Grief Therapist for Grief & Loss - Your Definitive Guide with Proven Tips & Strategies

When you are grieving, it's hard to move forward with your life. It's hard to do many things, from making big decisions to merely making it through the day. While some people may be able to process their grief and learn to cope quickly, the same cannot be said for most people. Grief often takes time and effort to overcome. It's not easy. However, many things can help you do it – including a grief counselor.

Should you consider grief therapy? If so, how do you choose a grief therapist? What do you need to know before you attend a session? We'll explore all of this in this article.

Who Needs a Grief Therapist?

Grief therapy – otherwise known as bereavement counseling or grief counseling – is a specific kind of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to help people cope with a loss. When we think about loss, the most common type that comes to mind is the loss of a loved one. It may be due to the death of a beloved pet.

Grief is a tricky thing, though, and more than just death can cause you to experience it. We commonly experience grief after other types of losses even more frequently. It can be due to the loss of a job, career prospects, or the loss of a home or community due to moving or relocating.

Grief is common when experiencing a loss of your health., whether through illness or injury. People also experience grief at the end of a relationship, especially a romantic one. Couples undergoing a divorce or an intense break-up describe it as feeling like grief.

Grief is a natural part of life. It is normal to experience it, even though it may feel overwhelming or all- consuming at times. However, it’s also normal to find yourself struggling with grief in the long term. Grief therapy, like most forms of therapy, exists to help you process the complicated emotions, thoughts, and memories that come up when you’ve experienced a loss.

Therapists offer an impartial third party for you to discuss the things you may not feel comfortable speaking with a friend or family member about. It’s a safe space to have difficult conversations without feeling as if you are putting pressure on someone else who is grieving. More importantly, a therapist can help you learn how to process those emotions and develop healthy and productive coping strategies to help you through the most difficult moments.

Unresolved Grief - Discover What Happens When We Don't Allow Ourselves the Time to Mourn. Delve into this insightful article by clicking here.

Are There Different Kinds Of Grief Therapy?

Much like other forms of therapy, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. Different things work for different people, as we all process loss in our own way. While there are certain basics that all therapists employ – they all involve talking about your loss, your relationship to the deceased, and how they died - there’s also variation in both technique and approach. There are several types of grief therapy that you may be interested in pursuing.


ACT comes from the approach that negative feelings don't just come from experiences but also our inability to accept and process those experiences. By avoiding uncomfortable experiences and thoughts, we are unable to move beyond them, keeping us trapped in the same distress. By accepting our experiences and often confronting them, we can move forward and focus on healthier patterns of behavior.


CBT is the most widely known type of psychotherapy. Most people are at least familiar with it. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy operates on the foundation that identifying and acknowledging negative thought patterns can help people change those patterns. If we understand which thoughts are unhealthy, we can work to transform them into more productive thoughts which turn into more productive actions in our lives.


As the name would suggest, group therapy is just therapy that takes place in a group setting. For many grieving people, it helps to be around others who have experienced a similar loss. In group therapy, people can share their feelings in a sympathetic setting, as everyone else likely understands them and is going through the same thing. It can help them feel more connected to others and find ways to work through their pain and grief together.

Learn More About How to Heal by Helping Others: Practical Tips and Examples.


Largely more effective for children, play therapy lets the child explore feelings and experiences through whatever path is most comfortable for them. This usually occurs with some type of play, but also through talking through the play.

Healing Through Art: Discover the Power of Art Therapy in Coping with Grief. Learn more.

Signs You May Need to See a Grief Therapist (Or Grief Support Group)

If you find that some of these apply to you, then it's time to look at grief therapy.


How much time do you spend thinking about your loss every day? It’s not unusual for our thoughts to go to our loved ones daily, especially soon after losing someone. However, it’s important to notice when we can’t seem to focus on anything else for any length of time.

