Should you choose a Grief Coach or a Grief Counselor?

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Years after my son Nicholas’ death I started feeling a pull to become a grief counselor (therapist) so I could help other moms suffering through their own child loss.

But then I was introduced to grief COACHING, and fell in love with the concept of helping Moms all over the world deal with the loss of a child.

Coaching is a relatively new profession (there are coaches for business, confidence, relationships, money, and more, plus general life coaching), but don’t count it out just because you aren’t familiar with it.

I think coaching is comparable to what we thought about working out in the 1950’s & ‘60’s.  Very few people exercised, went to the gym, got sweaty, had muscles (except maybe Jack LaLanne - I’m revealing my age!)  Nowadays, working out is commonplace, accepted and recommended to have a healthy body. The concept of coaching is the same - except in the case of coaching, we’re promoting a healthy mind.

So if you’ve lost a child you might be asking, “Should I see a grief coach or a grief therapist?”

It really depends on what you’re seeking. Think of it like this: if you wanted to improve your muscle tone and overall health, would you go see a sports medicine doctor or a personal trainer.

Right after Nick died, I went to Therapy, and it was helpful to a point. For me, my therapy ended fairly quickly when I had accepted what happened and it seemed like we were just repeating the same conversation over and over.  

Oh my goodness, how I could have benefitted from Grief Coaching at that time!

Comparison of Grief Therapy and Grief Coaching

Here is MY comparison of the two:


Grief Coaching

  • Future Focused - Starts with where you are and emphasizes self knowledge, self development, and self management - a goal of personal growth after devastating loss

  • Seeks to move a client from functioning to highly functioning

  • Assumes client is okay and full of potential.  Cannot diagnose illness such as clinical depression or prescribe medication

  • Action focused - emphasizes behavior and thinking

  • Major changes and realizations can take place in a relatively short amount of time

  • Seeks to help a client honor a loved one by helping them find a way to have an extraordinary life

  • Client determines objectives based on how they want to feel and their goals. A grief coach can see your strengths and talents, and hold up the mirror for you to see too.

  • Requires a genuine desire to help people with a specific problem or goal.  A Coach’s personal experience can be very helpful. Some specialize in working with a specific type of client (ie: Moms that have lost a child)

  • Flexible and Convenient: Can be easily conducted in-person or virtually by phone, e-mail or video chat. Coaches can work with people across town or across the world.

  • Asks the question “What’s next?”


Grief Therapy

  • Past Focused - explore unresolved feelings surrounding the past relationship with the loved one

  • Seeks to move a patient from non-functioning to functioning

  • Diagnose and treat mental disorders - sometimes with medication

  • Emotion focused - emphasizes feelings

  • Usually considered a long term commitment for realizing insights or change

  • Seeks to heal medical disorders so their patient can deal with everyday life

  • Grief Therapist determines objectives based on diagnosis

  • Requires Advanced Degrees in Psychology or Psychiatry.  Patients rarely get to know any personal details about the Therapist.

  • Regulated: Usually meet in person, licensed on a state by state basis. This can keep a therapist from working with someone in another state.

  • Asks the question “Why?”


Final Thoughts About Therapy vs. Grief Coaching

Obviously, I truly believe in Grief Coaching.  I believe because I have personally seen the results my clients have experienced when adding coaching to their grieving process.  Many times I have watched a Mom realize that life can be happy again, life can be good again, and start looking forward to their future again.   

But Grief Coaching is NOT for everyone.  In cases where bereavement has caused severe depression, the inability to deal with daily tasks or the need to explore the details of their loved ones death in order to accept reality a Therapist is necessary and life giving.  I know because a Therapist helped me with the the acceptance piece of my grief journey.

However, for those who are ready and willing to ask the question “Where do I go from here?”, working with a Grief Coach will help you not only  “bounce back” but “bounce forward”!

If you are a Mom who’s lost a child, please consider Grief Coaching.  I would love to talk to you further about the possibilities and whether or not it’s right for your particular situation.

Karima Neghmouche