If you have not been trained in grief work, it can be intimidating to have a client expressing grief by crying, being upset, or angrily responding to you. You may not have easy access to a social worker, psychologist, or other mental health professional. The primary ideas to remember are these:
It is not about you. Grief is not a problem to be solved. It is a process to live through.
Talking to someone who is grieving stirs up your own feelings. This can trigger inappropriate responses to the grieving person. Think about what you are about to say, and why. If you start to talk about yourself, stop. This is not about you. It is about the grieving person.
If you are a problem-solver, you may be tempted to find a solution for the person’s grief. It may be appropriate to refer the person to a mental health professional, but you will not solve the problem and make the person feel better today, tomorrow, or even a month from now. Grief must take its course, and the course will be different for everyone. Your best response is to listen supportively, without judgment and without giving advice (Devine, 2017).
Use these basic ideas to respond to a grieving person:
- Say, “I can’t imagine how you are feeling.” Do not tell the person you know how they feel. Their grief is unique to them. You may have a similar experience, but it will not be the same.
- Ask, “What can I do to help right now?” The person may not know what you can do to help, but asking provides the person a small amount of control in a situation that feels wildly out of control.
- Say “It sounds as if you loved her/him very much. Would you like to tell me what made him/her so special?”
- Be silent with the person and wait. Offer a tissue if needed.
- Say, “I am not sure what to say to comfort you, but please know I care” (What’s Your Grief, 2014).
Course excerpt from:
Grief: The Reaction to Loss is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that teaches healthcare professionals how to recognize and respond to grief.
Grief is the reaction to loss, and any kind of loss can trigger grief. People grieve for the loss of someone they love, but they also grieve for the loss of independence, usefulness, cognitive functioning, and physical abilities. Grief is also a lifelong process: a journey rather than a disease that is cured. It changes over time to deal with different kinds of losses. It is an experience that is intellectual, physical, spiritual, and emotional. It is affected by the person’s culture, support system, religious beliefs, and a host of other factors.
Grief is often not recognized by healthcare professionals, in patients or themselves. This course will teach healthcare professionals to recognize grief, as well as how to respond appropriately to the grieving person. The progression of aging and dying will be discussed in order to normalize the process, one of the most important aspects of working with a grieving person. Screening guidelines for depression, suicide risk, and grief are included, as are treatment strategies for anticipatory and complicated grief. A final section on compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary stress includes strategies for professional self-care. Course #21-25 | 2018 | 35 pages | 15 posttest questions
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Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
The Grieving Self
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Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers
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