Do you find yourself thinking not only of the person but also fixating on the circumstances of their death? You may replay your last moments with them. You might be trapped in “if only I had…” or “I should have…” instead of thinking of the good memories. You may find yourself unable to think about anything else, including anything about the beyond their death.


Sometimes, it's difficult to do things you did before a loved one passed away. You may find yourself avoiding certain places – restaurants, stores, public spaces, etc – because it makes you think of that person. You may also avoid friends or family, especially those that were close to both you and your loved ones. You may find that you’ve stopped doing an activity that you love either due to how it reminds you of your loved one,

Additionally, you may be avoiding these things because of guilt. You may not want to talk to people or do things that bring you happiness because you may feel as if you don’t “deserve” to feel anything other than grief. If you are consistently avoiding certain people or places because they remind you of your loved one, then it may be time to consider grief therapy.


There are only so many times you can say “I’m fine” and mean it after someone dies. You may find that you’ve “moved on” simply by not processing your grief. If you are focused on putting your loss behind you, refusing to talk about it, or just not acknowledging that you lost someone, you may actually be prolonging your grief. This can become a much bigger problem later. Your grief will resurface unexpectedly and without warning.

Click here to learn helpful tips on how to cope with grief while entering a new year.


Guilt is a common emotion after the death of a loved one. By itself, it isn’t necessarily an issue. However, guilt can cause us to spiral into darker, more complicated feelings about ourselves and our relationship with our deceased loved one. You can easily find yourself unable to escape those feelings.


It can be hard to find joy in things after losing someone important to you. It’s common for excitement over hobbies, traveling, new books or media, and even for upcoming plans to diminish while you are grieving. However, it’s just as important to continue doing these things eventually as it is to let yourself feel your grief.


Motivation will be hard to find in the days and even weeks after death. It's natural to mourn and lose focus for a time. But how much are you struggling to do the most basic tasks? Are you eating? Bathing? Are you able to go to work? Are you taking care of kids, pets, or family members who rely on you? If you are struggling to do these things after a few weeks, it may be time to ask for help.


Losing sleep is a big indicator of your overall health and well-being. Without sleep, the human body is unable to function properly. We can’t think, solve problems, or make good decisions. It’s important to practice good sleep hygiene as much as possible, even when it feels impossible. If you aren’t sleeping, it will affect the rest of your life.

Click here to know easy and practical tips to help you care for your spiritual health after the death of a loved one.


When you are hurting, you want to escape that pain by any means necessary. For some, that can mean using drugs or alcohol to dull your feelings after someone dies. It can also mean that you are chasing adrenaline or endorphins by any means necessary. Are you gambling? Are you taking more risks with your body or life? Those are signs you may need to reach out.


Do you know the signs of depression? Many of them are similar to what we’ve described in this list. If you are experiencing them, you may not even realize it until you take note of them.

It’s okay to be sad. However, if you are considering any sort of self-harm then you need to seek help immediately.

Coping with Loss Due to Suicide: An Insightful Guide with Practical Tips and Valuable Resources. Discover More.

Helpful Tips for Finding the Right Grief Therapist or Grief Support Group for You

Once you’ve decided to look into therapy, you've already taken the biggest step! From there, you can begin the next step – finding the right therapist for you. This may seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be! Taking the time to know what you want – and need – from therapy helps you find the right therapist and form of therapy that will help you the most. We've created this list of tips to help make the best choice.


Before you take any further steps, it’s important to think about what you want to achieve with therapy. It can help you to make out a list of goals. These should be a mix of small things – like establishing good sleep hygiene – to larger ones that take time to achieve. This can help you and your therapist stay on the same page about what you want from the process and help them tailor their techniques to better help you in the long run.

Some things to consider when making your list:

  • What are your Gshort-term goals?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • Do you want a male or female therapist? Do you have a preference?
  • Do you want a therapist within a certain age? Or some other demographics? (This can be important if you are part of a minority group)
  • What is your timeline for therapy? Does it match reasonable expectations for your situation?
  • What kind of therapy are you interested in?
  • Do you want to be part of a support group?
  • Do you only want one-on-one sessions?
  • Are you interested in medications?

