when the grief pros get it wrong

grief in the bodyI always feel I should apologize for my profession when I hear how badly grieving people are treated by therapists and other health providers. You just get up enough courage (and energy) to talk to someone about how hard this is, and you end up educating them about the reality of grief.

The problem is, counselors and other health providers aren’t taught about grief. Sure, they’re trained to support people in pain, but grief is an entirely different animal. Because licensing requirements are so extensive, there isn’t time in a standard counseling graduate program to spend more than an hour or so on grief itself. When grief is talked about, it’s usually within the five stages of grief model – and we all know those stages are utterly useless inside grief.

This means that many clinicians have no idea how to come to the kind of grief you’re living.

If you’ve tried to find support inside your grief, only to discover poor skills, insensitivity, or just utter cluelessness, you’re not alone. In my own early days, the therapists I spoke with were among the least skilled people when it came to grief. Some of them were perfectly good as clinicians, just – my grief left them unsettled and tongue-tied. Some clinicians suggested the power of positive thinking. Others encouraged me to look to the future, when life would be better. Encouragement to look towards the future only ignored the pain I was in right then.

Sound familiar?

None of these approaches are useful inside grief, especially not in the early days.

In the next few weeks, I’l be talking about more about what actually helps inside grief, and why so many people, both professionals and regular folks, are so clumsy with your pain. Support inside grief like yours is a big topic.

flame-heart-100I’m always interested in hearing the good, the bad, and the ugly. It helps me know how best to support you, and helps me re-educate other professionals on the realities of grief. How has your experience been with counselors and other professional support? Leave a comment and let me know.