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Case Study on Bereavement Counselling: Restoring Confidence and Happiness

Grief Counselling

Table of Contents

After losing her husband, Meeta was experiencing lack of confidence, lack of interest in her work, family & friends and life in general. She connected with me with a question “Can therapy help me deal with grief?” and if yes then “How?”

After having an initial conversation over the phone, we scheduled an online consultation session.

Bereavement Counselling – Complete Session Flow

Initial Consultation or Pre-therapy Session:

(We did counselling sessions over video calls online and we met for the first  counselling session as a result of her sister recommending it. Meeta agreed with her sister that she had been feeling low in mood, distant from her friends and family and had lost interest in life over the last one year. She agreed that it was time for her to try and do something about it.)

Meeta :  Akshada, I lost my husband, just like that no warning nothing, everything seemed to be going really fine and one fine day I woke up and he had ended his life. The both of us were really close to each other. It has been one year since this and, you know, all this time that I have been feeling unmotivated, distant, sad, and also I can’t help but blame myself, that I couldn’t see the signs if there were any, I had absolutely no idea, what kind of a wife was I, thinking that everything is hunky dory and we are close to each other? 

As always in the initial consultation session of Bereavement Counselling, after hearing Meeta’s challenges, I began by psycho-educating Meeta about the core concepts behind the process I follow. I suggested Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy (which is an eclectic approach to Psychotherapy) for working through the guilt, shame and lack of interest in work, relationships, and overall life that she was facing. Then I walked her through the pre-coaching process. 

After helping her understand the bereavement therapy process, I added that in her case, once we have defined the current problem and outcome clearly, I will help her with

  1. Defining the Existing problem clearly
  2. Defining the expected outcome from the sessions clearly.
  3. Exploring her feelings towards her husband about the fact he committed suicide, about his passing away and the feelings now she has towards his memory
  4. Completely embracing her feelings including grief and then moving on from the grief.
  5. Identifying observable changes that will indicate that the client has achieved the expected outcomes or that she is now capable of achieving her expected outcome.

Session 1: Defining Challenge and Desired Outcome

The first session I used the Meta Model*1 in combination with the SOFT SEA framework to help Meeta define her current situation, desired outcome, and expected future. 

I started the first session by asking Meeta to summarise the challenges she wanted to overcome through therapy in her own words. 

Girl experiencing grief in need of bereavement counselling

Meeta : I have lost interest in my life and I constantly feel sad. The sadness keeps growing day by day

I asked Meeta to reframe her problem statement using the following format:

 I feel …………… about…………… when……………

Meeta: I feel guilty about living my life normally when I remember his death and the way it happened

I asked Meeta to read the statement a couple of times and tell me what was the desired outcome that she wanted to achieve at the end of these sessions in the format:

 I wish ……………………….

Meeta : I wish to be able to make peace with the passing away of my husband and feel free to live my life normally while being happy about the things that I have in life 

I asked Meeta to create a list of all the things in her life that she can be happy about.

Meeta created a list with 5 things that she could immediately identify that she should feel happy about but Meeta said she doesn’t.

So I asked her, What are the things that you enjoyed doing and wanted to achieve in your life?

Meeta : Before my husband passed away, I wanted to have a child and wanted to play with my child. Wanted to be a family and have a normal adult life. But ever since my husband passed away, I can’t even imagine being with another man, so child is out of question

I asked Meeta to write down her desired future as her home assignment.

Session 2: Working with Grief

We began session 2 of the Bereavement Counselling in the next week by asking her about the week and any changes that she noticed in her behaviours, thoughts, or emotions. Meeta mentioned that while she was writing about the future, she actually started believing that it was possible to achieve that, which seemed almost impossible until she put her pen to the paper. 

