Catholic Grief Counselling

Catholic Grief Counselling: A Christic Perspective on Coping with Grief

Counselling, in a psychological setting, is defined as a relationship that is established between yourself and a professionally trained expert who helps you to overcome your issues after a systematic chain of sessions. In grief, though, whilst it is common not to want to feel the way we do, the idea of overcoming your situation is not necessarily how it works.

The role of Catholic grief counselling and the framework it offers.

From a spiritual perspective and within our Catholic faith tradition, we show up as we are in grief, entering this journey with what we have and with who we are. No one is the expert, and so being accompanied by someone is more about them walking beside you, with curiosity and compassion, where the guiding role alternates between you and them, sometimes you hold the light, and other times, when you need it, because it gets too dark, they hold the light.

If we think of the scripture passage in the gospel of Luke, we witness the ultimate counsellor. Jesus meets the disciples in the midst of their confusion and listens. His relationship with the men is not about helping them to overcome, but to light the way for them to arrive at an understanding about Jesus, their beloved who was taken with such cruelty and violence. It is the sharing of an understanding that leads to deep connection. Counselling, while grieving, is more about knowing that someone understands the depth of your grief than helping you to overcome your feelings. The acknowledgment of absence can be profoundly transformative, taking you to a place where you have never been before.

Where to seek grief counselling

Grief counselling can be sought through your parish, often referred to as pastoral care.  Pastoral care is not strictly counselling, but what makes it enormously beneficial for people with a strong faith orientation is that it deeply embodies Christic teachings including compassion, silence, prayer, gratitude, forgiveness and love. Pastoral accompaniment is a practice of deep listening, a practice that Jesus actively pursued and advocated himself. This is prayer in motion, listening and responding to the deep wounds of another.

The use of the word wound here is intentional. Loss, a wound in itself, has the propensity to open new wounds or activate old wounds. What we thrive on as social animals is connection, and this is modelled for us by the trinitarian principal with which we are so familiar, which expresses the interconnectedness of all things, that we are above all relational. Which is why the loss of a loved one is so utterly traumatic for us because a relationship that held so much love, among other things, is no longer possible.

Unless it is…

Integrating scripture, sacraments, prayer and other aspects into counselling

One of the graces that we are granted in grief, if we respond to it, is the possibility of continuing the relationship with our loved ones, as an invisible but none the less intimate bond of devotion and love. This is the gift that Jesus imparted to his disciples who were so torn by and lost in grief.   As he walked beside these two grief-stricken men on the road to Emmaus, companioning from Jerusalem, where they had been with Jesus, to an unknowable and unfamiliar Emmaus, he was able to take them from the man Jesus to the resurrected Christ. It was at that moment in which they received Jesus as Christ in the breaking of bread together, that the man who was no longer, became alive in their hearts.

Not all counsellors will reflect spiritual understandings.  However, if you choose to, you can walk the counselling journey with someone who can reflect and explore with you the spiritual dimension of grief, love and loss. Below are some resources to help you begin to explore and navigate accompaniment in grief.  There is no limit to the amount of grief counselling sessions and no prescriptive number of sessions. While you benefit and are being consoled, it is completely legitimate to remain in a therapeutic relationship. Counselling when grieving takes time, there is no set number of sessions, whilst ever you feel that you need counselling, then it is your right to choose to continue.