What Does a Bereavement Counsellor Do?

What does a bereavement counsellor do

We all naturally go through the process of bereavement after the death of a loved one. Feeling bereaved is the sense of pain and loss that we feel when someone we love has passed away.

Emotions experienced range from anger to sadness, guilt and anxiety or depression. Grief affects people in different ways, and for some, it may be helpful to see a bereavement counsellor for advice and support. Working with a bereavement counsellor can help many people come to terms with a difficult loss and cope with the emotions of losing a loved one.

A career as a grief counsellor

Bereavement counsellors, sometimes known as grief counsellors, are trained to identify feelings of grief. They often have to interact with people who are struggling to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. The person they are counselling could feel scared, overwhelmed, confused and disconnected from society and life.

A bereavement counsellor can help people to plan for and adjust to their future without their loved one, while still cherishing happy memories. There are multiple stages to grief, these include:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Having a bereavement counsellor through the process can help some people navigate a very difficult time in their lives.

Being a bereavement counsellor can be emotionally challenging but rewarding work, and you can help people from all walks of life to cope with something that is inevitable for all of us – grief and death.

If you are thinking of pursuing a career in this space, you will need bereavement counsellor training before you can start to give other support and help. Read on to find out how to become a bereavement counsellor, and the training and skills you need to succeed in the role.

What is bereavement counselling?

For many people who are grieving the death of a loved one, speaking to family and friends and having a support system in place is the best way for them to cope. But some people may not have people who they can speak to at such a difficult time in their lives. This may cause them to reach out for support through a bereavement counsellor.

Everyone grieves differently and in their own time. How long it takes a person to begin to grieve and approach a bereavement counsellor will vary. Some people may feel grief very intensely, and may feel that they can’t go on or cope without their loved one, or they may be struggling with their everyday life. This is where seeing a bereavement counsellor can be a great help.

Bereavement counselling is getting professional support from a trained counsellor who is there to help people cope with feelings of loss and sadness. A person suffering from loss can speak to the counsellor about how their loved one’s death is affecting them and how they are coping.

Helping people understand grief

Using their counselling skills, the bereavement counsellor can use their skills to help people cope and better understand their own feelings, so they can make plans for the future and adapt to a life without their loved one who has passed.

It is possible to arrange bereavement counselling through a GP, who can refer you. Many hospices and hospitals also have bereavement counsellors and support services for people with loved ones who have received hospice care.

The role of a bereavement counsellor

A bereavement counsellor is there to help a person cope with the tragic loss of a loved one. They can design methods and tools to help the grieving process, so that people can process and discuss their feelings and emotions.

They may help or support someone who is finding it difficult to cope with everyday activities, feelings of guilt or depression, problems with family and existing relationships, and any problems they may be having in carrying on with their everyday lives.

Bereavement counsellors are trained in helping people to deal with trauma. They can help others to recognise and deal with their emotions, and address any feelings of guilt they may be carrying. Having a bereavement counsellor helps many people who may not have a support network in place, and who need to come to terms with a new reality since the passing of their loved one.

If support isn’t given to someone with grief, this can lead to ‘complicated grief’, which is a much more severe, long-lasting and unhealthy grief that can take years to remedy.

Types of grief support

As well as offering 1-2-1 support through counselling sessions, bereavement counsellors can also put people in touch with support groups, where they can learn about coping mechanisms and bond with other people who are in the same position. Working through grief takes time, and a bereavement counsellor’s role is to be there to offer support and an active listening ear throughout the grief process.

Training to become a bereavement counsellor

To become a bereavement counsellor, you will need to take a course and get qualified before you can work with people. With Oxford Learning College, you can take some of the following courses:

The Bereavement Counselling Short Course focuses on psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural and person-centred perspectives towards grief and loss. Students on the course will also develop advanced counselling skills, so they can support people from all walks of life and even the most demanding of client needs.

The course also covers the origins of particular emotions, and how these emotions are linked to physiological factors. There are 10 units of study in total, covering everything from counselling approaches to different cultural perspectives and grief. You’ll need good GCSE grades or equivalent in English, with good writing skills. The course can be used for entry to a Level 4 Diploma or higher.

The Accredited Level 3 Bereavement Counselling Diploma and Quality Licence Scheme Level 3 Bereavement Counselling Diploma are courses that go into more depth. They take a year to complete, and if you already have some knowledge or experience in counselling or introductory qualifications, these options are great ways to build and develop your skills.

The course focuses on understanding how human beings experience grief, how a skilled counsellor can provide support, coping strategies for anxiety, grief and blame, and how bereavement counsellors can help support well-being and life beyond loss.

What qualifications do I need to become a bereavement counsellor?

To be accepted onto a course to become a bereavement counsellor, you’ll need good GCSE or equivalent qualifications, with demonstrably strong English oral, reading and writing skills. After you’ve passed your course, you can go on to higher education or another diploma, or look to find work. The qualifications you need to become a counsellor can depend on the type of specialism you want to focus on within counselling.

If you work as a bereavement counsellor, your soft skills and characteristics will be just as important as your qualifications. Working continually with people who are grieving can be difficult, and it can be an emotionally draining role at times.

You’ll need to focus on your own well-being too, and be able to separate your own life from the sadness you may feel when speaking to clients. You’ll also need to be good at resolving any of your own mental health issues or problems with grief so that you are able to help other people.

If you have a passion for helping others, and you’re interested in the human mind and psychology/behaviour, training to become a bereavement counsellor could be a good career move.

Key qualities of a grief counsellor

When you train as a bereavement counsellor, you’ll be dealing with some very sad situations and people who are very upset, depressed or struggling to cope. You’ll need to be empathetic and understanding in order to succeed as a professional counsellor. Your training as a grief counsellor will provide you with information on and techniques for dealing with a variety of emotions and mental health conditions.

With more emphasis being placed on understanding mental health, this is becoming a vital aspect of the role. Bereavement counsellors are trained on how to give people coping mechanisms to help with grief and their mental health. They actively listen to their clients and offer support without judgement, validating their feelings and emotions and being a person they can open up to in confidence.

Providing additional support for grieving clients

Bereavement counsellors also receive training in helping others to create a healthy ‘bond’ with their deceased on occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, so they can still move on with their lives despite their loss. With your knowledge and expertise of the grieving process and the stages a person goes through, you will be able to identify behaviours and thought patterns, and offer support and coping mechanisms.

You’ll also be able to put grieving people in touch with other resources like support groups that can help. How you help a person grieving will depend on their coping abilities, emotional state, and the length of time that has passed since their loss. Generally speaking, the training you receive as a grief counsellor will assist clients in being able to move forward with their lives.