You may find that your goals change when you begin working with your therapist. That’s perfectly normal as well! It simply helps to have goals going into the therapy process so you and your therapist can work together.


When you start looking for a therapist, you need to know what you are looking for. Do you need a psychologist, a counselor, or a psychiatrist? All three serve the same function. They are all professionals who work to treat mental health issues for their patients. They differ, however, in both their level of education and types of treatment. Both psychologists and psychiatrists require a higher level of education than most counselors.

Psychologists typically have PhDs or EdY in psychology while counselors or therapists have a master’s degree in social work or psychology. Psychologists study human behavior and mental processes. Therapists are trained to use techniques to treat behavior and problems. A psychologist may be a therapist but not all therapists are psychologists.

Unlike the other two, psychiatrists are medical doctors specializing in mental health. Psychiatrists often take a medical approach to mental health, meaning they are trained to look at physical and mental symptoms. They can prescribe medications to patients as well. Your grief counselor will likely be a psychologist or therapist, not a psychiatrist.


You’re going to have questions when you’re starting out. That’s normal. If you’ve never gone to a therapist before, don't worry if you don't know exactly what you want or what to expect. Remember these questions before you go into a session with the therapist.

Once you've found a therapist that looks promising (or several that look compatible), you may be able to schedule a short consultation with them before you decide to go with any full sessions with them. It's an opportunity to find important information that you'll want to know before beginning in earnest. If they don't offer a consultation, you can also ask these questions over the phone or through email.

Here are some questions to help you get started.

  • Are you a licensed psychologist?
  • How many years have you been in practice?
  • How much experience do you have working with people dealing with grief?
  • What do you consider to be your area of expertise?
  • What kinds of treatments have you found effective in healing grief?
  • What types of insurance do you accept?
  • What are your rates for therapy sessions?
  • Do you accept payment plans?
  • How soon can I expect to start feeling better?
  • What do we do if my treatment plan isn’t working long-term?

If you don’t think the answers to these questions match up to your needs, then you should look for someone who does. You want your expectations to match what the therapist can offer – as long as your expectations are reasonable. As a note, your financial needs are just as important as your mental health ones. It never hurts to ask what kind of rates they can offer you if your insurance does not cover their services.


Sometimes, you choose a therapist that does not work out. That does happen occasionally due to no fault on either of your part. If that happens, then you should consider finding another therapist.

You don’t need a “legitimate” reason to switch to another therapist. There don't need to be red flags As long as you are not dropping your therapist as an excuse not to speak with a counselor, you don’t need to have a specific reason for not continuing your sessions with them. It does not necessarily mean they are a bad therapist, just that they are not a good fit for you.

There could be any number of reasons why. You may just not feel comfortable with them, even after several sessions. It may be difficult to open up to them or you could feel awkward with them instead. Your schedules might not work out. They may not have any available sessions when you can meet. There may be an issue with your insurance that makes your rates too high. It may be as simple as them not using a technique or approach that you think would be most effective for you.

Don’t be afraid to find another grief counselor if the first one does not work out. It’s not uncommon for people to shop around to find the right fit for you.


If you’ve never been to therapy before, you may not know what’s typical and what is not. It's good to know what red flags or warning signs to look for. These signs may indicate that your therapist is not a good fit for you, is not well-trained, or cannot handle your recovery.

  1. Your therapist does not listen to your concerns.
  2. They do not pay attention to you during therapy. They may be on their phone during a session, struggle to stay awake, or not answer your questions.
  3. Your grief counselor talks about themselves excessively. They may offer too much personal information or relate all situations back to themselves.
  4. They try to form a relationship with you outside of therapy.
  5. The therapist acts unprofessionally. Examples include dressing inappropriately, keeping a messy workspace/office, acting too informally, or even having poor hygiene.
  6. Your counselor breaches confidentiality frequently.
  7. The therapist does not have experience working with grief and loss.
  8. They try unproven, experimental, or disproven therapy practices.
  9. Your therapist is critical or judgmental of you and your problems.
  10. They dismiss your culture or identity. They may be disrespectful to you and your background. Any of these alone could be a red flag large enough for you to find a new counselor ASAP.


