Grief counseling is not a job that most people would seek. It’s challenging and is one that can either lead to very interesting dinner conversation or can shut down a conversation almost immediately. Most often I get asked, “How can you do that?” and “Isn’t it depressing?” But in my view, grief counseling is not about death but rather about life. I help my clients to get back to living and healing after a loss.
I’ve learned my role is not to ‘fix’ my clients, as the only way to truly fix the situation would be to bring their loved one back. What I can do is help those who are grieving maintain their emotional connection to the person they are missing by giving them space to talk. Often, there are tears during our sessions, but also laughter when memories are shared. This time together allows them to explore all areas of their relationship with the person they are grieving.
I feel honored to be the person who gets to bear witness to the pain as well as the resilience of the human spirit. It still amazes me that clients find the need to apologize for their tears. I share with clients that tears simply mean I love you and I miss you, which seems reassuring at a time when tears can be plentiful.
When laughter finds its way into our meetings, some clients see this as a positive sign of healing while others express guilt that they are somehow betraying their loved one. This is when I reinforce that as humans, our bodies can’t focus on death every hour of every day. We need to feel in order to heal, and that applies to both ends of the emotional spectrum.
At times like these, I reflect on the work I do and really appreciate my colleagues and team of counselors at Gilchrist. As I often tell my clients, I see myself as a healer. Just as they would go to a doctor when not feeling well, I too initially meet with individuals when they are not feeling well and not at their best. Over time, however, I’m able to see them slowly regain strength and confidence as they work through their grief. It is an amazing sight to behold.