Bereavement Counselling and Help

Bereavement Counselling
and Support

Just talking ?

Face to face, telephone, email, instant messaging or webcam counselling

Just talking ?

Face to face, telephone, email, instant messaging or webcam

Traditionally, counselling has been face to face – client and counsellor sitting in the same room together.  However, talking face to face doesn’t suit everyone:

  • we may feel uneasy or even embarrassed talking with someone face to face about whatever is upsetting us
  • we may not feel that confident speaking face to face on our own with a counsellor
  • we may not have the time to travel to a specific place for a counselling session, or the means of getting there
  • we may not be free during the times that a specific counsellor or counselling organisation offers sessions

We all have different ways in which we like to do things – some of us like talking more than others, some of us like writing more than speaking, some of us like drawing and ‘arty’things, more than speaking or writing  …

With the development of computers, the internet, and social media, we now have quite a few ways in which we can talk to each other  With our different ways of doing things, some ways will suit each of us more than others:

  • face to face is good if you like talking, and want to be with a human being
  • email is good if you want to take time to work out what you want to say, and to be able to read and re-read the counsellor’s replies at your leisure, and are also happy to have a delayed reply from the counsellor
  • webcam is good if you want to talk face to face, but can’t make it to a specific location, or don’t want to be in the same place as the counsellor, or want to be in familiar surroundings during a session
  • instant messenger is good if you want ‘instant ‘replies, but are not bothered about being able to see the counsellor, and want to type not talk
  • telephone is good if you like talking, but can’t make it to a specific location for a session, and/or don’t want to be face to face to face with the counsellor

Talking about what is bothering you

Aside from how we might talk with people – whether that be face to face, online or on the phone, it can be difficult talking and exploring how we are are feeling.  It can also make a difference with who you talk with.

If you  feel that you can talk with friends and family and can get the support you need, then great !  However, sometimes it isn’t that easy and you might feel that you can’t do that for a variety of reasons, for example:

  • you don’t think they will understand how you are feeling
  • you don’t want them to know how you are feeling
  • you don’t want to upset them
  • you don’t want to bother them

Talking about the death of a human or animal being

If you have experienced a death, your family members or friends may also have know the person or animal who has died, and so may also be grieving – you might feel that this makes it hard for you to  talk  to them, because, for example, you might be worried about upsetting them further when they are already upset anyway. 

It’s also possible that they may be dealing with their grief in a different way from how you are dealing with it – they may wish to talk more, or less, than you do about the loss.  You may be grieving the loss more than those around you, or they may be grieving more than you are, and you might feel upset that you are not feeling the same way as they are.  

We are all different, we all respond to death in different ways, and the relationship we had with the person or animal that has died, will be different to the relationship that other people had with them.  

Bereavement is a very specific life event.  Death in particular, can be hard to understand, hard to accept, and hard to talk about.  We tend not to talk to each other about death – someone who is bereaved might be avoided by other people, or the bereavement may not be talked about – as if  the sad feelings will ‘go away’ if we ignore that a death has happened. We tend to try to get on with our lives, and act ‘normally’.  Those around us may also try to do the same thing.  Consequently, the thought of talking about death in a counselling session may not seem any easier than talking with family or friends.

Talking about loss

I have included loss here because, especially with an animal being, they may actually have gone missing and not died.  In addition, death is a loss – we even use the word in every day speech when referring to a death ‘sorry for your loss.’  However,  we can experience loss in many other ways:

  • a human or animal being actually going missing
  • loss of the family as it was eg. from a relationship split, divorce, children going to live one one parent in particular
  • loss of a familiar environment around us eg. a house move, or move to a different area
  • loss of ability eg. onset of an ongoing illness, which might make us unable to do certain things anymore
  • loss of dreams – this can be part of any loss such as those mentioned above – loss of how we thought our future was going to be

One aspect of a loss that is not due to death, is the possibility or hope that the situation could be put back to how it used to be – with a death, going back to how things used to be is not  possible. 

If you have experienced loss, as with grieving a death, those around you may or may not be experiencing the loss as well, and may be grieving it more or less than you are, or may have lots of other different feelings about the situation than you do.  Those around you may not understand how you are feeling or believe that you have suffered a loss at all.

After a change in our lives, for example, a relationship split, house move, onset or diagnosis of long term illness, we may try to carry on and ‘hope that things will get better’.  However, sometimes that can prove too much and we may find it impossible to move forward, perhaps struggling through each day and staying continuously upset most of the time.  We may constantly focus on, ‘what if …’ to try to work how things could have been different.

All of these events that can happen in our lives, plus many others, can have a big effect on how we grieve the death or loss of a human or animal being – loss can feature in our lives for many reasons, and we can grieve the loss, whatever it’s cause, as much as we might grieve an actual death of a human or animal.

Counselling - death and loss

Talking in a counselling session, about someone who has died, or about a loss may not be that easy – after all you will be opening yourself up to the feelings that are upsetting you.  However, it might help, and it might make the difference to how you continue to live after experiencing the death of the animal or person that you loved, or after the loss that you are living with.

