Article A grief coach can really make a difference in the healing process, but how do you know if a coach is what you need? 4 2023 Life coaching https://www.lifecoachhub.com/img/uploads/articles/thumbs/1019_1675886649.jpg Family coaching life coaching Lifecoachhub Pty Ltd LifeCoachHub
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Should You Choose a Grief Coach or a Grief Counselor? (With Questions)

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TAGS: coaching, life coaching, business coaching, coach, life coach, self help, personal development child loss, loss of a child, bereaved, grieving mother, grieving parent, death of a child, grief coaching, grief counseling, life coaching, coaching, grieving process
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Coaching is a relatively new profession

Updated February 8, 2023

Grief coaching 

Years after my son Nicholas’ death, I started feeling a pull to become a grief counselor (therapist) so I could help other moms suffering through their own child loss.

But then I was introduced to grief COACHING, and fell in love with the concept of helping Moms all over the world deal with the loss of a child.

Coaching is a relatively new profession (there are coaches for business, confidence, relationships, money, and more, plus general life coaching), but don’t count it out just because you aren’t familiar with it. 

I think coaching is comparable to what we thought about working out in the 1950s & ’60s. Very few people exercised, went to the gym, got sweaty, had muscles (except maybe Jack LaLanne - I’m revealing my age!)  Nowadays, working out is commonplace, accepted, and recommended to have a healthy body. The concept of coaching is the same - except in the case of coaching, we’re promoting a healthy mind.

So if you’ve lost a child you might be asking, “Should I see a grief coach or a grief therapist?”

It really depends on what you’re seeking. Think of it like this: if you wanted to improve your muscle tone and overall health, would you go see a sports medicine doctor or a personal trainer?

Right after Nick died, I went to Therapy, and it was helpful to a point. For me, my therapy ended fairly quickly when I had accepted what happened and it seemed like we were just repeating the same conversation over and over.  

Oh my goodness, how I could have benefitted from Grief Coaching at that time!

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Comparison of grief therapy and grief coaching 

Here is MY comparison of the two:

           

Grief Therapy

Grief Coaching

1

Past Focused - explore unresolved feelings surrounding the past relationship with the loved one

Future Focused - Starts with where you are and emphasizes self knowledge, self development, and self management - a goal of personal growth after devastating loss

2

Seeks to move a patient from non-functioning to functioning

Seeks to move a client from functioning to highly functioning

3

Diagnose and treat mental disorders - sometimes with medication

Assumes client is okay and full of potential.  Cannot diagnose illness such as clinical depression or prescribe medication

4

Emotion focused - emphasizes feelings

Action focused - emphasizes behavior and thinking

5

Usually considered a long term commitment for realizing insights or change

Major changes and realizations can take place in a relatively short amount of time

6

Seeks to heal medical disorders so their patient can deal with everyday life

Seeks to help a client honor a loved one by helping them find a way to have an extraordinary life

7

Grief Therapist determines objectives based on diagnosis

Client determines objectives based on how they want to feel and their goals. A grief coach can see your strengths and talents, and hold up the mirror for you to see too.

8

Requires Advanced Degrees in Psychology or Psychiatry.  Patients rarely get to know any personal details about the Therapist.

Requires a genuine desire to help people with a specific problem or goal.  A Coach’s personal experience can be very helpful. Some specialize in working with a specific type of client (ie: Moms that have lost a child)

9

Regulated: Usually meet in person, licensed on a state by state basis. This can keep a therapist from working with someone in another state.

Flexible and Convenient: Can be easily conducted in-person or virtually by phone, e-mail or video chat. Coaches can work with people across town or across the world.

10

Asks the question “Why?”

Asks the question “What’s next?”

The differences between grief therapy and grief coaching

Why you need a grief coach


Whether it’s sharing happiness or misery, at some point in our lives, we need someone who’ll be there for us. That person who can basically just listen, particularly when we are at our lowest. 


Losing someone you love can leave you with an unfathomable feeling of deep sadness, guilt, disappointment, and helplessness. It’s like being a once awesome runner but suddenly getting crippled after encountering a huge boulder.

You lose your focus. You lose your strength. Then eventually lose your will to move forward.

What’s making it more difficult is that you find it hard to open up about the emotions that are building up inside. You feel sharing these thoughts and feelings will only make your family feel worse. Or at least you must show how strong you are. This way, they’ll get that strength to move on as well.

These moments, though they are hurtful, are best shared with someone. I remember the saying from a Swedish proverb, “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow”.

Whether it’s sharing happiness or misery, at some point in our lives, we need someone who’ll be there for us. That person who can basically just listen, particularly when we are at our lowest. 

The great thing is that now, grief coaching is becoming more popular, and grief coaches can be easily accessed. A grief coach can help you get your life back on track as you cope with the loss of a parent, child, pet, or anyone close to you. 

