22nd October 2018

The death of a therapist, coach or mentor – how to cope.

Coping with the death of a therapist, coach or mentor (c) KarinSieger.com

The death of a therapist, coach or mentor can be hard to cope with, especially if you have established a close bond, if the death is sudden and if there was no shared ending – no good bye.

I know. It happened to me.

Let me explain why this loss can be extra hard and what to do. I also offer one off support to help those affected by the death of their therapist, counsellor, coach or mentor to reach appropriate closure and peace with this experience.

1. Why can the death of a therapist, coach, mentor or other trusted support be so difficult to cope with?

When therapy, coaching or mentoring work well, the other can become an important person in our life. When this alliance works really well, the other can become the one person, that knows more about us than most or even anyone else. And their death is bound to hit us hard.

Depending on your own experience you may know what I mean, or not. You may agree, or not. And that is ok, too.

Therapy, coaching or mentoring can work for different people in different ways. And sometimes it does not work out.

The fact that you are reading this article suggests you may have been affected by the death of a trusted source of support and understanding.

You may

  • have started on a process of discovery, processing or finding solutions and your goal has not yet been reached;
  • feel like hanging in the air, perhaps worse than when you started;
  • dread having to start the whole thing all over again with someone else;
  • not want anyone else.

You may be left with mixed feelings, including anger, disappointment and a sense of abandonment.

When your therapist, coach or mentor dies, then you may feel very alone and not easily understood by others in your grief:

“It’s not like they were family or friends, right? They provided a service. It was their job. They got paid for it. You will find another … If you feel so much grief, then perhaps you got too close, and then perhaps it was not good or professional support  ….”

When it happened to me, the shock was immense. I was in the middle of a major health and existential crisis. There was no warning, no good bye, no funeral to go to, very few people to talk to about it, and very few people understood, why this was so painful. I needed to figure out what to do for the best.

2. Suggestions to help you cope

  • Depending on the circumstances of your own experience, you may be offered some help by others, who your therapist, coach or mentor may have instructed in the case of their death.
  • You may want to think of a ritual / ceremony / activity  – an act of remembrance and letting go you can do by yourself, in your own good time.
  • You may want to re-visit the place or the neighbourhood where you met, and through the physical closeness find the start of closure. This may be painful, but it can be an invaluable start.
  • Whether you had face-to-face, online or telephone meetings, you may want to think about setting aside some time on the same day and at the same time, when you would have had your session. Have a session by yourself, in a place where you feel comfortable, safe and private. There, try and have an imaginary conversation with the other. Talk about how you feel. Say what you want to say. See how you feel. You might need this ‘session’ a few times before you can say good-bye.
  • You can write a letter. Putting feelings into words can help process difficult emotions and get some perspective, clarity and direction.

Here is what I did Letter to my dead therapist – Read More

3. Support I offer

If you would like some help with working out what you need to find closure, then you might like to know that I offer support for that.

A 1.5 hour meeting in person or online gives you a chance to explore, what is right for you to grief and find some closure. We can agree a plan of action, and in a follow-up meeting we would reflect on the experience and consider what you may want to do next regards future support.

The benefit of such a collaborative approach is that you have someone witness your grief and is along side you (metaphorically speaking), while you go through this process. While grief is personal, having shared experience can help avoid getting stuck in grief and it helps with moving on in a way that is helpful to you and respectful of your loss.

Feel free to drop me a line in confidence if you would like to explore how I can help. Please mention that your enquiry is regards a “grief ceremony”.

Please note, that I am not offering this support to win new short- or longer-term clients. I am offering it as a temporary bridge towards the next choices you may want to make. At present I am not taking on new longer-term client work.

4. In summary

The death of a therapist, coach or mentor can affect us in many ways. The loss and grief can be complex and you need to take extra care.

Feel free to use your imagination and think bold in terms of ‘what’ and ‘when’ may work best for you.

Grieving and closure are personal and should not be rushed. But neither is it good to get stuck in the grief process and suffer in silence.


Image courtesy of Escher

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