profound grief. A trained counselor supports a child in coping with grief and loss by creating a safe space with creative activities for emotional expression. This therapeutic relationship fosters a sense of security, allowing parents to explore their feelings in a supportive environment.

The process of psychotherapy often involves multiple stages, each tailored to the individual’s needs and coping mechanisms. It is a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and gradual healing.

Counselors and therapists employ a variety of techniques to assist individuals in processing their loss. These may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), grief counseling, and support groups, each offering a unique avenue for healing. The choice of therapy is often influenced by the bereaved individual’s personal preferences, circumstances, and the nature of the loss.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps in identifying and changing negative thought patterns.
  • Grief counseling provides a focused space to discuss and understand the emotions tied to the loss.
  • Support groups offer a community of individuals with similar experiences, fostering a collective healing environment.

Support Groups and Peer Networks

Support groups and peer networks play a crucial role in the healing journey of bereaved parents. These groups provide a safe space where individuals can share their experiences and feelings with others who have endured similar losses. The collective empathy and understanding within these networks can significantly alleviate the sense of isolation that often accompanies the grief of losing a child.

The benefits of participating in support groups are manifold. They include the opportunity to express grief openly, to learn coping strategies from peers, and to receive emotional support. Moreover, these groups can serve as a platform for bereaved parents to honor their child’s memory through shared stories and experiences.

In the context of bereaved parents, the solidarity found in support groups and peer networks is invaluable. It provides a communal strength that bolsters the individual’s capacity to navigate their grief.

While the structure and focus of support groups may vary, the core objective remains the same: to foster a community of support that can help parents move through their grief at their own pace. It is important for individuals to find a group that resonates with their personal needs and preferences.

Integrative Therapies for Grief

Integrative therapies for grief encompass a range of holistic approaches that aim to treat the emotional, mental, and sometimes spiritual aspects of a person’s well-being. These therapies recognize the multifaceted nature of grief and offer a more communal approach to healing. They extend beyond traditional counseling and psychotherapy to include practices such as art therapy, music therapy, and mindfulness techniques.

  • Art therapy allows individuals to express their emotions through creative mediums, often revealing subconscious thoughts and feelings.
  • Music therapy can provide a soothing and cathartic experience, helping to articulate emotions that might be difficult to express verbally.
  • Mindfulness and meditation practices encourage a present-focused awareness, which can alleviate the intensity of grief.

While these therapies offer a broad scope of care, it is important to note that they are not exclusively focused on the parent’s loss. Instead, they aim to address the overall experience of grief in a more holistic manner. The pros and cons of integrative therapies can be summarized as follows:

Pros Cons
Extends the scope of care Not exclusively focused on parent’s loss
Recognizes the communal aspect of grief Acceptance may be difficult in early stages

Integrative therapies for grief are not a one-size-fits-all solution, but they can provide a valuable complement to traditional support mechanisms, offering new pathways for healing and acceptance.

In the wake of a child’s death, parents are confronted with a new reality that demands navigation through a complex array of emotions and practicalities. The loss is all-encompassing, casting a shadow over every aspect of life, including the legal and practical considerations that follow.

Parents may find themselves dealing with a multitude of tasks that can seem insurmountable in their state of grief. These tasks range from arranging funerals to handling the child’s belongings and managing financial affairs. It is a time when the support of family, friends, and professionals becomes invaluable.

The journey through the darkest corners of grief is fraught with challenges, yet it is also a path that can lead to growth and transformation.

The following list outlines some of the key steps parents may need to take:

  • Arranging a memorial service or funeral
  • Managing the child’s estate and belongings
  • Navigating insurance claims and financial obligations
  • Seeking legal advice, if necessary

Each step requires energy and focus, resources that are often in short supply for grieving parents. It is important for those around them to offer support and understanding, rather than unsolicited feedback or advice, which can lead to additional stress or anger issues.

Financial and Estate Issues

In the aftermath of a child’s death, parents are often confronted with complex financial and estate issues that require immediate attention. While the emotional toll is paramount, practical matters such as inheritance and asset distribution cannot be overlooked. When considering passing an inheritance to children, there are some essential personal financial issues to deal with first. Inheritance refers to the assets a person leaves to others after they die, and it is crucial to ensure that these matters are handled with care and in accordance with legal requirements.

  • Review and update wills and other legal documents.
  • Assess the child’s assets and debts.
  • Understand tax implications and potential benefits.
  • Seek professional financial and legal advice.

