Grief Counselor Careers

What is Grief Counseling?

Grief is an emotion that is very common in humans, and possibly some animals as well. This emotion is often associated with a devastating loss, such as the death of a loved one. However, as humans we might feel grief after the loss of nearly anything that we loved dearly, including our relationships, homes, jobs, or even pets.

It is quite normal for us to feel some sort of negative emotion after losses such as these. Grief is a normal process that all of us will experience at some point in our lives. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the author of On Death and Dying, theorized that there are five stages of grief that each of us go through. These stages might last anywhere from a few minutes to several years. In fact, many people may not even realize that they are going through these stages. These five stages are:

  1. Denial- During the denial stage of grief, people will usually be unwilling or unable to admit their loss. The effects of grief will usually not hit them during this stage, and in fact, they will often feel just fine.
  2. Anger- As the realization of the loss sets in, most people will then become angry. They may be angry at themselves for not preventing a loss, at their god for taking away their cherished item or loved one, or even at a loved one that has passed on.
  3. Bargaining- The bargaining stage is next. During this stage of grief, an individual will often try to “bargain” with whoever or whatever they can – including themselves, a loved one, or even their god – in order to restore the missing piece to their life. For example, a husband who has lost her husband might promise her god that she’ll do whatever he or she wants, if only she could have her husband back.
  4. Depression- It is during the fourth stage of grief that feelings of depression will finally start to set in. During this stage, individuals will typically feel very sad or even hopeless.
  5. Acceptance- It is during the fifth and final stage of grief that most people will finally begin to accept their loss and finally move on with their lives.

Reaching the final stage of grief – acceptance – is one of the most important and healthiest things that a person can do after suffering a terrible loss. Unfortunately, accepting that you’ll never see a loved one ever again can be a pretty difficult thing to face. Although most people will often reach this stage on their own eventually, some people may have a very difficult time with this.

This is where grief counseling comes in.

Grief counseling is also sometimes referred to as bereavement counseling. It is typically used to counsel and comfort individuals who are dealing with loss, usually the death of a loved one. This type of counseling can help some people adjust to and cope with loss and the grief that comes with it.

Usually, grief counseling is recommended for individuals who are having trouble grieving, or moving through the different stages of grief, after a loss. Generally, most people who seek grief counseling do so because their grief is

  • interfering with their daily activities,
  • causing relationship problems,
  • making it hard to go on with their own lives, or
  • causing intense guilt or depression.

Even individuals who are not experiencing these types of problems, however, can often benefit from grief counseling.

How Do I Become a Grief Counselor?

To become a grief counselor you will need to go through a rather rigorous amount of schooling. This includes obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree, then a Master’s Degree, and finally entering into a Doctorate or PhD program. If you are serious about entering into this field of study, request information from programs available for you here.

Why Do We Need Grief Counseling?

A normal, healthy grieving process is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone grieves differently, though, and some may find it harder than others to cope with loss and grief. Living with the pain of unresolved loss and grief is a terrible thing for the human psyche. It can cause feelings of guilt to swell up, for instance, along with feelings of depression.

Grief counseling, however, can be used to help make the grieving process much easier and shorter. The purpose of grief counseling is not to forgot a loss, rather than to accept it. Individuals who are able to accept the loss of someone of something that they loved will typically find it much easier to move on and live happier lives themselves.

What Does a Grief Counselor Do?

The main goal of a grief counselor is to help people cope with grief. These professionals might work with all types of people experiencing all different types of loss. Some grief counselors, though, might focus on counseling individuals that lost loved ones in specific ways, such as after a battle with cancer or during military service.

A counseling method known as “active listening” is one of the most common types used by grief counselors. During this type of counseling, a grief counselor will usually do much more listening than talking. He will encourage or allow the grieving person to talk about their feelings and emotions, for example, and try to empathize with them. Many times, individuals suffering from grief might only need to get their feelings out in the open in order to move forward with their lives. On the other hand, a grief counselor might also need to help their patients develop strategies and methods for coping with their loss.

Grief counselors will also usually watch their patients closely for signs of mental or emotional problems that are often associated with grief. This might include such things as anger, depression, or even suicidal thoughts. If necessary, a grief counselor might also try to help grieving individuals deal with these feelings as well.

Where Does a Grief Counselor Work?

A grief counselor might work in a number of different places where they can offer their services to the grieving and bereaved. They might work at hospitals, mental health clinics, and funeral homes, for instance. Because elderly adults will often deal with grief due to loss of loved ones and friends, these professionals might also work at senior centers, retirement homes, and long-term care facilities. The military might also work with grief counselors to help families and soldiers deal with loss.

Some grief counselors might also choose to open their own private practices.

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Grief Counselor?

 Counseling Educational Track
Education RequirementsEducation LengthAvailable Programs
Undergraduate WorkEarn a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling4 YearsOnline or Campus
Graduate WorkEarn a Master’s Degree in Counseling5-6 YearsOnline or Campus
PHD or Doctoral WorkEarn a Doctorate in Counseling 7-8 YearsOnline or Campus

The requirements for starting a grief counseling career can vary, usually depending on your area. In some states, for instance, you may be able to take a certificate programs in grief counseling, which is usually acceptable for starting your career.

Many individuals pursuing grief counseling careers, however, will often earn bachelor’s degrees in counseling, social work, or thanatology, which is the study of death. When earning a bachelor’s degree, students should focus on subjects that cover death and dying, as well as grief and bereavement. Graduate degree programs in grief counseling and thanatology are also offered by many schools as well.

Depending on which state you live in, you will also be required to complete roughly 3,000 hours of supervised fieldwork and pass a rigorous examination before you can become a licensed grief counselor.

What is the Median Salary for a Grief Counselor?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary information about grief counselors specifically, but they do provide salary data for related fields. Mental health counselors, which are considered to be a closely related profession, earned a median salary of $42,590 in 2011.