As important as it is to look for red flags, it’s also valuable to know what good qualities you should be looking for as well. Good grief counselors come in many different styles and practices. They do often have some things in common.

Your therapist should be compassionate, sympathetic, and professional. You should feel comfortable in their presence. Trust is an important piece of the relationship between you and your counselor. You should feel comfortable talking to them without fear of judgment or disinterest. You want to spend a session with someone who is engaged in you and your needs while you are together. They should have excellent communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal.

Finding the right fit also comes down to finding someone who works with your needs. You may find that you work best with a certain approach compared to others. You also want a counselor who works with you and your schedule. A grief counselor should be willing to be flexible with scheduling within reason. If they can only schedule you during inconvenient times, they won’t be the right fit for you. You also want to work with someone who is reliable and makes it to appointments on time. A good grief counselor prioritizes their client’s time as being important as their own.

The right grief counselor is someone confident, careful, and someone that makes you feel better. You want to see a therapist who inspires confidence and hope in you as well.

Some of these you won’t get a good feel for until you’ve had a session or two with the counselor. You may need to take your time and get to know the counselor – just as they are getting to know you. It’s normal to take a few sessions to feel comfortable with a therapist as long as they are helping you at this time.

Ask For A Referral

One of the best ways to find good therapists is through a referral! Here are some recommendations for places (and people) to reach out to when looking for a therapist.

Friends & Family

Likely, you aren't the first person in your family or friend group to use a form of therapy. Many people seek professional help when they need advice or are going through a difficult situation. Reach out directly if you think they may know a good counselor, or make a generic request to your close circle.

Your Doctor

Medical professionals are a great resource for all your health-related needs, including mental health. Most doctors and nurse practitioners have a network of other professionals they can refer their patients to.

Funeral Directors

While this might be a surprising resource, your local funeral home may be a great place to find local resources. They typically work with other vendors, medical professionals, and often grief counselors. A funeral director – or funeral home staff – likely has an established list of good counselors they can refer you to.

While ideally, you would make this connection when initially working with them, you can always call when you feel comfortable doing so. They are usually happy to help where they can.


Online resources are a great way to screen legitimate therapists in your area. Several mental health organizations maintain up-to-date, searchable databases of licensed therapists and support groups. Here are some reputable sources that may help you.


You shouldn’t underestimate the power of your local community. If you look, you may find helpful resources in your area.

Hospitals & Hospices

While not all doctors are trained to handle grief, they often know where to start. Sometimes a hospital or hospice will have on-site professionals that can be consulted for little or no charge in an emergency. They can also put you in touch with certified counselors or groups for longer-term therapy sessions.

Nonprofit Organizations

You’ll likely find some nonprofit organizations in your area (many of which you may never have heard of) that offer social programs and community assistance. Many of these work for free or for a token fee. You may find that they have staff on hand to help you or can provide information or referrals to someone who can.

University Or School

If you are in college or technical school, you should have access to your campus’s health clinic. If so, there should be professional counselors and psychologists available to help you. You may have to call to make an appointment but it’s likely you won’t be charged for using university services (as it likely comes out of your student fees that you’ve already paid).

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Human Resources Department

If you have a good HR department where you work, they should have a good handle on where you can look for a grief therapist. They can also give you information about what your health insurance will (and will not) cover in terms of therapy practices and techniques.

Faith Based Programs

Your church, synagogue, or mosque can be a crucial resource for you in times of need. If you are religious, they may be able to find you faith-based support groups or even counselors to help you process your grief. If you find community in your faith, you should reach out to them for good recommendations and assistance in finding help.

