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How do life coaches work with grieving clients?

How do life coaches work with grieving clients?

Kevin William Grant
May 26, 2024

Grief is our natural response and private reaction to loss, and there is nothing unhealthy or problematic about the act of grieving (Worden, 2008). Grief is the feeling of wishing things would have ended differently, better, or less painfully. Mourning is the process we go through to adapt to our loss.

Emotional and physical experiences are clues that let us know we’re managing a loss that means something to us. Approximately 40 percent of grieving people will struggle with anxiety in the first year following their loss (American Psychiatric Association, 1980). Grieving people find themselves crying unexpectedly, waking up with headaches, feeling emotionally numb, having trouble sleeping, eating too much or too little, and carrying around a weight of sadness all day.

Grief Counselling and Therapy

Therapy often begins as a result of a crisis, and depending on the type of loss you have endured, this can feel traumatic. Therapy helps address the trauma as well as the grief itself. The services of a therapist can be especially helpful when working through “complex grief.” For example, when there are multiple losses or severe difficulties with healthy life functioning as a result of the loss.

Grief Coaching

Coaching is a two-way partnership for a journey toward your personal goals. A coach will help to move from where you find yourself now, to the place where you want to be. The focus is on working with practical and tangible tools to assist with moving through the grieving process.

Grief coaching means working with your coach to continue the process of healing and personal growth. Therapy can be complementary to coaching, with each offering different forms of support and growth. This type of coaching is described as helping you with "life beyond loss."

Grief coaching begins with the premise that you’re not looking to change anything about your loss, or fix what’s happened. In working with a coach on grief issues, the focus will be ob finding ways to adjust, work with your grief, and rebuild your life (or aspects of your life) as you decide what comes next. Along the coaching journey, you may uncover some personal challenges associated with your grief and discover how to move past those challenges with the support of a coach.

Clues Someone is Grieving

These signs will give you a clue that your clients are grieving, even if they are not aware of it.

Physical Reactions

  • Being short of breath
  • Feeling very tired
  • Experiencing restlessness

Emotional Reactions

  • Feelings of shock, fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger
  • Blaming yourself or others for the loss

Mental Reactions

  • Feeling confused
  • Experiencing difficulties making decisions

Social Reactions

  • Avoiding other people
  • Overreacting or reacting strongly to others

Spiritual Reactions

  • Contemplating why pain and suffering exist
  • Asking the universe why the loss had to happen to you

What People Experience When Grieving

  • Their grief will take longer than they think to pass.
  • Their grief will take more energy than they imagined.
  • Their grief will depend on how they perceive their loss.
  • Their grief will entail mourning all the hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled expectations they had.
  • Their grief will resurrect old issues, emotions, and unresolved conflicts from the past.
  • Their grief will create some identity confusion and change how they perceive themselves.
  • Their grief will cause them to begin a search for meaning.
  • Their grief will lead them to question their faith or philosophy of life.
  • They will grieve the needs that were unmet because of the loss.
  • They will grieve what they have already lost.
  • They will grieve what will be lost in the future.
  • They will grieve the symbolic and intangible things they have lost.


Worden, J. W. (2008). Grief counseling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner. New York, NY: Springer.

American Psychiatric Association. (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd edition). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.