Future Writing

As I had asked her to do this future writing as homework, below is a small extract of the future she had written: 

  1. I am able to move on from my husbands death and forgive him for the suicide and the fact he never shared his pain with me. I am forgiving myself, and without feeling any guilt or shame anymore for what he did, and the fact that I  wasn’t able to see his pain or any signs of whatever it was that he was going through
  2. I am slowly able to get back to my career in full swing, taking baby steps towards having a fulfilling social circle of friends and family. I am even considering at least explorieng and meeting if not dating other men 

Further, I helped Meeta experience a deep hypnotic state and then asked her to imagine herself in the moment where she heard the news of her husband passing and then continue the imagination till she witnessed the last rites in her imagination as well. 

I asked Meeta to imagine this till she started getting in touch with anger. Once her body language reflected that she was in touch with the anger, I continued into the next process called “Hypno-Drama“.

I asked who she was angry towards?

Meeta responded by saying “Him & Myself” for taking his own life, being selfish and at herself for not seeing the signs and being unaware of what her husband was going through. I asked her to imagine him and asked her emotions, her anger, her sadness towards her husband, and have a full blown conversation in her mind 

Meeta started venting out her emotions in her imagination, I encouraged her to vent out everything she was feeling. Slowly Meeta started calming down, I also asked to imagine her husband with her and God

Akshada : I want you to express your feelings to your husband  

Meeta expressed her feelings, her body language depicted both sadness and yet a sense of relief or closure. Once she felt calmer, she said she could let him go with God and she knew that he was happy and at peace with that journey. While she was saying this, she visibly looked happier. 

Akshada : Meeta, I want you to imagine his life going forward. 

Meeta imagined working towards improving her relationships with her family and friends and getting back to work and dating other men

I asked Meeta how she was feeling?

She replied Calm

I asked Meeta to tell me 3 situations in future wherein she would like to experience a similar kind of Calmness.

I further did the NLP Anchoring process with her.

At the end of the session, Meeta looked relieved and said that she feels happy knowing that her husband is happy and at peace.

Session 3: Working on her confidence to move on

In the third session of Bereavement Counselling, Meeta reported that she had started feeling better in the past week. I reminded Meeta that her second outcome was to be able to move on with her life confidently, and start dating other men and be able to get back to her fulfilling social circle of friends and family and that we shall focus on this during today’s session. 

I asked her to list down the things that she needed to be able to achieve this. Once she had listed it all down. We further made an elaborative task list wherein we broke down each and every task into smaller bits. I also asked Meeta to tell me what would be the possible hindrances while working on those tasks.

For her home assignment, I asked her to continue with the list.

Session 4: Working with Task List and Hindrances Cont…

Meeta reported that she had started feeling better in the past week. 

While I was going through the home assignment, she was very well able to break down the tasks. The major emotion that she wanted to feel was Confidence. I asked her to tell me 1 situation in the past where she felt most confident and 3 situations in the future where she would like to feel confident.

After she listed down the 3 future situations I used a combination of Emotional Anchoring and Future Imagination to associate the feeling of confidence in her everyday life tasks . I guided Meeta in the imagination to live her life confidently moving on and being able to date other men

At the end of the session, she informed me that she felt more confident about being able to move on with her life.

For home assignment I ask Meeta to use the anchored confidence in her daily tasks in the coming week and observe how it went closely.

Session 5: Session Closure

In the fifth session of bereavement counselling, Meeta mentioned that her past week went really nice and that she is back to her work in full swing and confident and that one of her close friends has already set up a date for her in the coming week and she is looking forward to meeting this new guy. She has also connected with her friends and family and she is feeling so much lighter, happier and calm making plans with them and feeling connected to them.

In this session, I taught her how to do self hypnosis for future concerns and at the end of the session I informed her that now the both of us could stay in touch with each other.

Over the next couple of weeks, Meeta stayed in touch with me and kept informing me about how things were going. After about a month both of us decided to terminate the sessions as Meeta was doing well and felt she could handle things by herself going forward.

My Observation

The bereavement counselling process used by me really surprised me by its effectiveness, especially given Meeta’s initial reluctance to even continue the counselling sessions, and the amount of guilt, blame and shame was carrying for herself.

Case Study on Bereavement Counselling: 
Restoring Confidence and Happiness