What your grief coaching session would look like


Grief coaching can help you to understand your feelings to release the pain and emerge stronger. With a grief coach, you can get redirected to get back on track towards living a meaningful life. 

Before we continue, let me just say that going through grief is a lonely road everyone takes. It is absolutely normal to feel momentary despair or sadness or sometimes get depressed. It’s your own unique road, and no one knows how long it will last. 

Grief coaching can help you to understand your feelings to release the pain and emerge stronger. With a grief coach, you can get redirected to get back on track toward living a meaningful life.

How? It all starts with an open and sincere talk about what you’re going through. 

Take a look at some of the grief coaching questions that your coach may ask.

Grief coaching questions

As we go through the cycle of life, from the birth of a child to birthdays, to momentous family events, perhaps the most surprising and devastating feeling is that of losing a loved one. Other than it is often unexpected, there’s really no formula on how to get through it.  

We just have to learn it by ourselves, little by little. We may not even show clear signs of grieving but it doesn’t mean we are okay. It’s also normal to sometimes burst into tears as we get reminded of the past when our spouse, parent, or child was still around. 

During this time, a life coach can help lift your load and navigate through life by using grief coaching questions. This way, your journey toward acceptance and the whole grieving process becomes lighter and more manageable.

Grief coaching questions are structured in a way to support you toward healing. They start by allowing you to open up about your recent loss and end with gearing towards positivity and acceptance.

Grief, I've learned, is really just love. It's all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.  Jamie Anderson  Coaching Quote

Grief coaching questions about understanding the loss of a loved one

Like any coaching session, there’s always that goal of achieving success or improving your condition. Grief coaching lets you come to terms with your emotions. This eventually paves a way for you to move forward. 

But how? First, you need to understand and sort out your feelings after losing someone. This is the only way to reconcile with your grief and come to an acceptance of your loss

Your coach will encourage you to talk about what you’re going through, to allow you to process your emotions. This is where you’ll start to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, leading you to embrace grief and resume your road to recovery.   

Here are the questions your grief coach may ask during your session.

  • What kind of loss are you experiencing? (Ex. loss of a parent, child, sibling, friend, or pet)
  • How would having this discussion support what you’re going through now?
  • Have you tried speaking to someone about your situation?   
  • Can you describe to me a typical day after your loss?
  • What sort of feelings do you experience these days?

Grief coaching questions about appreciating a loved one’s legacy

Your grief coach can guide you in navigating your rocky journey by remembering how your loved one lived their life. 

Getting past the mourning stage doesn’t mean that you have to bury your loved ones' memories. It means honoring them and their legacy, or how they wish to be remembered. 

This is where you do some “meaning-making” of what you are experiencing (Bryant, C., 2003, 438). Imagine how your loved one wants you to incorporate their values, wishes, and will into your daily life (Hedtke L., et. al., 2016). 

Let these questions guide you to appreciate your loved one’s legacy.   

  • In three words, how can you describe your loved one?
  • Thinking of your loved one, what were some of your favorite memories? 
  • What do you appreciate most from your loved one?
  • Think back to the moments you shared, what were the three most important lessons, skills, or gifts that you received from your loved one?
  • What’s the greatest advice or saying you won’t forget from your loved one?
  • How did your relationship with your loved one create an impact on who you are today? 

woman grieving

Grief coaching questions about the grieving process

Though death is certain, many of us still find ourselves in disbelief, shock, or in denial when someone close to us breathes their last. This holds even when a loved one loses their battle in sickness, whether it's a parent, child, friend, or pet. 

Since we all grieve differently, it’s only usual to feel conflicting emotions, from anger to guilt, or helplessness to loss of interest to do things. But with a grief coach, you’ll have an extra source of support, to make sure you don’t get stuck in your emotions.

Though it’s hard, you need to look beneath your pains to find meaning and comfort. 

Here are the questions your coach may ask:    

  • How well do you eat and sleep these days?
  • How are you coping after your loss?
  • How often do you go out to meet friends?
  • What do you do when dealing with your loss gets too painful?
  • Are there activities you do to try to drive the pain away? What activities help you to “forget” the pain?
  • Where do you get the comfort now?
  • Do you recall memories and seek comfort? If so, what are those memories?
  • Do you avoid places or things that trigger painful memories? If so, what are they?
  • What would you wish you'd said (or didn’t say) when your loved one was still alive?
  • Can you tell me your understanding of how one should manage grief?
  • So far, what is the most difficult feeling as you mourn right now?
  • Is there anything that hinders you to grieve openly or naturally?

Grief coaching questions beyond the pain of mourning

When mourning a loss of a loved one, we are often left with feelings of despair, shame, guilt, or anxiety. There’s a part of us that wishes, “What if I did or didn’t do this, would things turn out differently?” 

Most of the time, we resort to blaming ourselves, even if we did everything with what we have.