It is imperative for bereaved parents to take a step back and evaluate their financial situation, making necessary adjustments to reflect the change in their family structure. This may involve revisiting investment strategies, updating beneficiaries, and considering the future needs of surviving family members.

Navigating these issues can be overwhelming during a period of intense grief. However, addressing them promptly can prevent additional stress and complications in the future. It is advisable for parents to seek the support of financial advisors and estate planners who specialize in such matters to guide them through the process.

Advocacy and Policy Changes

In the wake of a child’s death, parents and communities may seek to channel their grief into advocacy and policy changes. These efforts can serve as a powerful means to honor the memory of the lost child and to potentially prevent future tragedies. Advocacy can extend the scope of care and recognize the communal aspect of grief, though it may not always focus exclusively on the parent’s loss.

The process of advocating for change often involves several steps:

  • Identifying areas in need of reform, such as healthcare, education, or safety regulations.
  • Building a coalition of supporters, including other bereaved parents, community leaders, and professionals.
  • Engaging with policymakers to raise awareness and propose specific legislative or regulatory changes.
  • Monitoring the implementation of new policies to ensure they are effective.

The collective voice of bereaved parents can be a catalyst for meaningful change, ensuring that their child’s legacy has a lasting impact on society.

Recent developments have seen the federal government request comments on interventions to improve the care of bereaved persons. In 2023, as a result of concerted efforts, Congress was directed to address these concerns, reflecting the growing recognition of the need for comprehensive bereavement care.

Fostering Resilience and Hope for the Future

Moving forward and finding support and talking about the loss is key

Building a Supportive Community

In the aftermath of child loss, the formation of a supportive community is paramount. Bereaved parents benefit immensely from a network that provides empathy, understanding, and practical assistance. This community can take various forms, from close family and friends to broader support groups and organizations.

  • Family and friends often form the first layer of support, offering a shoulder to lean on and help with daily tasks.
  • Support groups provide a space for parents to connect with others who have experienced similar losses, fostering a sense of belonging.
  • Organizations and charities can offer specialized resources and guidance to navigate the complexities of grief.

The presence of a supportive community acts as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards healing and resilience.

While the community’s role is to offer support, it is crucial to recognize the individuality of the grieving process. Each parent’s journey is unique, and the community should strive to respect and accommodate these differences. The collective aim is to create an environment where parents feel safe to express their grief and find solace in the compassion of those around them.

Incorporating Positive Coping Strategies

In the aftermath of child loss, bereaved families often seek various coping strategies to navigate their grief. These strategies may include creating alternative rituals, normalizing the loss, and addressing faith and hope. It is essential to highlight the perks of each approach, as they can offer a sense of control and continuity in a world turned upside down by loss.

While no single strategy fits all, a combination of personalized coping mechanisms can provide a foundation for resilience and healing.

Positive coping strategies can be categorized into personal, social, and spiritual practices. Below is a list of strategies that bereaved parents may find beneficial:

  • Engaging in meaningful activities that honor the memory of the child
  • Seeking solace in spiritual or religious practices
  • Establishing a routine to provide structure and normalcy
  • Connecting with support groups to share experiences and feelings
  • Allowing oneself time to experience and express emotions

Each strategy serves to support the bereaved in their journey towards acceptance and reconstruction of a life that acknowledges their loss.

Envisioning a Path Forward

In the aftermath of child loss, bereaved parents may struggle to envision a future that once included their child. The journey towards healing necessitates the reconstruction of a life narrative that honors the past while embracing the future. This process is deeply personal and unfolds at an individual pace, much like seeds in a garden that sprout in their own time.

The path forward is not linear, and it is marked by moments of reflection, growth, and the gradual acceptance of a new reality.

Parents may find solace and guidance in spiritual practices, such as prayer, which can provide a sense of connection with a higher power and the child they mourn. Crafting personal prayers can be a therapeutic exercise, focusing on healing the heart and cherishing the memories shared with the child. However, it is important to acknowledge that acceptance may be a challenging concept, especially in the early stages of grief.

  • Celebrating the life of the child
  • Aiming for eventual peace and acceptance
  • Respecting the uniqueness of each individual’s grieving process

Ultimately, fostering resilience and hope involves building a supportive community and incorporating positive coping strategies. As bereaved parents navigate this difficult journey, they gradually reconstruct their self-identity and find new meaning and purpose in life.

