Coaching your client through grief can be a tough process. However, it is very important to be there for your client during this time, because they run a high risk of relapse. Stay available to your client when you are coaching your client through grief, and try to recognize what stage of grief they are in when you have sessions. If it is appropriate, you may want to suggest additional therapy or coaching sessions during this time.
Coaching your client through grief: Recognizing the stages
When someone experiences loss, they usually go through different phases as they try to cope with it. The first stage is usually denial. When someone learns of a loss, they will not initially be able to cope with the fact that someone they love is gone. This is often a temporary defense, but some people can become locked in this phase. When you are coaching your client through grief, part of your job is to help your client accept the reality of the situation.
The second phase of grief is anger. People who are grieving wonder why this happened to them. They may feel like it is unfair or try to blame someone for their loss. When someone who has experienced loss moves from denial to anger, they have misplaced rage that they may direct inwardly, towards others (loved ones or complete strangers), or towards the person who is gone. They may resent the person they have lost, feel guilty about the resentment, and become even angrier. When you are coaching your client through grief, it is important to recognize that this is a normal part of loss, and to remain nonjudgmental in a session with someone in this stage.
The third stage of grieving is known as “bargaining.” Often at this stage, a person who has experienced loss feels helpless and vulnerable and needs to try to regain control. They will often make “deals” with God or a higher power, asking for a loved one back if they mend their ways or in exchange for their material possessions. If a loved one is terminally ill, family members will often make promises to God or a higher power in exchange for postponing or delaying death.
When people experiencing loss realize that bargaining is futile, they will often enter into a state of depression. This is the stage at which people usually seek out the help of a counselor or recovery coach. This is a normal stage of grief and most experts agree that is important a grieving person fully experience it. When you are coaching your client through grief, it is not recommended that you try to talk someone out of their sadness at this stage or try to cheer them up.
The final stage of grief is acceptance. Acceptance is different from resignation; it is a period of withdrawal and calm. People who have experienced a loss begin to come to terms with it. This is not a period of happiness, but of peace. Some people never reach this stage. They become locked in anger or depression and can’t move on. When you are coaching your client through grief, it is your goal to bring someone to this phase.