We thought it might be interesting to find out how Dr. Ceschin became interested in grief counselling and what her recommendations might be if you are looking for support.
Q. How did you get interested in focusing on grief counselling?
A. I think it was what people call fate. Eight years ago, I was at one of life’s crossroads and was looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity. I met someone at a get together who introduced me to the Lighthouse Program for Grieving Children. As soon as I heard about this organization, I knew it was the right place for me to volunteer. A few months after starting as a volunteer group facilitator, I learned that the organization had received a grant and was searching for a Program Director. I applied and was in that job for 4 years. I found my work with grieving children and their families very rewarding. It spoke to me. I understood what they were feeling and going through because of my early experiences with loss and grief. I was able to give them hope that they could find joy in life again. I am so thankful for my work in the area of loss and grief because I feel I get so much from the inspiring people I meet.
There is a great need for good quality grief support in our society. Many people are isolated from supportive family and friends, and many people do not have any experience with death and loss until later in life. This need for grief support and counseling is a significant factor in my focus on loss and grief in my private practice and volunteer work.
Q. How would someone know if grief counselling would be beneficial for them?
A. I believe that grief is a natural reaction to losing someone important to you and that we all have within us the natural capacity to heal from loss. Unfortunately, our society underestimates the amount of time healing takes and people are not given the time they need to heal. Sometimes, grief can take a wrong turn or reach a roadblock and become what clinicians call “complicated grief”. There are different situations in which individual counseling would be beneficial to a griever.
Sometimes sorrow and yearning for the deceased are very strong and stubborn, and a person cannot imagine ever being happy again. This happens because certain types of thoughts, feelings and behaviors can put roadblocks in the natural grieving process that usually helps lessen the pain of loss. People often feel very “stuck”, find they cannot “move forward” in their life, and find counseling helpful.
Sometimes a person has no social supports. People do not grieve well alone. When we have lost someone important to us, we need to express our feelings and experiences and to receive support from others. If we do not have such a supportive network, it is helpful to find one through a support group or counselor.
Sometimes the loss is very traumatic (sudden, violent, untimely) and a person is struggling to cope with both grief and trauma. In this case, it is important to seek professional help—focusing on the trauma first and then grief. Generally, if there is still a feeling of disbelief of the death, a lack of interest in ongoing life, intense emotions most of the time, and confusion about oneself and what matters to us after 6-8 months of bereavement, then grief counseling may be helpful in rebuilding one’s identity and life.
Q. Do you recommend individual or group counselling?
A. I recommend both individual grief counseling and support groups for different people and at different times in people’s grief journeys. When grief becomes complicated (as described above) I recommend individual counseling. Also, some people are not comfortable sharing within a group and prefer individual counseling and/or support.
I think grief support groups provide bereaved individuals with a safe, nonjudgmental place to share their feelings and experiences. A support group is a wonderful opportunity to build your social network of support. Individuals find grief support groups helpful anywhere from a few months after the death to years after the death. Most of the support groups I have had the honor of facilitating have continued to meet and support each other long after the formal support group ended.
I highly recommend grief support groups to my clients upon closing with them. I believe in the power of being with others who have experienced a similar loss to us and in the healing that can take place within the group context. Organizations like Widowed Friends of Halton help individuals find this kind of supportive social network.
Q. What timeframe can people expect to be involved in grief counselling?
A. This is a difficult question to answer. Each person’s grief is as unique as his or her fingerprint. It really depends upon the situation, the loss, and the issues that present. I have had clients who called me a few weeks after the death and others who have called me years after the death. I have seen some persons for a few months and others for over a year. Chronological time is not the most important time factor in the grief process; kairos time is. Kairos time is not quantitative, but qualitative. It is not the weeks/months that have transpired, but the special moments in time. You do need time to heal wounds, but what you do within that time is very important too.
Q. What are the first steps someone should take to engage a grief counsellor?
A. It is very important to find someone you are comfortable with, have confidence in and who can give you new confidence and hope. When searching for a counselor, make appointments with a few counselors/therapist and then decide which one you feel would be most helpful to you. Some counselors will offer a short “meet and greet” session at no cost to clients. When shopping around for the right counselor/therapist:
- Ask friends and family for recommendations
- Research online for counselors and what each offers
- Determine if you are more comfortable with a male or female therapist
- Look into their backgrounds and make sure they have knowledge and experience with grief counseling; ask what their training and specialization are, what kind of approach they take, how much experience they have.
- Relationship is just as important as their resume. Go with your gut or intuition. How you feel talking to the counselor on the phone or in the room with them is very important. You want to feel respected, not judged, empowered. Listen to your inner voice.