Why the Best Grief Counselors Are the Ones Who Have Suffered Loss

Grief comes in many forms and, unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy to take away some of the suffering of loss. Sometimes that loss comes in the form of the death of a loved one and other times it is the result of the breakup of a relationship; and other times still it is the loss of a job or a pet or a friend who’s moved away. Anytime there is loss, there is potential for grief and if you have ever loved and lost, you know what grief can do to you. Those who have suffered loss understand the stages of grief and the pain they experienced, and why it is often said they make the very best grief counselors.

The Difference between Sympathy and Empathy

Let’s take a look, for a moment, at a grief counselor who is sympathetic towards a client’s pain and suffering. Although that sympathy is heartfelt, it isn’t the same thing as empathy. How many times have you wanted to smack someone (figuratively of course) because they said, “I know how you feel.” No, they don’t know how you feel. They’ve never been there, never done that and certainly have never felt what you are feeling now. (No, you can’t know this but you ‘feel it’ in their response. There’s something not quite authentic in their tone or expression.)

Popular Careers in Psychiatric Social Work Prepare You for Grief Counseling

One of the most popular and highly needed careers as a social worker with an MSW online is in the field of grief counseling because that is something that not everyone is cut out for. Some people can work with those suffering profound loss and others are simply unable to deal with such a high level of pain in another person. According to information released by Rutgers Online in their online MSW program, psychiatric social work is a highly favored branch of social work in which a grief counselor would be employed.

With the right training you can be taught to think with empathy and not sympathy because that is what a grieving widow will hear in your voice. That is what an unemployed family man with three little kids will feel coming from you. Without that touch of sincerity, ‘understanding’ what they feel may do more harm than good.

Many Approaches to Help Those Stricken by Grief

Whether you choose a career in social work to counsel those who are suffering grief from a psychological or emotional perspective, or are in a profession that enables you to offer them the kind of financial help they need to get through a very trying time, this is something you can do and be good at if you, yourself, have suffered loss. Yes, you can learn social work without having shared common experiences with your clients, and sometimes it helps you stay detached if you haven’t.

However, when it comes to grief counseling, those who have suffered loss are less likely to give textbook platitudes. They are more likely to speak from the heart and that is what someone grieving really, really needs.

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