In a world that can often feel uncertain, it’s essential to cultivate resilience and nurture hope for the future. Our comprehensive programs at the American Academy of Grief Counseling are designed to empower professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to support those navigating the complexities of grief. Whether you’re seeking certification, fellowship, or continuing education, we are dedicated to your growth and achievement in healthcare practice. Take the first step towards enhancing your expertise and making a meaningful impact in the lives of others. Visit our website to explore our certification programs and join our community of compassionate professionals.


The loss of a child forever changes a parent. Please also review AIHCP’S Grief Counseling Certification and see if it matches your professional goals

The journey through the heart-wrenching grief of losing a child is one that no parent should have to endure. Yet, for those who face this dark valley, the solace found in prayer and the support of loved ones can serve as beacons of hope. This article has explored the multifaceted role of prayer in providing comfort, building spiritual resilience, and preparing parents for the grieving journey. While the pain may never fully dissipate, the act of turning to a higher power can offer a profound sense of solace and a pathway towards healing. It is important to acknowledge that the grieving process is deeply personal and varies in its expression; thus, the prayers and insights shared herein aim to offer guidance and support rather than a prescriptive solution. In the end, the love and memories of the child lost remain an indelible part of the parents’ lives, and through faith and community, they can find the strength to carry on and honor the precious life that was.

Please also remember to review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the stages of grief that bereaved parents go through?

Bereaved parents typically go through stages of grief that include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not linear and parents may experience them in different orders or revisit stages multiple times.

How can faith and spirituality aid in coping with the loss of a child?

Faith and spirituality can provide comfort, a sense of community, and a framework for understanding and processing grief. Prayer and religious practices can offer solace and a way to express pain and hope.

What challenges might couples face in their relationship after the loss of a child?

Couples may face challenges such as communication difficulties, emotional distance, and differing grief responses. It’s important for couples to seek support and find ways to connect and support each other through their grief.

How can siblings and family members be supported after a child’s death?

Supporting siblings and family members involves acknowledging their grief, providing age-appropriate explanations and support, and maintaining routines and family unity. It’s also helpful to include them in memorial activities and discussions about the deceased child.

Is there a specific prayer for parents who have lost a child?

There are many prayers that can be tailored to the needs of bereaved parents. While there isn’t a universal prayer for child loss, many find comfort in prayers that reflect their personal beliefs and emotions.

How does losing a child impact a parent’s sense of identity and purpose?

Losing a child can profoundly affect a parent’s identity and purpose, leading to questions about the future and their role in life. It’s a process that may involve redefining oneself and finding new meaning.

What are some ways to memorialize a child and honor their memory?

Memorializing a child can be done through creating a physical memorial, participating in charitable acts, or starting legacy projects. These acts can help keep the child’s memory alive and provide a sense of continuity.

What professional support and therapeutic interventions are available for grieving parents?

Grieving parents can seek professional support through counseling, psychotherapy, support groups, and integrative therapies such as art or music therapy. These interventions can provide a space to process grief and learn coping strategies.

Additional Resources

Vallie, S. (2022). “What to Know About Grieving the Death of a Child”. WebMD.  Access here

Porrey, M. (2024). “Managing Grief After Losing a Child”. VeryWellHealth. Access here

Christ, G., Et al. (2003). “APPENDIX EBEREAVEMENT EXPERIENCES AFTER THE DEATH OF A CHILD”. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Palliative and End-of-Life Care for Children and Their Families; Field MJ, Behrman RE, editors. Washington (DC).  Access here

Stephens, P. (2020). “What I Wish Other People Understood About Losing A Child”. mbgrelationships.  Access here

Doka, K. (2017). “Dealing with the Death of a Child”. Psychology Today. Access here


Disenfranchised Grief

Many individuals’ grief are ignored or put to the side.  When certain these types of losses do not meet society’s standards of loss then they can be swept under the rug leaving the bereaved with no resources.  Some losses are considered insignificant or inappropriate.  Some suffer stigma due to the type of situation surrounding the loss.  The loss is hence ignored, hidden or demeaned.

Grief Counselors need to address all loss and the uniqueness each loss poses for different individuals.  Some individuals may have their own subjective circumstances that enhance a loss that would not be as big an issue to others, while others may feel shame or ridicule for expressing their grief.  It is critical to respect all grief and loss and allow individuals to have a platform to grieve and be accepted.