What are the different types of grief and how can grief change over time? Learn more.


No one enjoys talking to their insurance company. It can be a frustrating experience even when you are knowledgeable about a topic. That said, your insurance company can be a good source of information about therapists and grief counseling practices in your area. Many often have a list of in-network practitioners readily available online. They’ll be able to tell you who accepts your insurance, so you’ll have a starting list to begin your search. They may also be able to tell you where your insurance is most effective.



Sometimes, it’s easier not to face other people. You may feel more comfortable at home and in your own space. If you are worried about leaving the house or find in-person therapy intimidating, it might be better for you to find an online support group. There are many great telehealth therapists out there.

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Grief Therapist Or Support Group

Attending therapy – especially if it is your first session – can feel very stressful. You may not be sure how to act, what to bring, or what to expect. Take a deep breath and keep reading to discover a few ways to make the most out of your counseling.


If you go into a therapy session expecting the worst – that you’ll get nothing out of it, that it won't help, or that your therapist doesn't know what they're doing – you won't find any benefit in it. Expecting the worst is going to shape your experience in unpleasant ways. It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. You expect that it won't work, don't put in the work, and then find that becomes the truth.

On the other hand, you won’t find all the answers you are seeking after one session. You should realistic about what can happen in one session – or even a handful of sessions. It takes time to see change, and you must go into counseling with that knowledge in mind.

Discover How to Stay Positive During Grief and Loss. Click here to learn more.


Sometimes – especially after a tough therapy session – it can be tempting to step away from the work you just did and the thoughts that come with it. That may not be the best thing for you in the long term. If your therapist makes suggestions about things you should do, try them! Even if you are skeptical (and even if it’s difficult), it’s important to try.

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Take care of yourself. Give yourself some down time for your mind and body to recuperate from the session. Go out and do something you enjoy. You may need to take a walk or find some type of exercise you enjoy. Make sure that you are trying to keep to a daily routine, including eating well and getting enough sleep.

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It can help you to bring something to your session that brings you comfort. With grief therapy, that will likely take the form of an item that acts as a reminder of that loved one.

An Item That Belonged To Them

We can find solace in things that belonged to the people we love. You may have a certain object that always reminds you of your loved one – anything from a small trinket to one of their favorite things. Something like a shirt, tie, or even scarf might be a good choice for that.

Jewelry often holds significance to us, especially when it used to belong to someone we love. Family heirlooms are passed down this way for a reason, after all. Perhaps you have a ring, necklace, or earrings from that person that you’d like to wear when you go to your session.

Discover More About Mourning Jewelry: Why Wear It and How To Choose the Perfect Piece.


There’s probably at least one photo of your loved one that immediately comes to mind when you think about it. You can tuck a photo into your wallet, purse, or even pocket. It may help you talk about your loved one when you have their image with you.

In addition to keeping cherished photos close, another beautiful way to honor your loved one's memory is through photo engraved jewelry. By adorning a pendant or locket with a special picture of your dear one, you can carry their presence with you every day, sparking precious conversations and providing a source of comfort during difficult times.

Keepsake Jewelry

Keepsake jewelry – typically pendants, rings, and bracelets – can be an excellent way to keep the memory of your loved one close all the time. There are many types of keepsake jewelry including cremains keepsakes, photo engraved keepsakes, and memorial fingerprint jewelry.

Cremation keepsakes can be filled with a small amount of cremains and sealed to keep them contained. You may want to look at something like our Sterling Silver Winged Memories Heart to take with you. To learn more, read our guide on What Is Cremation Jewelry.

Fingerprint jewelry is, by nature, one-of-a-kind. You can take this distinctive facet of your loved one and turn it into a wearable piece of art. Our My Love Sterling Silver Rectangle Fingerprint Pendant is a good example of what one might look like.

