What does a grief coach do and why are they a necessity now?
Grief must be one of the most universal feelings in the world. We all grieve at some point in our lives. Being surrounded by somebody who cares is huge emotional support when we are grieving or mourning. But not everybody finds that support from friends or family members.
For example, many people have lost their near ones during the global pandemic of Covid-19. Most countries remained in a period of extended lockdown. Local and international travel was not allowed. This led to loneliness and isolation for everybody. But those who passed away left behind families who could not even grieve together.
This website says that the ultimate goal of grief and mourning is to move one beyond the initial reactions of shock and desolation to tackle the loss. Grief and mourning has a therapeutic purpose. It helps one get to a place where he or she can deal with the loss in a healthy way. But this is not easy. It takes time and the support from near and dear ones. Covid 19 has denied this support for everyone right now.
This is why your role as a grief coach has become so important in the current scenario.
Need for a Grief Coach
Do your clients need you now more than ever? What do you provide that not even their friends and family can?
This is an important question to ask. This will help you understand how to pitch your coaching services better to a niche audience. After all, if grief has existed since time immemorial, why are clients hiring grief coaches now?
Process of grief coaching
Let us study the process of grieving that most people experience. Irrespective of how they visibly react to the process, there are usually five stages of grief that most clients go through.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book Death and Dying named the five stages of grief as:
- Denial and Isolation
Your role as a grief coach is to help a client recognize that their loved one is no longer reachable or that the job loss is permanent. Even clients who have been estranged from the deceased, feel overwhelmed by the finality of that statement.
There are several internal, psychological changes that follow and these are all a necessary part of the process of grieving. Death or separation also brings about external, social changes and these pose a challenge.
As a coach, you are best placed to hold space for all the changes that occur in your client’s life.
Science of Grief
It is important for you to understand what grief does to the body and mind of your client. This website explains how coping with grief can affect the brain. How will this help you in your practice as a grief coach?
Well, before prescribing medicines, even a doctor needs to fully understand the ailment. In the same way, an understanding of your client’s mental and physical ailments is important before a diagnosis.
“While many people associate grief with a loss or death, that’s not always the case. People can also grieve when adjusting to any sort of new normal. “Maybe you’re becoming an empty nester, or you’re newly retired,” says Jannel Phillips, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Henry Ford Health System here. “The emotions you experience look similar to grief – and underneath that grief are neurological changes that take place in the brain.”
In fact, several regions of the brain play a role in emotion, including areas within the limbic system and pre-frontal cortex. These involve emotional regulation, memory, multi-tasking, organization and learning. When you’re grieving, a flood of neurochemicals and hormones dance around in your head. “There can be a disruption in hormones that results in specific symptoms, such as disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, fatigue and anxiety,” says Dr. Phillips.
This article defines the various forms of grief.
Anticipatory grief: This is the kind of grief experienced when the death of a loved one is just around the corner, such as in cases of terminal illness or an ailing, elderly family member. While painful, some psychologists believe this type of grief may help to shorten the post-death grief process because so many of the related emotions are worked through ahead of time.
Unanticipated grief: This type of grief is often associated with unexpected loss, such as from an accident, heart attack or other surprise events.
Ambiguous grief: This form is the result of a circumstance where there is little or no closure about the unfortunate event. For example, if a loved one is kidnapped and never found, a pet runs away, a parent abandons a child or a child abandons a parent.
In all of these cases, recovery from grief is a time-consuming process. As a grief coach, you will be called upon to be a supportive pillar while helping the client work through this sense of overwhelm and sadness.
Grief Coach versus Grief Counselor
Is there a difference between grief coaching versus counseling? If so, which specific expert should your client choose?
The difference between coaching and counselling is well established. The same can be applied to grief coaching versus counselling, as explained here.
In short, coaching is primarily a future-focused practice. A grief coach explores the past only to frame the client’s current mental context. A grief counsellor explores the past in minute detail in order to get to the root of the problem.