Grief Counselors can help others process disenfranchised grief. Please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification


Examples of Disenfranchised Grief include pet loss, loss of a girlfriend or boyfriend, loss of a same sex partner, or the loss of someone due to a stigmatizing disease such as AIDs.  Family whose loved one dies by the one’s own hands with suicide suffer this type of grief as well.  When a loss is ignored, ridiculed, shamed or demeaned, the individual’s loss is not valued or recognized and this leads to an inability to properly express the grief and process it.

The article, “Disenfranchised Grief—Grief That Doesn’t Fit Society’s Standards and Is Not Often Acknowledged—Is Complex But Common” by Brina Patel analyzes the feelings and emotions associated with Disenfranchised Grief and why it is important to acknowledge all loss. The article states,

“Chances are you’ve experienced disenfranchised grief at some point—maybe during your last big breakup or when your childhood dog passed away. However, just because your situation doesn’t fit in with society’s mold of grief, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be validated and processed. Skipping those all-important steps can have detrimental impacts on your mental health, and you may feel isolated and unsupported.”

“Disenfranchised Grief—Grief That Doesn’t Fit Society’s Standards and Is Not Often Acknowledged—Is Complex But Common”. Brina Patel. December 3rd, 2022. Well & Good.

To read the entire article, please click here


Grief is a natural response to loss, but not all types of grief receive the same level of recognition and support. Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that is not socially recognized or acknowledged. It is often not openly expressed, and the person experiencing it may feel isolated, misunderstood, or invalidated. Disenfranchised grief can result from the loss of a person, relationship, or identity that is not widely acknowledged or socially sanctioned. Examples of disenfranchised grief include the loss of a pet, a miscarriage, the end of a non-traditional relationship, or the loss of a job.  Grief Counselors can help those suffering from these types of losses.

What is Disenfranchised Grief and How is it Different from Other Types of Grief?

Disenfranchised grief is different from other types of grief in that it is not socially recognized or acknowledged. This means that the person experiencing disenfranchised grief may not receive the same level of support or validation as someone experiencing a more socially recognized type of grief. For example, if someone loses a spouse, they may receive sympathy cards, meals, and flowers. However, if someone experiences the loss of a non-traditional relationship, they may not receive the same level of support and may even face stigma or judgment.

Disenfranchised grief can also be different in terms of the mourning process. The person experiencing disenfranchised grief may not be able to openly mourn or express their feelings, which can prolong the grieving process and make it more difficult to heal.

Common Types of Disenfranchised Grief

There are many different types of disenfranchised grief. Some common examples include:

Pet Loss

The loss of a pet can be a significant source of grief, but it is not always recognized as such. People who lose a pet may be dismissed or belittled by others who do not understand the bond between a person and their pet.


The loss of a pregnancy can be a traumatic experience, but it is often not acknowledged as such. Women who have experienced a miscarriage may feel like they are not allowed to grieve or that their loss is not as significant as other types of loss.

End of a Non-Traditional Relationship

The end of a non-traditional relationship, such as a same-sex relationship or a polyamorous relationship, can be a significant source of grief. However, people in these types of relationships may not receive the same level of support or validation as those in more traditional relationships.

Job Loss

Losing a job can be a traumatic experience, especially if the job was a significant part of a person’s identity. However, people who lose their job may not receive the same level of support or validation as those who experience other types of loss.

Signs and Symptoms of Disenfranchised Grief

Individuals suffering from disenfranchised grief feel forgotten, belittled, shamed and can intense anger


It can be difficult to identify disenfranchised grief because it is often hidden or not openly expressed. However, there are some signs and symptoms that counselors can look for. These include:

Difficulty Expressing Emotions

People experiencing disenfranchised grief may have difficulty expressing their emotions or may feel like they are not allowed to express their emotions. They may bottle up their feelings or avoid talking about their loss altogether.


People experiencing disenfranchised grief may feel isolated or alone. They may feel like no one understands what they are going through or that they are not allowed to talk about their loss.


People experiencing disenfranchised grief may feel guilty for grieving or for their loss. They may feel like they do not have the right to grieve or that their loss is not significant enough to deserve grief.


People experiencing disenfranchised grief may feel angry or resentful towards others who do not understand their grief or who dismiss their loss.

