Many of us come to counselling because of grief or a loss-related issue. Loss invokes a shock to the system: our typical ways of going about are business are shattered; our sense of reality, even if it was dysfunctional in some way, has been turned on its head. We are creatures of habit. We crave stability and resist change. When something happens to disrupt this state of mind we can become easily discombobulated and it’s normal to need support. Friends and family can be a godsend, or not. Sometimes we seem stuck, unable to function in our daily life existence. Counselling and therapy can help.
Grief is an emotional response to a loss of some kind. It may be known as mourning or bereavement when we are grieving the loss of a loved one or pet who has died. Bereavement is a process, although it’s not as straightforward as you might expect.
A number of years ago, the idea of “stages of grief” was a popular one. It was common for health professionals to say things like, “He’s in the denial stage” or “she’s bargaining,” for example. What is more commonly understood is that while some people experience bereavement as separate stages, others don’t have this experience at all, and this is normal too. And for those who identify with stages such as ‘anger’, ‘depression’, ‘acceptance’ they may even find that they experience these states in no predictable order. No matter what your experience of grief, it’s best to expect the unexpected and refrain from self-judgement about what you “should” be experiencing.
Bereavement can also sometimes be described as complicated, which can mean that a person has put their grieving “on hold” and some time later an emotional dam bursts and all the unresolved and undealt with grief is there on the table. Sometimes bereavement is also complicated when the relationship with the person who has died was, when they were alive, a difficult one. Examples include situations where the person perpetrated abuse or neglect, where family members had physically and emotionally severed contact with one another, or where there were issues that occurred that were never adequately resolved when the deceased was alive.
People come to my downtown Vancouver counselling and psychotherapy office for a variety of loss-related reasons, including:
People cope with grief and loss in highly individualized ways. Strategies that my clients have used over the years include, in no particular order:
If you would like additional, individualized counselling support in your grief or loss journey, I would be pleased to meet with you. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. Call or email me today.
Call or text 9-8-8, from anywhere in Canada, 24/7.
An initiative of Moms Stop the Harm, this is a peer-led bereavement support group for those who have lost a loved one due to overdose or substance-related harms.
List of private master’s-level counsellors, or their interns, offering subsidized counselling. Updated quarterly.
Canada-wide, 24/7 professional phone counselling and other support options.
Resource list, updated quarterly.
Specialized support programs, including counselling, for persons living with HIV, cancer, hepatitis C and other illnesses.
Offers a healing space, retreats, counselling and other groups for those affected by cancer.
Canadian-based online resource for parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss. Promotes awareness to the general public and gives friends and loved ones ideas for practical ways to provide help and support.
A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.
Phone and online peer support; information and prevention of sudden infant death syndrome.
International self-help organization for parents who have experienced the death of a child.
Group grief support.
Telephone support, info/referral
Time-limited counselling support for adults who have made a suicide attempt, or are experiencing suicidal thoughts; also offers support and education for people who are concerned about a loved one with suicidal ideation, or are grieving their loss by suicide.
Focuses on practical issues for survivors who have lost a loved one to suicide. PDF