Bereavement Counseling

 My first bereavement counseling session starts on Monday and I was wondering whether any of you had any experience with it? I'm not particularly positive about it nor negative. In fact, like about so many other things these days, I don't really care much about it neither. I only decided to take up the offer because it is a free service organised through my workplace and I was encouraged to give it a go. Maybe I'm doing this just to please people around me and show my willingness to seek help. Now, with the professional taking over, maybe I'm giving the permission to my friends and family to become bystanders rather than active participants in my grief. They can take a break.

I suppose I'm a bit worried that I wouldn't hear anything that I already don't know - stages of grief, coping strategies, how to be kind to yourself. All those things that mean nothing in moments when I'm paralysed by sadness and desperation. It's been 4 months now, and as you all know, it is not getting any easier.

Most of the time I feel as if I don't  have a reason to get up in the morning, we didn't have kids, so I'm seriously considering getting a dog. I have spent 2 weeks with my mum's dog over the festive season and he made such a positive difference to the way I was feeling. Something to discuss in my therapy sessions, I suppose.

Dalia xx

  • Hi Dalia, 

    Yes, you should have a dog. Go for it. By the sound of it, it would be a great companion to you and perhaps far better then any counselling session.

    Unfortunately I cannot have a pet due to my long working hours. I just don't feel, it would be fair on that little creature to leave it alone for most of the day. But if your circumstances allow you to have one, then don't hesitate. Maybe you could try to visit a local rescue centre to start with. 

    I did have counselling sessions in October and November. I had 8 sessions in total. Also through my workplace scheme. I did want more, but they only allow 8 sessions within one financial year. So I am going to ask for more now in the New Year. 

    Well, it's a difficult question to answer, whether you should or shouldn't. I did want it, although I did not know, what to expect at first. As I got no one, I did need someone, I could speak face to face. The first sessions were emotionally very challenging. I was confused, whether this is what I wanted, but I was advised to carry on as the benefits of counselling can only be seen later on. I think, this is true, because the counsellor needs to get familiar with your feelings, what it is, you are struggling to cope with, etc, which means, they let you talk most of the time. This will bring up all your emotions, memories and you may cry a lot during these sessions as I did. 

    After a few sessions I found it helpful as I realised, the counsellor was the only person, I could speak face to face and without being jugded. She was the only person, I could really lean onto and tell her things, I have never told anyone else. I do miss the sessions and as I said, I am going to ask for new sessions and will aim for the same person as I don't really want to start from zero. 

    If you have the opportunity to attend a counsellor through your workplace, you may give it a go. You cannot lose anything and if you feel, it's not for you, you can stop any time. If you decide to give it a try, I would encourage you not to give up after a few sessions. I have to admit, at the beginning I did leave the sessions in tiers, but I did not give up and I was glad I didn't. 

    I hope, you find, what's right for you.

    Take care

    Sending you love and hugs

    • Andrea xxx
  • Hi Dalia,

    I like you was not sure but I was offered counselling by the local hospice, free and we didn't even use the hospice for support.

    I only went to the first session, it was more about them listening and you being able to speak freely about your loss your feelings and anything else. I ended up doing 2 hours, there were questions and concern for how you were dealing with it.

    It ended with an explanation  of what other types of councilling were available, and the offer to take these up if you choose to. I only went to the first session, but my Adult Daughter now goes and has been referred for other counselling.

    What I found more useful to me was after 3 months they offered a lunch once a month for a year again free, I found that useful, meeting people who have recently lost a loved one, and a group of unobtrusive volunteers who came round and listened if you wanted to tell your story. The offer was for one year of lunches. I still go to them and find a great group of people, it's like being on here but in person no one judges everyone understands.

    From that I've joined the monthly walking group in a local beauty spot, a brisk walk in the woods followed by lunch if you want it at the cafe, all run by the hospice, food this time you pay for. Met some different and great people, there's always at least one councellor, although I've found there are more that you dont realise. My adult son has started going too.

    That's my experience not a work related counselling and not sure what would be available In your area, for me its helped, I've met a lot of really nice people who all feel the same and are going through the grief process.

    It's got me out of the house and I've been able to tell the story which in many ways has been comforting.

    Hope that helps.