How to Support Someone Experiencing Disenfranchised Grief

Supporting someone experiencing disenfranchised grief requires empathy, validation, and understanding. As a Grief counselor, there are several techniques you can use to support someone experiencing disenfranchised grief.

Active Listening

Active listening is a technique that involves listening to the person without judgment and without interrupting. It involves reflecting back what the person is saying and validating their feelings.  Grief Counselors can play a key role in validating the feelings of others.

Listening, being empathetic, normalizing and validating one’s disenfranchised grief can help them heal and cope with these types of losses



Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of the person experiencing grief. It involves putting yourself in their shoes and imagining how you would feel in their situation.


Validation is the act of acknowledging the person’s feelings and experiences as real and important. It involves letting the person know that their grief is valid and that it is okay to feel the way they feel.


Normalizing is the act of letting the person know that their feelings and experiences are normal and that others have experienced similar types of grief. It involves educating the person about disenfranchised grief and letting them know that they are not alone.  Greif Counselors can help those suffering these types of losses realize that all loss is legitimate.

Techniques for Addressing Disenfranchised Grief in Counseling

There are numerous therapies to help individuals face disenfranchised grief and understand their particular loss


There are several techniques that counselors can use to address disenfranchised grief in counseling. Licensed Counselors can employ these therapies


Psychoeducation involves educating the person about disenfranchised grief and helping them understand that their grief is valid and normal.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors. It can be helpful for addressing feelings of guilt or anger associated with disenfranchised grief.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on being present in the moment and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can be helpful for addressing feelings of isolation and loneliness associated with disenfranchised grief.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on helping the person create a new narrative about the loss.  It can be helpful for reframing the loss and creating a new sense of meaning and purpose

Case Studies Highlighting the Impact of Disenfranchised Grief

Case studies can be helpful for understanding the impact of disenfranchised grief. Here are a few examples:


Jane experienced the loss of a pregnancy early in her first trimester. She felt like she was not allowed to grieve because the pregnancy was not far along. However, she was devastated by the loss and struggled to move on. After seeking counseling, she was able to process her grief and find closure.


Sam lost his job after working at the same company for 20 years. He felt like he had lost a significant part of his identity and struggled to find a new sense of purpose. After seeking counseling, he was able to reframe his loss and find new opportunities for growth and development.


Maria experienced the end of a same-sex relationship. She felt like she was not allowed to grieve because the relationship was not recognized by society. She struggled with feelings of isolation and loneliness. After seeking counseling, she was able to process her grief and find a new sense of community and support.

Disenfranchised Grief and Cultural Differences

It is important to recognize that disenfranchised grief can be influenced by cultural differences. Some cultures may not recognize certain types of loss or may have different mourning rituals. As counselors, it is important to be sensitive to cultural differences and to adapt our approach accordingly.

Conclusion and Next Steps for Grief Counselors Seeking to Support Clients with Disenfranchised Grief

Grief Counselors can help individuals realize their loss is unique and special no matter what society says or dictates.


Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that is often overlooked or misunderstood. As Grief counselors, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of disenfranchised grief and to provide empathy, validation, and understanding to our clients. By using techniques such as active listening, empathy, and validation, we can help our clients process their grief and find closure. There are many resources available for counselors supporting clients with disenfranchised grief, and it is important to continue to educate ourselves.

AIHCP offers a Grief Counseling Certification which can help prepare individuals to help others with disenfranchised grief.  The Grief Counseling Certification Program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.  Please review the program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.

Additional Resources

“What Is Disenfranchised Grief?”. Sanjana Gupta. April 16th, 2022. VeryWellMind. Access here

“All About Disenfranchised Grief”. Cathy Cassata. July 27th, 2021. PyschCentral. Access here

“Disen-whaaaat?? Understanding Disenfranchised Grief”. Litsa Williams. July 8th, 2013. What’s Your Grief.  Access here

“Disenfranchised Grief Might Be the Hardest Kind to Process—Here’s What It Is and Why, According to Experts”. Claire Gillespie. August 5th, 2021. Health. Access here

Men and Depression

While society teaches that males should keep sadness to themselves,  psychology teaches that like all human beings, males, as females, need to express their feelings and grieve their losses in order to heal and properly cope with grief.  Social taboo prevents this for many men and it prevents healthy grieving and can lead to complications within grief itself.  With that said, men, like women can become depressed and need the same outlets and aid that women need.