The other major difference is in the role that a coach or counsellor plays. A coach believes that the answer lies within the client. The key towards moving forward is to help the client find the way. A counsellor, on the other hand, is a medical professional who delivers an expert opinion on the way forward (medicine or therapy).
In this research paper, the writer explores the impact of grief coaching in times of crisis. This is particularly true now in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, ongoing war or civil unrest. As the writer says, counselling is best suited for those in need immediately following times of mass tragedy, given the large-scale impacts and extreme emotion commonly involved.
A phrase that struck me from the article here is “Goal-centric vis-à-vis Clarity-centric”. This explains the difference between a grief coach and a grief counsellor perfectly!
How Does A Grief Coach Work?
As a grief coach, how should you go about helping your clients? One effective way is to work in alignment with your client’s mental stage of healing.
Once that is done, you need to work with your client to lay out the scope of your involvement as a grief coach.
It is best to decide this in the beginning as it will be a good yardstick by which to measure success. This is also a good coping tool. Those who are bereaved may often not be able to see a way out of the overwhelming sense of grief. Depression and denial can often turn catastrophic. A guideline holds out hope. The client often believes that healing is possible when you show the road map of how he/she will recover.
As a grief coach, your client expects you to keep the big picture in mind. Progress, however, slow, is crucial. But it is always not available for your clients who may have lost perspective while grieving. This is where you come in. Keep encouraging them towards the path of healing.
Strategies for a Grief Coach
Some effective tips for helping your clients heal can be the following:
In today’s world, self-care has become a popular catchphrase to describe everything from getting some alone time to volunteering! This may help others who are healthy. But it may be difficult for a person who is grieving the loss of a pet, partner or business. This is because focusing on others is difficult at this time. Instead, ask your clients to look inward. Eat healthy, get adequate rest and exercise. Encourage meditation or mindfulness for a few minutes. But do not give up on your client if he/she fails to do this.
Taking a break
Moving away from reminders of the past can be helpful for some clients. Encourage your clients to take a break from their usual routine. Some may benefit from meeting their friends or family. Others may want to stay isolated for some time. In either case, ensure that your client stays in touch with you. It is important to process the grief but not get engulfed in misery for too long.
Mental health check
After suffering loss and grief, it is natural for your client to entertain negative thoughts that hamper self esteem. This is where you come in to help as a grief coach. Allow your client to share memories but encourage them to prevent negative thoughts and “what if” sentences. If you feel that the client will benefit from medical help, do not shy away from recommending it.
Traits of a Good Grief Coach
There is no one rule fits all when it comes to coaching. However, the following traits usually help coaches when it comes to finding success.
While every coach has been trained to practice active listening, not everybody follows it. I cannot stress on this enough. I believe that the biggest contribution of a coach is to provide a listening ear. So, ask the right questions and listen to your client.
All that your client needs right now is a non-judgemental ear. It is important that the client is allowed to feel that all emotions are valid. Try not to interrupt the client’s thoughts. Remember this is not your journey. You are merely the enabler for the client to process the grief and move on.
Perspective is key
However, this does not mean a full rein when it comes to mourning. Does this contradict what I said earlier? Not really. Your role as a grief coach is to hold space for the client to process his/her feelings. However, the client has hired you specifically to alert him/her to provide a reality check. Empathetic listening is only effective when it does not cloud your own judgement. So, keep the big picture vision and guide the client to move towards it.
Know your audience
In order to have a competitive advantage, you need to know your audience very well. Find out the specific unmet needs of your target audience. Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
- How does your competition fare while trying to meet the needs of your target audience?
- Why did they fail?
- How will you meet the needs of your target customers?
- How will you differentiate what your service is as a grief coach? How will you help your target audience understand this?
Marketing is key
Is marketing going to help you as a grief coach? And if so, how can you do this?
To answer the first question, I will direct you to my blog Is Marketing Crucial to My Coaching Business. Marketing your business is a smart move in the present circumstance. This article also supports this view.
