What happens when a grief counselor suffers a major loss in their own life? Do they continue to provide these services? Do they take a break from this type of work? How do they manage their own loss and continue to help their clients?
A counselor’s own self-care is always critical when doing therapy and providing other mental health services, but it is especially important when they have recently suffered a loss of their own. How do we navigate this? How do we make sure that our grieving process doesn’t impact our work with clients?
Therapists and coaches use their inner world as a therapeutic tool. It gives them insight that helps them be effective with clients who are struggling with the same things. Other professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and construction workers, may have an easier time separating their emotions from the task at hand, as their personal issues are not usually part of doing their job. At the same time, these jobs are more “task-oriented,” and it can be tempting to ignore one’s grief to get the job done.
People in the helping professions often wonder if they should disclose their loss to their clients. One potential downside of disclosure is that your clients may feel they need to focus on you instead of addressing the issues that brought them to you in the first place. They may also feel that their problems pale in comparison to the loss you are suffering, making them feel less willing to be open with you for fear of upsetting you.
The client can also feel obligated to focus on the therapist’s loss and take care of the therapist.
A better way to handle your own grief when working in this field is to adopt a policy of non-disclosure with clients, and work with a therapist of your own to process your grief.
Over a period of time, if the therapist or coach takes effective steps to deal with their grief, they will be able to serve clients in a more meaningful way than ever before. We can use the grief process to deepen our own sense of compassion and humanity, which will make us more effective counselors for our clients struggling with loss.