If you do decide to give it a go, talking with a counsellor will give you the chance to talk through how you are feeling with someone who:

  • is not a family member or friend
  • did not know the human or animal who has died, and so will not get further upset by you talking about your grief
  • is trained in active listening
  • is used to helping people who are experiencing difficulties
  • is used to being with people who are upset and sad
  • is used to talking about death

Before we start counselling

After your initial enquiry to me asking about counselling, I will have a brief chat with you, either on the phone, or by another method which we have both agreed on, so that we can both try to decide if counselling would be a good option for you. 

If we both feel that counselling might be suitable for you, then I will send you my Counselling Contract for you to have a look through and sign.  Assuming that you have a happy with that, then we can then agree a time, place and method for our counselling.

If we both decide that counselling might not be the best option for you right now, I will do my best to try to direct you to more suitable help and support.

What to expect in a counselling session

Face to face

In the first session, I will briefly go through a few points:

I am a qualified counsellor, registered with the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists, and am bound by their Ethical Framework.

Everything you say in a counselling session will be confidential, unless I feel there is a risk to the safety of yourself or others.  In such a case I would discuss this with you, because I would be obliged to try to keep you or the person or animal concerned safe, which might mean contacting other agencies if necessary.

Instant messaging (VSEE is free to download)

Whilst I am a trained and experienced counsellor, and whilst I focus on bereavement counselling, there may be issues that you bring for which other charities or organisations might offer more specialist help and support than I can.  In this case, I might suggest you or I contact them regarding you obtaining support from them.

Each session is time limited to one hour.  This can potentially be difficult, especially if you are getting into a flow of thought as the session is nearing its end.  I will therefore try to help us end the session by letting you know that we have about 10, and then 5 minutes left.

Encrypted email (protonmail is free to download)

If you have not been referred to me via an agency which has taken payment beforehand,  I do ask for payment to be made to me at the start of the session, as I have found that this gets it out of the way, and we can focus on the session, and not have to think about it at the end, when you may perhaps have gone into depth exploring your thoughts, and may need some quiet time after the session.

For webcam,  instant messenger, telephone or email counselling. as I will not be meeting with you in person, I do ask that you pay me 24 hours before our agreed ‘meeting’ time please.



After that, if you are happy with the above points, then we can start to explore how you are feeling.  You may find it easy to talk about this, and be ready to get going, or you may be struggling to work out how you are feeling, not knowing where to start.  Or, you may wish to sit in silence.  Any of that is OK.

If you want to talk, but can’t start, there are other things we can do rather than talk …

Face to face sessions - not just talking ...

In a counselling session, with myself, or any other qualified and experienced counsellor, specifically focused on a bereavement, you can do any number of things in a session.  It is a good idea to check with your chosen counsellor how they work, and how the sessions might be run with them.

With me, if you wish to talk, then you can talk. If you wish to sit in silence – for some or all of the time, we can do that.  If you wish to use some of the things listed below, such as mood cards, symbols, pen and paper – then we can do that. It’s up to you.

It is also worth noting that whilst the reason for holding the session with me may be to focus on bereavement, life issues can be very inter-related, and it is quite feasible in a counselling session that other issues, including other losses, may be brought to the foreground, such as a relationship break-up, or house move, as this can all feed into how you may be feeling about a bereavement.

emoji faces
blob people

Mood prompts

As human beings, we have complex emotions, and mood prompts can be useful to help work out what emotions we are feeling about a situation, as well as being useful as a starting point for talking – for example emotion cards, emoji faces or blob people.  

Sometimes it is easier to work out how we are feeling by seeing a representation of what various emotions look like, or even just seeing them written down, and it can help with understanding and unravelling what we are feeling.



We can use everyday objects such as a collection of feathers, buttons, different coloured pens, or plastic animals to represent different people in our family, work environment, or other relevant social group.

We can say for example: imagine that this group of buttons or feathers represents the people in your family:

  • pick one  that represents you
  • pick one to represent each of the key people in your family, who had a relationship with the animal you have lost

From the buttons, feathers or plastic animals that you have selected, we can then discuss the details of each one to determine why you feel it represents the animal or person  you have chosen for it.  On a basic level, we generally associate certain colours with certain emotions or states, such as red being fiery or hot headed.  Blue tends to represent peace, calmness, or sadness etc …

However, the colours may well mean different things for you … We can also note the size of each button or feather chosen – eg. ‘I note that the one you have chosen to be your sister or brother is a different shape to the other ones you have chosen – why is this ?’

In this way we can talk about the issue in question indirectly by abstracting it into symbols, which can be a very useful way of exploring a difficult situation.

Pen and paper

We can also use coloured pens, crayons, pencil or simple ball point pen to:

  • draw pictures, for example of ourselves with our family, friends, pets or work environment – stick people are fine, you do not need to be a great artist
  • use specific counselling paper exercises, to help explore the specific aspects about a relationship you had with the animal you have lost
  • discuss ‘miracle’ questions, such as, ‘if you could wake up tomorrow and one thing would have changed, what would it be ?

Not talking

Alternatively, you may just want to sit in silence.   You may want to use the time to not think of anything in particular, to get away from everything else or everyone else, and just sit down and ‘do nothing’.

Copyright © 2019  Angela Fletcher

Bereavement counselling and support