Let a grief coach help you in shifting your perspective positively. For example, try to visualize an alternative storyline that dwells more on how you supported your loved one when they were still around. Were you able to be there for them physically, spiritually, psychologically, or financially?  

By creating a more constructive approach to dealing with grief, you can slowly break away from the hurt and the “what ifs” of losing someone you loved. It can help you look beyond the pain and gain clarity on your grief. Your grief coach will support you in finding meaning and answers through these questions.   

  • What is the greatest lesson you learned after experiencing your loss?
  • If your pain can speak, what is it trying to tell you?
  • What did your loved one appreciate most about you?
  • If your loved one is here, what might he or she say about how you contributed to his or her life, especially during the final days?    
  • Is there anything that stands in the way of your complete healing?

Grief coaching questions to help find the path forward

The road to recovery after experiencing one’s loss takes time. But with a grief coach, you’ll be able to see the light. Try to reflect on what your loved one wants you to do as they leave this world. Do they have wishes they want to be fulfilled?

Take time to process your thoughts as it is surely a challenging road ahead. But you also have to consider that your loved one also wants you to continue your journey without them, in order for them to attain eternal rest. 

Let your coach guide you to get back on track by asking these questions:

  • Is there something your loved one wished you to do?
  • What can actually make your loved one happy?
  • How can you continue your loved one’s legacy?
  • In what ways do you remember your loved one as you continue your life’s journey without them? (Ex. Do you speak, think of, or dream of them in certain situations?)
  • Do you allow yourself to enjoy life since your loss? If yes, what activities brought you joy?
  • If you could visualize what your life looks like now, how do you see it? 
  • Think back to the other tough times in your life, what has helped you to overcome them? 
  • When your loved one was still around, what have you always wanted to do but could not?
  • What hobbies or activities did you want to try?
  • How do you see yourself a year from now?

a mother's grief

Final thoughts about grief therapy vs grief coaching 


Many times I have watched a Mom realize that life can be happy again, life can be good again, and start looking forward to their future again. 

Obviously, I truly believe in Grief Coaching. I believe because I have personally seen the results my clients have experienced when adding coaching to their grieving process.  Many times I have watched a Mom realize that life can be happy again, life can be good again, and start looking forward to their future again.   

But Grief Coaching is NOT for everyone. In cases where bereavement has caused severe depression, the inability to deal with daily tasks or the need to explore the details of their loved ones death in order to accept reality a Therapist is necessary and life giving.  I know because a Therapist helped me with the acceptance piece of my grief journey.


For those who are ready and willing to ask the question “Where do I go from here?”, working with a Grief Coach will help you not only “bounce back” but “bounce forward”! 

However, for those who are ready and willing to ask the question “Where do I go from here?”, working with a Grief Coach will help you not only “bounce back” but “bounce forward”!

If you are a Mom who’s lost a child, please consider Grief Coaching. I would love to talk to you further about the possibilities and whether or not it’s right for your particular situation.

Embrace your grief. For there, your soul will grow.  Carl Jung  Coaching Quote


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COMMENTS

  • susan
    April 15, 2020

    This is a really upsetting and misinformed description of grief therapy I have ever seen. I am so sorry that it sounds like you saw a grief counserlor who was using decades outdated approaches. It is terrifying to me if acceptance was a goal! A therapist should NEVER set your objectives, there is no diagnostic process in grief counseling. I understand your goal here is to promote coaching, which is fine, but I do hope you’ll consider revising this to reflect grief counseling ideas that aren’t from the 1970s, as not to discourage people from grief therapy with misinformation.

  • Deanna
    February 06, 2021

    Susan's comments are 100% on target.
    I am 20 years in as a grief counselor in hospice, an early widow at age 29, I'm only 50 now.
    Anyone who has a reputation for being an effective grief counselor has organically counseled, coached, and encouraged the grieving individual to teach us while we walk with them through their loss. This site attempts to discredit that idea and makes assumptions that people are ready to be coached.

  • Reba
    October 06, 2021

    I agree with Susan and Deanna's comments. I have been a grief counselor for 10 years. There are so many points above that are not only concerning, they are dangerous. Counselors use evidence based practices, and hold licenses for a reason. It is important and ethical to be able to show that the treatment you are charging people for 1. Is effective, and 2. Is NOT harmful. If a coach has no oversight, who is making sure that they are not causing harm to clients?

    Also, not for nothing, modern day counselors practice from a variety of modalities. The description of the goals of "coaching" describes any what any good counselor skilled in CBT or DBT does. The difference is that those counselors use techniques which have been studied and peer reviewed. They monitor their treatment and outcomes. They have a licensing board overseeing them. They have education and experience.

    If you have experienced a loss you know that you don't need to have a "mental illness" to be in a very vulnerable place. If you want to go into this field in any capacity you have an ethical responsibility to provide safe and effective care.

  • Williams Daniel
    January 09, 2023

    Very good article, I have learned many useful and interesting things from the information you shared.

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