Men in general can have a more difficult time dealing with grief and loss publicly. Grief Counselors can help men better cope


The article, “8 Surprising Signs of Depression in Men” by Valeria Martinez Kaigi, PhD. takes a closer look at depression and men.   She points out that depression exhibits itself differently in men and one needs to notice the signs.  She relates that aggression and frustration and substance abuse are some of the many signs of depression in men, as well as sexual dysfunction.  She laments though that many men are reluctant to seek help unlike women.  She states also that suicide tied to depression is 4 times higher with men then women due to impulse and risk taking of men.  She remarks,

“First, depression is associated with more impulsive and risk-taking behavior and substance misuse in men, which can quickly escalate to behaviors that lead to suicide. Second, men are less likely to talk to a healthcare provider or therapist about their mental health and get the support they need, such as medications or talk therapy. Finally, the symptoms of depression in men are not often recognized by men themselves, their healthcare providers, or loved ones. Which means that many men — and the people closest to them — may not realize they need help in the first place. That’s why it’s so important to know, and share, the above signs of depression.”

“8 Surprising Signs of Depression in Men”. Valeria Martinez Kaigi, PhD. December 1st, 2022. Hartford Health Care.

To read the entire article, please click here


It can be difficult for men to recognize the symptoms of depression, let alone ask for help. With the right understanding and resources, however, it is possible to recognize the signs of depression in men and get them the help they need. In this blog article, we’ll explore the common symptoms of depression in men, how to recognize them, and where to find help.

Grief Counselors can help identify signs of depression and guide individuals to licensed therapists.

Introduction to Depression in Men

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people across the world. It’s important to recognize that even though men and women can experience similar symptoms of depression, the experience of depression can be very different between genders. Depression in men is often less recognizable than it is in women, and men are often less likely to seek help or talk about their feelings.

Depression in men can be particularly difficult to recognize because men are often expected to be strong and self-reliant. As a result, men can feel like they can’t express their emotions or seek help for their depression. This can make it difficult for men to recognize their own symptoms of depression, or for those around them to recognize them.

Common Symptoms of Depression in Men

When it comes to understanding depression in men, it is important to recognize the common symptoms of depression. These symptoms can be divided into four main categories: physical, behavioral, emotional, and mental.

Physical Symptoms of Depression in Men

Physical symptoms of depression in men can include changes in appetite, changes in weight, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and digestive problems. Men with depression may also experience a decrease in libido, or a lack of energy and motivation.

Behavioral Symptoms of Depression in Men

Behavioral symptoms of depression in men can include withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed, changes in eating patterns, increased substance use, and increased risk-taking behavior. Men with depression may also have difficulty focusing or making decisions, and they may become easily agitated or irritable.

Emotional Symptoms of Depression in Men

Emotional symptoms of depression in men can include feelings of guilt and worthlessness, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, sadness, and difficulty feeling pleasure. Men with depression may also experience changes in their mood, such as feeling anxious or tense, or feeling flat and disconnected from their emotions.

Mental Symptoms of Depression in Men

Mental symptoms of depression in men can include difficulty concentrating and making decisions, racing thoughts, negative thought patterns, and suicidal thoughts. Men with depression may also experience intrusive thoughts or images, or they may become overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks.

How to Recognize the Symptoms of Depression in Men

The best way to recognize the symptoms of depression in men is to look for changes in behavior and mood. It is important to note that not all men will experience the same symptoms of depression, and that symptoms can vary from person to person. It is also important to recognize that the symptoms of depression in men can be subtle, and that men may not express their feelings in the same way that women do.

If you are concerned that a man you know may be suffering from depression, it is important to be aware of the common symptoms of depression in men. Look for changes in their behavior, such as a decrease in energy or motivation, changes in their eating patterns, or an increase in substance use. Also, keep an eye out for changes in their mood, such as feelings of guilt or worthlessness, or feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.

How to Help a Man Who is Depressed

If you are concerned that a man you know is suffering from depression, it is important to let them know that you are there to support them. Offer to listen without judgement, and let them know that they can come to you for help. Encourage them to seek professional help, and let them know that there is nothing wrong with seeking help for their mental health.

It is also important to recognize that sometimes it is not enough to just be supportive. If you think that the man you know is at risk of harming themselves or others, it is important to seek professional help immediately.

Where to Find Help for Men with Depression

There are many resources available for men who are struggling with depression. The best place to start is to speak to a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. They will be able to assess the severity of the depression and recommend the best course of action. A certified Grief Counselor can also supply help in guiding someone through loss or directing one to a licensed therapist.

