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Why GRIEF counselling…. and even most GRIEF coaching…doesn’t work.

Why GRIEF counselling…. and even most GRIEF coaching…doesn’t work.

That might sound like a provocative statement…..but I can only share what my consistent experience and observation has been.

Before I developed the process I now take people through, I too sought counselling (from psychologists) and coaching (from life coaches) to help me with the pain I was in over all the deaths in my family.  I have also met and follow a lot of counsellors and coaches in this field. And most are really not all that effective…at least not in bringing healing or permanent positive change.

Here is why:

Think of your pain around a death as being toothache.  Not in a rotten, decaying, get-rid-of-it type of way.  But in the way that it is a pain.  A deep, deep pain in you.  Not like a sore tummy that might be better by the afternoon, but like a much more profound pain that won’t just disappear or miraculously get better for you.  A constant ache.

The counsellor……

So you take your toothache to the toothache counsellor.  The toothache counsellor talks to you about your pain.  They believe it will never totally leave you but will gradually fade over time, so the answer is to talk about it.  So you tell them how much it hurts. And they listen to how much it hurts and understand how much it hurts. And it feels good to be able to talk about how much it hurts and have someone listen and understand.  Then you go away and come back next week to tell them how much it hurts now.

Outcome: you get used to the toothache over time, but it still hurts. Eventually, without planning it, to avoid the toothache which is so very painful (and has become a bit all-consuming) you stop chewing on that tooth, because every time you do it hurts and that’s just not practical for you.  (This is the same way in G.R.I.E.F that as your hurt continues as it is, eventually your brain will say ‘this aint working’ and start blocking out more and more memories of the person you’ve lost…and not just the bad ones… it’s often in thinking about them that you experience the pain).

The coach…..

OR you might go to the toothache coach. The coach is not interested in dwelling on your toothache (though they don’t really expect it to totally go away either) as they understand that single-minded focus on your pain is not all that great for you. So they draw you away from focusing on the pain by helping you to focus on other parts of your life. You get clear on what you want to achieve, what you want to do in your life, even using your toothache pain in your life to create good and to give you strength. And this can be a more useful approach for you.

Outcome: you feel somewhat better, more aware of the bigger picture (because the toothache isn’t all you are), more inspired by your life and the people in it.  Mostly. Because the toothache is still there.  And in the quiet times, in the stillness (if you actually stop long enough to allow any) you will feel the toothache.  And it will hurt.

Because neither of these people have actually touched the tooth or tried to take the toothache out of it.  A lot of them still have their own toothache going on and actually don’t even know that something can be done about it.

The answer…..

The answer is not to focus on the toothache.  Nor is the answer to ignore the toothache.  The answer is to go to the dentist and have him/her fix the toothache – really get into the tooth and change it so the tooth doesn’t hurt you the same way anymore.  Because this tooth was never meant to hurt like this.  And all the while the poor little tooth isn’t being respected the best way it could. Because it never wanted you to focus on all the pain the ache from it is causing. And it never wanted to be ignored.  Really it wanted you to sort out the toothache so it can stay where it belonged, in your mouth, without hurting you in any way, playing the same role it always did for you – whether you could see it or not.

Counselling for GRIEF can feel cathartic but more often than not keeps you stuck. The counselling/therapy model around GRIEF does not promote (nor really believe in) true healing.

Most coaching for GRIEFcan feel ( and often is) much more useful as it draws you out of your pain to reclaim your life…..but rarely is it designed to actually profoundly change, let alone completely heal, the pain you are in.

Until the work is put in to get into the pain and do something very different with it, you will not be able to heal completely from it.  And yes, healing completely and being able to talk about, remember, and love the person you’ve lost without it hurting at all is a very real possibility for you… matter what any counsellor or coach has told you.

Feel free to share your thoughts below.  I always love to hear from you.