Online Grief Counseling: Your Options Explained

Author Lisa Batten
October 18, 2021

The grief associated with going through a significant loss can be one of the most distressing experiences of a person’s life. It’s perfectly normal to face a wide range of emotions such as shock, numbness, guilt, and sadness. In fact, if you are experiencing intense grief, it may feel like life as you know it has come to a complete stop. Whether it’s related to a recent loss, or one that you’ve been mourning for a long time, grief counseling can help you process your emotions while getting the emotional support you need to cope and move forward during this difficult time.

man grieving at cemetery

What Is Grief Counseling?

Grief counseling, also known as bereavement counseling, is a form of support specifically designed to help you deal with loss. A grief counselor works with you to help you develop strategies and coping mechanisms for managing the difficult symptoms associated with grieving and easing your adjustment to your new reality. Research shows that grief counseling can help significantly reduce both the short-term and long-term symptoms of grief.[1]

While finding professional support can be extremely helpful, seeking it out is not always easy, especially when you are in the throes of grief. Fortunately, there are now many easily accessible, online resources available for grief counseling, with some even offering a 24/7 support system at your fingertips. In addition to being less expensive, research shows that online counseling is comparably effective to in-person services.[2]

Grief Counseling Techniques

Grief counselors, both online and in-person, use a variety of techniques that focus on helping you effectively work through your grief. In addition to teaching coping strategies, counselors also offer you an empathetic ear which can bring immense comfort for your loss.

Some common techniques in grief counseling include:

  • Talking about the deceased person (or other loss): Having a safe space to speak freely about what you’ve lost is important. You may want to share memories, stories, or simply just what you miss.
  • Managing distressing thoughts: Sometimes, grief is associated with extremely difficult thoughts and memories that can leave you feeling traumatized. Grief counseling can help you reframe thoughts and readjust your outlook on memories to help ease the emotional distress and encourage healthier grieving.
  • Dealing with feelings of guilt: Guilt is one of the most common feelings associated with loss. Grief counseling can encourage you to let go of guilt and create space to feel love and acceptance in the face of your painful loss. 

Types of Online Grief Counseling

There are several helpful options for finding online grief support. While each type of platform has its own strengths, it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that you can try out a few with virtually no commitment.

Online Therapy

Online therapy platforms connect you with a qualified therapist specializing in your area of need. Grief counselors generally use approaches borrowed from mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You can try therapy as a short-term option as you deal with loss or opt for ongoing sessions to continuously help you work through your grief.

Depending on your package, counseling could include any combination of video sessions, text messaging, and interactive worksheets. You can select a counselor based on their qualification, specialties, and how well they suit your needs. One major benefit of online therapy is that it is generally extremely easy and quick to switch therapists if you are not satisfied with the person assigned to you. 

Some popular online therapy platforms for grief counseling include Talkspace and BetterHelp.

Online Support Groups for Grief

Support groups can be great for connecting with people who are also dealing with loss. They help you find companionship, an understanding ear, and encouragement. Unlike in-person support groups that meet on a set schedule, online groups allow members to communicate any time through forums or chats in addition to group meetings. 

You can find grief support groups that address your specific type of loss as well as those that broadly support all types of grief. Many groups also offer tips and tools for coping and other forms of support. Support groups can be helpful on their own or used in combination with one-on-one therapy. 

In addition to many Facebook groups (i.e. Grief anonymous), you can find groups specific to your loss at Grief in Common. Younger people experiencing grief can find help at Actively Moving Forward. If you are dealing with pregnancy or infant loss, you can find support at First Candle

Forums for Grief

Online communities can be an excellent way to connect with other people experiencing grief-related life changes and emotional difficulties. You can easily navigate forums to find topics that are ultra-specific and give you 24/7 access to discussion boards. You can read through posts, ask questions, share, and comment on other people’s posts to feel connected with other grieving individuals. 

One of the most popular online forums for grief is Grieving.com which offers free membership as well as a marketplace with recommended services and products for people dealing with grief. You can also find monitored discussion groups for grief at Grief Healing Discussion Groups. Forums are a great way to find a community of people with whom you can connect and share. They can also be a fantastic resource for tips and tools that other people have found effective in managing their grief. 

Email Support for Grief

You can receive support right to your inbox through email forums for grief support. Emails generally don’t require any response but offer you thoughts for the day, coping techniques, and inspirational messages. Email support can be great for anyone, no matter what stage of grief or other methods of help they are seeking. 

GriefShare offers a “Season of Grief” email service that sends reminders and resources to aid in the recovery process. You can also find email support at GriefNet, which offers access to over 50 email support groups. 

How to Choose

Depending on your situation, you may find some formats for support more appealing than others. The fact remains that there is no such thing as “normal grieving,” and the aim should always be to find a way to work through your grief at your own pace while getting the support you need.

By reaching out for help, you can learn strategies to cope with pain, emotional discomfort, and unhealthy thought patterns. Additionally, meeting others in similar situations can offer much-needed support and hope in your moments of despair. 

Finding assistance in support groups, forums, and emails can be pivotal in helping you cope as you navigate your loss. If you find that your grief significantly impacts your day-to-day life, you may want to seek one-on-one support either in person or through a therapy app. 

At the end of the day, try what appeals to you the most and feel free to engage with a few different platforms. If you find that a particular service, group, or platform is making your symptoms worsen, seek alternatives that are better suited to your situation and needs.

Bottom Line

Experiencing loss is one of the most stressful and challenging experiences of life. There is no secret recipe for making grief disappear, but by engaging with a support system, learning effective coping strategies, and working through your pain with a professional, you can find a way to move forward and find some peace. With the ease and availability of online grief support, there’s space for everyone to get the help they need to find healing. 


References

  1. Newsom, C., Schut, H., Stroebe, M. S., Wilson, S., Birrell, J., Moerbeek, M., & Eisma, M. C. (2017). Effectiveness of bereavement counselling through a community-based organization: A naturalistic, controlled trialClinical psychology & psychotherapy24(6), O1512–O1523. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.2113
  2. Langarizadeh, M., Tabatabaei, M. S., Tavakol, K., Naghipour, M., Rostami, A., & Moghbeli, F. (2017). Telemental Health Care, an Effective Alternative to Conventional Mental Care: a Systematic ReviewActa informatica medica : AIM : journal of the Society for Medical Informatics of Bosnia & Herzegovina : casopis Drustva za medicinsku informatiku BiH25(4), 240–246. https://doi.org/10.5455/aim.2017.25.240-246
Author Lisa Batten

Dr. Lisa Batten has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology. She has over a decade of experience in clinical research and specializes in writing about mental health, wellness, nutrition, and fitness.