    Gary

    Softly the leaves of memories fall gently we gather and treasure them all.
  • Hi Dalia I am sorry for the loss of your husband. , I read your profile and it is o so sad. My wife died 15 July , she had melanoma which spread to her lymph node and eventually to her brain , she was at home and I was by her side day and night she passed away at 6 o’clock in the morning. And like you and everyone else here I am completely lost . Some days I can do things and other days I have no motivation and can’t or don’t want to do anything. I got a 6 year old jack Russell about 5 weeks ago , he is great company and gives me a reason to get out of bed. He doesn’t take away the utter loneliness and emptiness in my life but he is a great help. I took him for a walk today where Winnie and I used to go and all I could think about was when the two ou us walked there. Like you she is the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep and every minute in between.  It is nearly 6 months for me and things seem to be getting harder , and keep wondering what the future holds. I hope you do get a dog they are great company. Hope you have a good day tomorrow. 

    Take care   Mike 

    Love you always Winnie xx
  • Hi Dalia

    I lost my husband nearly 5 weeks ago so feeling grief stricken at the moment as you can imagine.I have no children but we have 2 golden retrievers who are both just over 2 and they have been my salvation throughout my husbands brief illness & passing.They are so loving & in tune with my emotions and sit on my knee whenever I sit down which can be a squash at times. They give me a reason to get up in the morning and go out for a walks which does give me a distraction and helps clear my head at times.It also means you always have company in the house so I would advise you strongly to think about getting a dog when you are ready.

    I hope your bereavement counselling helps you,I myself work for Cruse as a grief counsellor but obviously am not able to do it just now with my own grief.It isnt for everyone but is worth a try,there are no magic fixes at all but sometimes it is good to talk to someone completely objective who has no opinions or agenda & who is there solely to listen & give support.Sometimes clients I have seen have benefited from just being able to cry & be themselves as many feel they have to act certain ways to protect their families and friends which piles pressure on.I wish you well & my main advice is always to take an hour or a day at a time when everything is too overwhelming,I am trying to do that myself at the moment but it is hard I know.

    Best Wishes

    Laura x

  • Hi Dalia,

    Don't worry, it does feel better to talk about what you have lost with somebody non judgemental, it allows you to give voice to all those feelings that you have tucked away. And maybe the dog felt a bit like a confident but give yourself a bit of time before committing to an extra tie, maybe just look online, because its like picking a new partner there's got to be a bit of magic. And I speak as a serial cat adopter. 

    D

  • Hi there , I think it’s a great idea to get a dog.We have had a rescue dog for 5 years , a pug.After my hubby died and while he was ill she was a lifeline and still is. I never come home to an empty house, just a joyous greeting from Lola

    Pugs are so loving and fun. I can give you the names of two pug rescues if you want , just message me.

    Maddy

  • Thank you so much everyone. I have attended my first counseling session and it wasn't good, unfortunately. Firstly, he didn't take any notes so even if I was coming back I'm not sure whether he  would remember what I was saying. It was just strange,as I felt I didn't get any guidance in terms of what we should work with. He was almost disappointed hearing that I had a loving relationship with my husband and there weren't any unresolved issues between us.

    Also, he was asking me why me and my husband didn't discuss death. That shocked me as I told him already that my Danny walked into the Hospital without the diagnosis, they told us upon his admission it is cancer of unknown primary, which was a first shock. We came to the Hospital hoping he would get better. Only 20 days before he died the second biopsy confirmed a renal cancer. We haven't had any time to get our head around what is happening to him or to come to terms with his new diagnosis. Talking or thinking about him dying wasn't an option I was ready or prepared to accept. Danny hoped he would get better too as he immediately started with targeted chemo. So when the therapist asked this question, I asked him whether he actually have any experience in bereavement. He said yes, and that didn't sound convincing to me. 

    The most disappointing was the fact that he didn't acknowledge at all that I went through the most traumatic experience of my life, instead he said that I might try to think about the good times. My problem is not thinking about good times, I think about it a lot and that's lovely. During the day I mostly think about the good times and that keeps me going. I'm naturally a positive person. It is waking up numerous times at night and the first thing that comes  to me is this horrific scene that plays over and over again in my mind. And it goes like this.

