Grief counselling and grief and loss services

This service description provides information regarding grief counselling and grief and loss services.

Introduction

Grief counselling or grief and loss services will vary from division to division and may not be available in some as a stand-alone service but may be incorporated into other counselling services (for example, family counselling).

Services provide a range of supports and assistance including:

  • direct clinical services including bereavement counselling research,
  • training, education and consultancy on loss, grief and bereavement for professionals
  • assessment and accreditation of loss and grief practitioners
  • education activities and resources on loss and grief to the broader community
  • information and support for self-help groups.

Each service listed below will have its own eligibility criteria. Contact the service directly to discuss eligibility for the service.

Before making a referral the child protection practitioner must confirm the cost (if any) involved and clarify who is responsible for payment. Where necessary, approval for sufficient funding is to be obtained before counselling commences.

Services

  • Divisional adoption and permanent care teams (within child protection or agency-based) may provide useful information and assistance regarding loss and grief associated with children placed in permanent care and may provide counselling to assist the birth family.
  • SIDS and Kids Victoria has a wide range of information and publications on SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome and grief and bereavement issues. SIDS and Kids Victoria provides these free resources for use by parents, health professionals, researchers, schoolteachers and children.
  • Compassionate Friends Victoria provides assistance to families following the death of a child of any age and information to help others be supportive. It has a 24 hour grief telephone support service and holds support group meetings.
  • The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services as the statewide specialist bereavement service and, along with the National Association for Loss and Grief Victoria, the Community Bereavement Service and Mercy Western Grief Service provides a range of services that includes:
    • direct clinical services including bereavement counselling research,
    • training, education and consultancy on loss, grief and bereavement for professionals
    • assessment and accreditation of loss and grief practitioners
    • education activities and resources on loss and grief to the broader community
    • information and support for self-help groups.

Counselling and other assistance is obtainable in the community from a number of other sources:

  • community based palliative care services (bereavement counselling)
  • private psychologists and other practitioners
  • funeral services
  • community health services
  • hospitals
  • voluntary support groups
  • telephone counselling services
  • Coroner’s Court
  • issue specific services, for example, the National Trauma Clinic, Road Trauma Support Team
  • local government services
  • church, community and welfare organisations
  • individual public and private schools (including student welfare services).

Considerations for good practice

Grief and loss is a frequent issue in child protection work. Grieving can take place after any kind of loss. The death of a child, partner, parent, relative or friend is perhaps the most difficult experience that any one can go through and can create a situation that feels overwhelming. Chaos, fear, anger, guilt, numbness and confusion are common experiences for those suffering grief and loss.

Grief and loss can be experienced by children and their families when a separation occurs such as when a child is removed from the family home or when a partner or parent leaves the family home. Divorce and separation may also invoke feelings of grief and loss for a child or parent. Unresolved grief for children and families can become apparent during child protection involvement, especially in situations where there has been a history of loss and separation.

Child protection practitioners need to be sensitive of these emotions when working with children and families who have experienced a death or loss through separation, divorce or removal from the family home, and be able to assist both practically and emotionally if required. Preparation for children regarding their removal from the family home is one way to assist with a child’s sense of loss during this time.

Practitioners need to be mindful that heightened emotions can be directed at them by the family or child in these situations, especially in circumstances where a child or young person has died whilst in the care of the department.

Timing the assessment is necessary in all situations relating to grief and loss. In some circumstances referral to another service for professional grief counselling may be appropriate. In other cases it may simply require an awareness of these issues and an appropriate and empathic response from the child protection practitioner.

Recognition of one’s own emotions in these situations is also an important consideration for the practitioner and line supervisor and debriefing and counselling for all those involved may be appropriate.

The department’s Better Health channel also has information on grief and loss: Grief support services.

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