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Grief counselling aims to help people cope with the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive responses to loss. These experiences are commonly thought to be brought on by a loved person's death but may more broadly be understood as shaped by any significant life-altering loss (divorce, bankruptcy, death, or job loss).
Grief counselling provides work with their clients to help them find a healthy resolution to their loss. When the process of grieving is interrupted, for example, by the one who is grieving having to simultaneously deal with practical issues of survival or by their having to be the strong one who is striving to hold their family together, grief can remain unresolved and later resurface as an issue for counselling.
Everyone experiences and expresses grief in personally unique ways shaped by family background, culture, life experiences, personal values, and intrinsic beliefs.
Grief is our natural response and private reaction to loss, and there is nothing unhealthy or problematic about the act of grieving. 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. 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.
Counselling sessions are typically held once a week for 60-minutes. Clients share personal feelings and thought in an open and supportive environment.
Counselling can be short-term (a few sessions), dealing with immediate issues, or long-term (months), dealing with long-standing and more complex issues.
These signs will give you a clue that you’re grieving, even if you’re not aware of it.
Why Counselling Might Be Right For You?
Grief can vary between individuals. However, there are still global trends in how people cope with loss. Psychologists and researchers have outlined various models of grief. Some of the most familiar models include the five stages of grief, the four mourning tasks, and the dual-process model.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five linear stages of grief:
Grief is an overwhelming emotion. It’s not unusual to respond to the intense and often sudden feelings by pretending the loss or change isn’t happening. Denying it gives you time to absorb the news and begin to process it more gradually. This is a common defence mechanism and helps numb you to the intensity of the situation.
As you move out of the denial stage, however, the emotions you’ve been hiding will begin to rise. You’ll be confronted with much sorrow you’ve denied. That is also part of the journey of grief, but it can be not easy.
Where denial may be considered a coping mechanism, anger is a masking effect. Anger is hiding many of the emotions and pain that you carry. You may find yourself redirecting your anger at other people, such as the person who died, your ex, or your old boss. You may even aim your anger at inanimate objects.
While your rational brain knows the object of your anger isn’t to blame, your feelings at that moment are too intense to feel that.
Anger may mask itself in feelings like bitterness or resentment. It may not be clear-cut fury or rage. Not everyone will experience this stage, and some may linger here. As the anger subsides, however, you may begin to think more rationally about what’s happening and feel the emotions you’ve been pushing aside.
During grief, you may feel vulnerable and helpless. In those moments of intense emotions, it’s not uncommon to look for ways to regain control or want to feel like you can affect an event's outcome. You may find yourself creating a lot of “what if” and “if only” statements in the bargaining stage of grief.
It’s also not uncommon for religious individuals to make a deal or promise to God or a higher power in return for healing or relief from the grief and pain. Bargaining is a line of defence against the emotions of grief. It helps you postpone the sadness, confusion, or hurt.
Depression may feel like a “quiet” stage of grief. In the early stages of loss, you may be running from the emotions, trying to stay a step ahead of them. By this point, however, you may be able to embrace and work through them more healthfully. You may also choose to isolate yourself from others to cope with the loss fully.
Like the other stages of grief, depression can be difficult and messy. It can feel overwhelming. You may feel foggy, heavy, and confused.
Depression may feel like the inevitable landing point of any loss. However, if you feel stuck here or can’t seem to move past this stage of grief, talk with a mental health expert. A therapist can help you work through this period of coping.
Acceptance is not necessarily a happy or uplifting stage of grief. It doesn’t mean you’ve moved past the grief or loss. It does, however, mean that you’ve accepted it and have come to understand what it means in your life now.
You may feel very different in this stage. That’s entirely expected. You’ve had a major change in your life, and that upends the way you feel about many things. Look to acceptance as a way to see that there may be more good days than bad, but there may still be bad— and that’s okay.
The loss is never forgotten, but the grief survivor has more clarity, understanding and meaning. They have started the process of knowing themselves at a deeper level. Resiliency begins to surface, and they learn their inner strengths outweigh the loss. Their memories will live on and are a source of comfort and hope for the future.
It is important to be gentle, patient, and compassionate with yourself while moving through this healing process. The ultimate goal of grieving is to live with loss without it controlling or disrupting your life. Loss is a vital part of the human experience and something we all share in common.
Grieving can bring us together, and you may even experience post-grief growth.
I apply a variety of counselling approaches and adapt the strategy to fit the needs of each of my clients. I've found the following approaches highly effective in my work with clients:
The trauma-informed approach focuses on engagement, empowerment, and collaboration. A trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to six key principles:
This perspective links recovery and resilience for those individuals that are impacted by trauma.
This approach recognizes biologically programmed shifts from fight-or-flight to shutdown when individuals feel trapped. This approach helps clients identify the movement from shutdown into fight-or-flight and helps them build bridges and possibilities to shift into social engagement. Social engagement helps clients gain a sense of safety and builds social supports into their daily lives that help them heal and recover.
Client-Centred Therapy is a process of freeing a person and removing obstacles so that healthy growth and development can proceed, and the client can become independent and self-directed. The Client-Centred approach to therapy operates with the assumption that we are all positive, caring, and trustworthy. I apply the concept of unconditional positive regard, and I believe that all clients, no matter what the problem, can improve without being taught anything specific by the therapist, once they and respect themselves. All the resources all lie within the client.
Narrative therapy is a form of counselling and therapy that focuses on the client’s life narratives. Stories can be a powerful negative or positive influence on the way people see themselves and their lives. I collaborate with clients to empower them to step away from problem-saturated or oppressive stories and begin to explore untold stories where their intentions, hopes, values, desires, and dreams have room to thrive.
Gestalt therapy is an existential or experiential form of counselling and therapy that emphasizes personal responsibility and the experience in the present moment. The Gestalt approach explores the present moment for the client in the therapist-client relationship, their environment, and the social contexts in the client's life. Exploring the self-regulating adjustments clients make to adapt and respond to their life situation is a core element of Gestalt therapy.
The cognitive approach aims to improve mental health by addressing both thoughts and emotions. The focus is on challenging and changing unhelpful and unwanted thoughts and behaviours, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. The cognitive approach is a proven to assist clients in recovering from trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
My name is Kevin William Grant, I am a Registered Professional Counsellor Candidate (RPC-C) and Associate Certified Coach (ACC). One of my biggest passions in life is being able to support others while they are going through a difficult time. We all experience or have experienced situations in our lives that can have us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or just stuck. I believe that empathy, empowerment, problem solving, and a listening ear from even one compassionate person can transform a life.