Photo-engraved keepsakes are another option for you to take with you. Our photo jewelry buying guide is filled with information about choosing and creating your own piece. Our photo engraved stainless dog tag is a lovely wearable memorial.

Grief Support Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important factor when choosing a therapist?

When looking for a therapist, the most important factor to look for is whether or not you feel heard by them. Your relationship with your therapist is what makes therapy work. Finding someone you trust and who is good for your needs is the most important thing you can look for.

How do you tell a therapist they aren’t right for you?

It can be hard to stop working with your current therapist. If you feel like they are not a good fit, then the first thing to do is talk to them. You may feel tempted to simply stop communicating with them – but ghosting them isn't the answer. If you are going to stop seeing them, make sure you've at least been seeing them for a month (so that you've been given enough time to see if you are making progress). If so, then you should approach the situation with honesty. You may tell them that you aren't seeing progress.

If they aren't working towards your goals, tell them that. If you aren't seeing any change, or it's in a different direction, tell them that. You may just tell them that you appreciate the time you've spent together but that you are moving on.

What should you take with you when you go to a therapy session?

The best thing you can bring to a therapy session is the right attitude. More than that, you should prepare yourself for it as you would in any difficult situation. Take time to center yourself, be prepared to be honest, and perhaps consider what you need to feel comfortable in the situation. Many times, it could help to bring a token of your loved one with you. You might want to bring one of their belongings, a photograph, or even a small memorial token that helps you think about them. It can center you and help focus your thoughts.

Should I do an online support group, or should I go to a local support group?

Choosing a support group is a very personal choice. You know how you best connect with people and what might work better for you. Most of the time, meeting up with people in person will offer the most amount of support. You can be physically present to share your feelings and build a sense of community with others.

However, there’s nothing to say that you won’t make meaningful connections with people online. It will likely depend on how you feel about meeting people. If you are struggling to leave the house or find yourself with an unusual schedule, you may have better luck online.

Do I need grief therapy?

Everyone experiences grief. How we manage that grief isn’t something that’s always within our control. Sometimes we need help and it’s important to realize when those times are. If you are experiencing any of the following, you could benefit from grief counseling.

  1. You struggle with intrusive thoughts, are unable to focus on daily tasks, and constantly relive the moments leading to your loved one’s death.
  2. You are having suicidal thoughts and persistent depression.
  3. You are abusing drugs and/or alcohol or engaging in risky behaviors.
  4. You are withdrawing from people around you, avoiding social situations and people you care about.
  5. You have experienced multiple losses in a short period.
  6. You don’t have a support system. Your friends or family are not helpful or may be contributing to your feelings.

What are the signs of a good grief therapist?

How do you know if you have a good therapist? The primary thing is whether you feel better when you are working with them. It is the best thing they can do for you. However, there are other ways to know that your therapist is working for you.

  1. A good therapist produces results.
  2. A good therapist is empathetic, sympathetic, and also professional at the same time.
  3. A good therapist listens to you. They show interest in your words and what you need.
  4. A good therapist speaks to you in a way you can understand. They are prepared to talk to you, not at you.
  5. You trust them.
  6. A good therapist offers solutions but is open to alternatives when something does not work.

Is grief therapy necessary?

Grief therapy is a useful tool. Honestly, it would likely help everyone who is suffering from a loss. It may not be necessary for everyone, but it is always helpful. As human beings, we are not meant to be alone. By reaching out, we help ourselves heal.

Getting The Support You Need From Grief Support

Everyone experiences loss. At the same time, grieving is a difficult time for everyone. It is normal to struggle with our losses in life. We feel isolated, devastated, and not sure how to move forward. Grief counseling can help you feel less alone after a loss. It can help process your feelings, give you an unbiased ear to listen to, and help you focus on your love for the person despite your pain.

Most importantly, it gives you the tools to move forward and celebrate your loved one's life as well as learn to progress through your own. Loss is hard. We hope that you find peace in your journey, whatever it takes.

May 24, 2023 by Jeri K. Augustus