A certified Grief Counselor can help many men understand grief and loss and how to better cope with it


In addition to speaking to a mental health professional, there are many support groups and helplines available that can provide support and advice. These helplines are often available 24/7, and they can provide a safe space to talk and share experiences.


Depression in men is a serious issue that can be difficult to recognize. It is important to be aware of the common symptoms of depression in men and to be supportive of those who are struggling. If you are concerned that a man you know may be suffering from depression, it is important to encourage them to seek professional help and to provide them with resources and support. With the right understanding and resources, it is possible to recognize the signs of depression in men and get them the help they need.

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.  Certified Grief Counselors can help men become more aware of their feelings and how to better cope with loss and properly grieve.  Grief Counselors can also help men it is OK to grieve and that public stigma against a man who cries it not only outdated but also untrue.


Additional Resources

“Male depression: Understanding the issues”. Mayo Clinic. December 21st, 2022. Mayo Clinic. Access here

“What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Men?”. Erica Cirino.  April 7th, 2021. Healthline. Access here

“Depression in Men”. Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD. September 4th, 2022. WebMD. Access here

“Understanding the Signs of Depression in Men”. Alison Yarp, MD, MPH. December 17th, 2022. VeryWellHealth.  Access here

Grief Counselors and How They Deal with Suicide Issues

The effects of suicide on surviving members is great.  Beyond acute care, looming psychological issues can hover above the friends and family of the victim.
As Christian counselors and grief counselors, one is looking for abnormal signs of grief that goes against the normal grief reactions. These abnormal trajectories of grief can lead to later 

complications that include depression, loss of faith, survivor guilt or another potential suicide.
Family members need to acknowledge they were powerless to stop the suicide.  They need to look to God for healing and not blame themselves.  Guilt can easily seap into the conscious mind of the family member and this can lead to a variety of issues.  Some guilt can also be directed to ambivalent feelings that may have existed between the victim and the family member before the suicide.  These issues need to openly discussed and let out or they can fester inside.  Another issue is loss of meaning. After suicide, the devastation and lack of rationale and can lead a family member down a dark path.  The family member may question faith or wonder how this can possibly fit into his life narrative.  As a counselor, you want to guide the person to these answers.  This may lead to spiritual questions or meanings of life itself.  In the end, the suicide while a scar in one’s life story must be integrated into it.  Another emotion to be aware of is fear.  Some dependent family members may become quite fearful and worried about the future or who will care for them. These situations need to be resolved as well with the church and other family members.
Post suicide checkup for the family should include observation for all these issues.  Family group sessions should also be included where the family can talk among themselves and a counselor can observe interaction and danger signs for some family members who are not recovering.
The primary goal is to give the family a sense of wholeness, both physically and spiritually.  Despite the crosses and sadness that befall us in life, through God, faith and sometimes a helping hand, one can move on in this valley of tears with optimism and hope towards the final end which is with God.

Why Grief Counselors Must Understand the Function of Sadness

Grief Counselors Must Understand the Function of Sadness

Emotions are extremely important to one’s biological survival.  The interwoven nature of the soul and body interact with each other and effect each other.  The emotions of the soul are
manifested in the body via various expressions or chemical reactions.  These emotions also serve various functions. Grief Counselors should take into account these functions.

One example of an emotion is anger.  Anger helps the person react properly to a threat and prepares the body for confrontation.  It also gives the body the expressions and mannerisms needed to ward off others in hopes of a peaceful resolution.
The same holds true for sadness.  Sadness as an emotion has a biological function that helps the body relate to lost and recover from it.  It forces the mind to reflect and dwell on the lost and to adjust the new life of not having that person.  Through dwelling and mourning, one comes to the reality that a loved one is lost but also comes to the reality of how one is going to deal with that loss.  In addition to this, while sadness exposes one to exterior threats due to mourning, it does also awaken others to the fact that something is not right.  This social functioning of sadness expresses need for help and allows other within the community to offer that help.
I would contend that all emotions serve a natural and biological functioning for healing of the body and socially interaction during emotional states.  In this way, the soul is able to communicate via the body.
In conclusion, anger and sadness are all important emotions.  They are not merely reactions to loss but also biological functions that stem from the mind and prepare the body for adaptation into a new state.  Again, grief counselors need to understand this.
By Mark Moran, MA