25th September 2018

The death of a therapist – how to cope.

Coping with the dead of a therapist (c) KarinSieger.com

The death of a therapist 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 to the therapy – no good byes.

I know. It has happened to me. In this post I briefly explain why this loss can be extra hard and what to do. I also offer one off support to help clients affected to reach appropriate closure and peace with this experience.

Why can the death of a therapist be so difficult to cope with?

When therapy works well, your therapist can become an important person in your life. When therapy works really well, your therapist can become the one person, that knows more about you than anyone else. And their death is bound to hit you hard.

Depending on your own therapy experience you may know what I mean, or not. You may agree, or not. And that is ok, too. Therapy can work for different people in different ways. And sometimes it does not work out.

If your therapist or counsellor has died, 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 and got paid for it. You will find another … If you feel so much grief, then perhaps you got too closer, and then perhaps it was not good therapy ….”

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.

Suggestions to help you cope with the death of your  therapist

  • Depending on the circumstances of your own experience, you may be offered some help by other therapists, who your therapist may have instructed in the case of their death.
  • You may want to think of a little ‘ritual’ or practice – an act of remembrance and letting go.
  • You may want to re-visit the place or the neighbourhood where you had therapy, 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 therapy / counselling 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, ideally in the same place where you had therapy (which is not always possible) or in another place you feel comfortable, safe and private. There, try and have an imaginary conversation with your therapist. Talk about how you feel. Say what you want to say. See how you feel. You might need these ‘sessions’ 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.

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:

Two 2 hour sessions over 2 Saturdays to give you a chance to talk it all through and to explore, what you may want to do next regards continuing therapy or not, and also regards finding closure and perhaps a ritual that might help you. The follow up session can be used for such a ritual or to check in with you, how you feel and what you have decided to do.

Sessions can be face to face or online. Drop me a line in confidence if you would like to explore this further.

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

In summary

The death of a therapist 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 unable to move on.

Image courtesy of Skitterphoto


Letter to my dead therapist

Try this simple practice to connect with hope – the Light Chain.

Guide to bereavement.

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