Managing grief and loss

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Table 47 presents strategies for managing these symptoms. The main issue in grief management is to normalise the process for the client. That is, encourage and support the grieving process, and remind the client that this process is natural [1014]. Everyone deals with grief and loss differently and therefore not all approaches work for all individuals. An information sheet for clients on grief and loss reactions is provided in the Worksheets section of these Guidelines.

Table 47: Dos and don’ts of managing a client with symptoms of grief or loss

DO:

  • Encourage the acceptance of the reality of the situation (e.g., discuss the loss, encourage client to attend grave site), as well as the identification and experience of feelings (positive and negative) associated with loss.
  • Help the client find a suitable way to remember, but also reinvest in life.
  • Continually monitor levels of depression and suicidal thoughts and act accordingly; risk is increased during periods of grief (e.g., the first 12 months after a death, anniversaries, holidays).
  • Be aware and understanding of feelings associated with grief, including anger.
  • Give both practical and emotional support.
  • Give the client your undivided attention and unconditional positive regard.
  • Be aware that concentration may be affected, therefore repeat instructions, write down instructions and so on.
  • Encourage healthy avenues for the expression of grief (e.g., physical activity, relaxation, artistic expression, talking, writing) rather than AOD use.
  • Encourage the client to seek social support. This may include bereavement services.

DON'T:

  • Avoid the reality of the situation or the feelings associated with it (e.g., use the name of deceased).
  • Judge or be surprised at how the client reacts – every person is different.
  • Time-limit the client when discussing grief, it can be a slow process.
  • Be afraid to seek assistance.

Adapted from Marsh et al. [1014].