    It's 3am and the doctor sends me out from the room, I sit in the darkness completely out if it. Doctor comes out, holds my hands saying to be prepared for the worse.I can't stop crying, I hand  my phone to the nurse who calls his mum. I go back to the room, seeing him gasping for breath, getting agitated. I hold his hand, crying, repeating how much I loved him. His mum eventually comes, she is numb and can't cry, just stares. A few hours later, the gasping stops, and that's when I scream:" Merilyn, he's gone, he's gone!" Then I just remember kissing him and hugging him and the rest is a blur. I know I packed his stuff but don't really remember doing it, we left the Hospital about 5 hours later but don't remember what was happening during these hours. 

    This is what I'm struggling with, this particular intrusive memory that I can't control. The fact that it always happens during the night is particularly hard as I can't get back to sleep which means I'm exhausted the following day. 

    I'll see where I go from here but I don't think I'll be seeing the same therapist again. I'll rather consider Cruse next time. Or maybe I will just somehow manage to learn how to store these intrusive memories to its rightful place so that I can access them by my own will rather than experiencing these flashes without any control. That will require a hard work as it almost looks like I'm suffering from PTSD. I don't really know.

    I will definitely get a dog. Maddy, when I'm ready and all is in order I might take up your offer. I'm already searching  through various rescue websites and I'm sure I'll find my perfect match. 

    Dalia xx

    I am I, and you are you,
    and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
    Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.


  • I'm sorry that it didn't seem helpful to you. 

    I've had my six sessions with CRUSE and personally it didn't help but others have been so don't let my experience put you off as all counsellors are different.

    Mine just let me cry and talk interjecting every so often with a question which she needed an answer to but wasn't necessarily helpful. She didn't give me any coping strategies for my flashbacks for example, the one thing she kept repeating was to think of the good times. In my case I find it really hard to think of the good times without either getting upset that there are no more good times or doubting whether they even happened at all. She also didn't take any notes.

    That sounds like an awful experience, constantly remembering that dreadful night.

    I hope that you are able to get the help you need.

    Look to the moon.
    Can't imagine any future without my soulmate
  • Hi Dalia,

    So sorry to read your post about your experience both of counselling and of your husband's death.

    My husband died at home of lung cancer just over 2 years ago and from time to time, I have wondered whether I should have tried bereavement counselling, but I haven't. Having worked on a phone HelpLine years ago, I was trained to listen, but not to offer any advice, and I think counselling works in a similar way. Actually, I used to find it quite difficult when some of the callers obviously just wanted someone to tell them what to do and were clearly frustrated when we couldn't!

    You said it almost looks like you're suffering from PTSD, and that may well be the case. My husband died quite peacefully, so I don't have that experience, but I have a friend who found her husband dead in very traumatic circumstances and her doctor says she is probably suffering that. So maybe that is the thing you need to be seeking help with. Could you ask you gp about that?

    On the dog front, I would certainly recommend it if you are able. We always had dogs, and I had to have our last one put to sleep just a few months after my husband died. I knew I would lose him fairly shortly as he was quite old by then. However, I did get another, straightaway. I rescued a Jack Russell from a local rescue centre. It did feel quite a big decision to make on my own, and I was a bit nervous making it, but I'm so glad I did. I even managed a few days away at the coast because I could take him with me. I wouldn't have wanted to go on my own. Although they are a responsibility, that in itself is quite helpful I think, and they do give you some structure to your day,not to mention the company.

    I do hope you manage to access any help you need, but in the meantime, this community is very supportive, and you don't have to wait for an appointment! 

    Better go and get ready to take my dog out for his morning walk!

    With love and hugs x

  • Hi Dalia and all,

    I went for counselling for about three months after Paul's death because it was recommended by the hospital where he died. I don't really know what to think of it. It was good to be able to sit with a person in a room who had 60 minutes time only for me and where I was able to say whatever I needed to say and cry the tears I had to cry and sometimes smile at some memories or whatever. But I sometimes found it difficult to be listened to for the whole hour, I would have loved advice on some things and didn't get any, because the nature of 5this kind of counselling is compassionate listening and not advising you on what to do or how to do it. After a couple of sessions, I think I started to feel that I was working through stuff but that I would be able to do this on my own as well. The counsellor was brilliant, though, a really compassionate and kind lady. I have often thought about going for some more counselling now, just to see where I stand and what it is like to talk about it all now, but I am not sure I need to do that. Anyway, let us know how your first counselling session went.

    Love, Mel.

    I don't like the term "moving on" because it sounds to me like we are leaving our loved ones and the life we had with them behind. I like the term "moving forward" as it implies that, while life goes on, our loved ones are still with us in our hearts and minds.