A 2018 article states that two-thirds of adults in the United States (US) say that trust in a brand has a great deal (31%) or a lot (37%) of influence on their decision when making a big purchase, reports Survey Monkey. Adults in the United States are not alone in the importance they place on trust: a majority of respondents in the United Kingdom (57%) and Canada (69%) also say that trust in a brand has a great deal or a lot of impact on their decision-making.
As a grief coach, your career will really test the virtues of patience and empathy. Clients may need your support at any time of the day, if they are feeling particularly vulnerable. It helps you to set the boundaries of interaction early on. However, you may have to be flexible given the mental state of your client.
Say, you have come to an end of your coaching engagement. Now, what? Well, it is likely that your next client will be referred by your present or past clients. Here are some tips that may help you:
Keep an elevator pitch ready at all times to explain what you do and how you are “different” from the rest.
Brush up on your online marketing skills from the beginning. The Covid-19 pandemic is here to stay for some time. Online is the only way forward.
Keep in touch with your past clients. Check up on them and support in any way that you can. A happy client will definitely want to pass the word around. Who knows when you may land your next client.
These qualities are common for coaches across all coaching models.
These qualities mentioned are helpful for every type of coach, including a grief coach.
Is There A Market for a Grief Coach?
Given the current economic slump globally, is there enough demand for a grief coach?
Well, it depends on who you care to ask.
Individuals who hire your services as a grief coach have already realized that it is important to move on. Healing is required not only for personal growth but also in their professional lives. Yes, the economic slump has moved people indoors. However, the need is higher than ever to provide support for those who are in mourning.
Meanwhile, here are some facts that indicate coaching is a growing industry. I have mentioned these statistics in my earlier blog posts as well.
Average income for life coaches ranges from $27,100 to $73,100. Specialty coaches can charge more than $100,000 annually.
In Asia, there were around 3,700 coaches. They contributed $113 million in total annual revenue.
Read the whole post for more statistics.
As a grief coach, you are already working within a very specific niche.
Is Certification Needed for a Grief Coach?
Will your clients be looking for degrees or certification from you before hiring?
Mostly, the answer is no. I have written about this in my blog Do you need Coaching Certification in 2021?
This is because till now, the coaching industry is unregulated. Anyone can claim to be a coach. Your experience, marketing skills and good client recommendations will decide your success as a grief coach.
If you are new to the profession and still learning how to become a coach, take up some training. This will help you to understand the industry better and to make connections.
Resources for a Grief Coach
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” This quote by Joseph Addison stands true for every individual, whether a child or adult.
Today, technology has made it very easy for everyone to stay updated with the latest information. Knowledge and development is a continuous process. So, keep reading research papers, opinion pieces in newspapers or reputed magazines and books to keep yourself updated as a grief coach.
Here are some books that you may find relevant for your coaching niche.
Books for a Grief Coach
There are several books for you to read and learn from as a grief coach. I recommend you look through some of the titles and see which one is a good read for you.
Some books recommended by experts are listed here. While these are self-help books, it will help to look at a different perspective apart from the usual coaching books. Some of the books mentioned by experts on the website are:
- How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies
- The Invisible String
- The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
- When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death
- The Other Side of Sadness
- I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye
- Bearing the Unbearable
- A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children
- Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief
- Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers: How to Cope With Losing Someone You Love
- Healing the Adult Sibling’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Brother or Sister Dies
- The Empty Room: Understanding Sibling Loss
- Surviving the Death of a Sibling: Living Through Grief When an Adult Brother or Sister Dies
- The Orphaned Adult: Understanding and Coping with Grief and Change After the Death of our Parents
- It’s OK that You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand
- The Year of Magical Thinking
Some common coaching books clients look up are listed here.
Podcasts and Videos for A Grief Coach
As a grief coach, you can check out several YouTube videos and podcasts relevant for you.
I have listed some of them below.
This link here directs you to the top 10 podcasts on grief.