Grief and loss is a multifaceted counselling field based on the loss of someone or something. “Grief is our response to loss, particularly the death of a loved one. Grief can affect our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and beliefs, and our relationships with others. Many people experience feelings of sadness and anxiety. The experience of grief can sometimes feel wave-like; a person may feel that their grief is behind them, but are then surprised when their grief suddenly comes back. It is important to recognise that grief is a normal experience and that the process of grieving does require experiencing the pain of the loss. Grief is a process and not an event. Most people will continue to grieve in subtle ways for the rest of their lives”. (Grief explained, 2006).

Another Perspective on Grief & Loss

The assumption that grief is a normal and inevitable process in life has induced some theorists to affirm that all psychological problems result from one or more grief-related processes. In this context, the concept of loss can be re-constructed: it is a condition in life, which could be disturbed equally by the lack of a desired element (such as the presence of a beloved one) or the presence of an undesired element (such as the memory of a traumatic event).

The Origins of Grief

Grief has its roots in the development of society. Humans are social beings, and therefore, have a need to relate to others in their social environment. When this need in not fulfilled a sense of loss and grief is experienced.

Dealing with Grief

Individuals should not try to combat grief, as this will normally lead to frustration and negative behaviour. Grief is a natural and practically inevitable process in our lives. However, dealing with grief is not only practical, but necessary in order to invoke happiness and fulfilment.

Person centred therapy is the first approach used in a case of grief and loss. The counsellor, or mental health professional, will create a supportive environment conducive to expressing emotions.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is commonly used in cases of unresolved grief. CBT’s approach is based on the theoretical rationale that the way people feel and behave is determined by how they perceive and structure their experience. This therapy proposes that change comes about by changing the client’s thinking about the situation. Once the client has perceived loss in a productive way, he or she will be able to control their emotions and deal with grief.

Another strategy to deal with grief is by substitution. The client will develop a set of ‘substitute needs’ which will serve to fulfil the losses experienced in different areas of life. If the substitute needs are in place, the perception of loss will not exist, and therefore grief will not be as conducive to negative behaviour.


Better Health Channel (2006) Grief explained. Retrieved 20 July 2006 from the World Wide Web:

? Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. If you wish to republish or reproduce this article, please include this information in the end of the article. For more information about the Institute ? please visit To access our Article Library, visit

Pedro Gondim is a writer and publisher for the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. The Institute is Australia’s largest counsellor training provider, offering the internationally renowned Diploma of Professional Counselling.

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