I hear you! Knowing what to say when referring to/suggesting any type of counseling, but particularly grief counseling, is not easy! Now that you are knowledgeable about the various available grief resources and know when to seek out/refer to/or suggest grief counseling, it's time to talk about HOW we refer/suggest grief counseling. In this blog article, I will provide some different ways to approach this touchy subject with those you care about or are working with. We will address it from both a friend/supporter and a professional standpoint.
For those who are supporting a loved one who is grieving, I'll often hear "I don't know how to help them but I don't want to be rude/hurtful by saying they need to go talk to someone." This obstacle typically stems from the stigma of receiving mental health talk therapy. Due to the stigma, when suggesting therapy it can feel like we're casting judgement and shame on the mental state of our loved one. To avoid this, I've created a small equation for supporters of those grieving to suggest grief counseling:
Validate + Reassure + Ask = Suggesting Grief Counseling
Here are a few different examples using the equation above that will leave your loved one feeling like they're being handled with care:
"I know how much you cared for your mom/dad/brother/sister/grandparent/friend and I hear you're really hurting (validating and letting your loved one know you're hearing him/her/them). I'm here to support you as best I can (reassuring your loved one you're there for him/her/them even if he/she/they engage in grief counseling) and I'm wondering, for those times I may not know what to say or do, if grief counseling might be another way for you to get good quality support?"
"It sounds like you're feeling really alone in your grief journey; I can only imagine how tough that must be (validating your loved one's experience). I'm always happy to keep you company in whatever way that looks (reassuring your loved one he/she/they doesn't have to walk this alone). Do you have an idea of what might help with that feeling of loneliness (this opens the door to have the conversation and offer caring suggestions, such as grief counseling or support groups)?
Real Reflection: How can you use the suggestion equation while supporting your grieving loved one?
For those who work in a profession that brings frequent interactions with individuals who are greiving (such as funeral directors, estate planners, hospice nurses, etc.), referring to grief counseling will look a little different than those who are supporting a loved one. There are two pretty clear direct ways for professionals to refer to/suggest grief counseling:
Incorporate it into any flyers or informational packets that are provided to your clients/patients/customers
Incorporate it into your role as their funeral director, estate planners, hospice nurse, etc.
Let me explain further on what I mean:
Flyers or Informational Packets: many professionals provide their clients/patients/customers with different informational documents as part of providing ethical services. In those documents, you'll usually find additional complimentary resources that are outside the scope of the current professional. For example, a funeral director may provide resources to the complimentary services of estate planning and grief counseling as those expertise are out of their competency.
Professional Role: In addition to providing resources through informational documents, professionals can present resources to clients/patients/customers as another part of their job to provide them with the best service(s) possible. This will usually come into play when the clients/patients/customers are disclosing their hardships with their grief journey to the professional they're currently working with.
Here are a few example statements for professionals when providing additional resources:
Flyers or Informational Packets: "Here are a few documents/packets for your references. If needed, you'll also find a few additional complimentary services to the work you and I are doing together. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out."
Professional Role: "I can only image how tough this time must be for you. Part of my job as a (insert your profession here) is to also provide you with additional services that pair well with the work you and I are doing together. I know and trust a great grief counselor that is more than qualified to help you navigate these difficult experiences you're having. Would you like his/her/their contact information?"
Whether you're a friend/supporter of someone who is grieving or you are a professional, referring to/suggesting grief counseling with CARE and KINDNESS is key! Listen to where your loved one or client/patient/customer is at in their grief journey and allow them to honor that. Even if they don't contact your referral right away, they at least have it and are aware the option is available.
Here's to living a better life as your best self.
Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT