Getting grief counselling

Cherryontop writes about the barriers to getting counselling following a bereavement.

True Stories

girl looking out of window

Talking to someone can help with the grieving process

Who to turn to?

Getting support for bereavement was hard. My friends were great but I didn’t want to talk to them about it and I felt bad about bogging my boyfriend down with it all. I didn’t feel like any of them would really understand what I was going through and I didn’t know how to communicate it to them. Every time I tried to talk about it I couldn’t find the words. I didn’t know about any support services and I felt quite alone at that point.

I decided to ask my GP about bereavement counselling. I felt embarrassed that I was asking for counselling so long after she had died, but I looked online and lots of people said that it was normal not to want counselling immediately after losing someone – it can take time.

Counselling

It was difficult to get the first appointment because I worked in South London and lived in North London, so to go to an appointment often meant taking half a day off of work as it took so long (they were always running late) and then I had to commute the hour and a half back to work. I wanted to see a GP near to my workplace, but because it was a different borough I couldn’t. First I had to see my GP and explain the problem, then she referred me to a counsellor for an assessment, then she put me on the waiting list for a bereavement counsellor and finally I got my first appointment to talk about how I was feeling.

The problem was that by then I had already taken lots of days off from work to go to the appointments and it was difficult to come up with so many excuses about why I was missing work. I didn’t want to tell them the real reason because I didn’t want them to think it was affecting my work, but I worked in a small team and it was hard to keep something like that a secret and they were concerned about me as I was having so many doctors’ appointments.

Practical problems

It was tempting to give up so many times because it was such a long process but I persisted because I felt that I had to sort it out once and for all. The counsellor told me that because life was finally calm and stable for me, it was normal for the feelings that I had tried to push away to bubble up to the surface. It was difficult, but really useful, to talk to her. She offered me 12 sessions of support but she told me that she only had spare slots to see me at midday – which was impossible for me because that would mean missing a lot of work. I would have to go to work at 9am, leave again at 10.30 to get to the appointment for 12, then arrive back at work at 2.30pm once a week for however many weeks the counselling would last.

I decided that I couldn’t take that much time off work and cancelled the counselling sessions. She told me that if I needed to have counselling after 5pm I would have to see a private counsellor, but living in London just after graduating meant that I had huge debts and I could barely afford my food – there was no way I could afford private counselling.

Finding support online

Finally, I found support online. I used a forum that has since closed down unfortunately, but I also remember using the BBC website on bereavement – which has been developed and is really good and feels a lot clearer and more accessible than Cruse – to me anyway. Through this I built up the courage to explain to my best friend and my boyfriend what was going on for me. Losing someone can be really difficult, but I have learnt that it can really help to talk to people about it – even if they don’t know how it feels, they can help you to figure out how you feel. Now my other sister is older we talk about it a lot – I don’t want her to feel like I did.

Next Steps

  • Marie Curie offers emotional support and practical information for anyone affected by terminal illness, and their friends and families. Call Marie Curie's helpline on 0800 090 2309 from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 5pm Saturday.

  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Cruse offers grief and bereavement support via phone, email, and face-to-face. You can call their free helpline on 0808 808 1677 (Monday - Friday, 9.30 - 5pm, extended to 8pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays) or visit their website for more support.
  • Hope Again is a website created for young people by young people affected by bereavement. It offers a community of peer support, as well as a support service via email: hopeagain@cruse.org.uk
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By cherryontop

Updated on 29-Sep-2015