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  • Submitted by Stephanie Gill

Stephanie Gill's Q&A on Grief coaching

Stephanie is a grief coach serving Montgomery County and the surrounding area, as well as the larger virtual community. She's a certified Grief Educator through David Kessler's Grief Educator program, and a certified Life Purpose Coach through Transformation Academy. 

Widowed in 2019 with 3 minor children in the home, she coaches clients on integrating loss and cultivating hope for finding a path forward in life. While her specialty is those grieving loss of a partner, she has worked with clients coping with all kinds of loss. For more information about one-on-one coaching, or facilitating a talk or support series for your group, contact Stephanie at, (215)480-0358, and on Instagram @griefthefish.

  1. Q: How can grief coaching help individuals coping with loss? A: To quote Megan Divine, one of modern America’s thought leaders on grief, “Pain will find a way to speak”.  When experiencing profound loss, people will process and move through their pain in one way or another.  As we know from physical injury, we feel less pain when we mask or deaden the sensation, or more positively, as we heal.  Coaching can help a person process their loss in a healthy way, which is healing.

  2. Q: What types of grief do people commonly experience, and how does coaching address them? A: I like to think of grief as the struggle with profound change.  This is usually unwanted change, but sometimes the change can be something you choose, like moving or starting a new job, and then experiencing grief over the things left behind.  We don’t realize how much we rely on the familiar cadence of our lives, and when a profound change makes our overall lives unfamiliar, we grapple with the things we’ve lost and the new things we face. Coaching helps identify these areas of struggle.  Having a coach that will validate the difficulty of your circumstances and help you recognize its components can help give a griever direction.

  3. Q: How do you approach helping someone who is struggling with unresolved grief? A: The very first thing I do is listen.  We live in a grief averse culture, and my clients feel a societal pressure to not have their grief be a bother to others.  Letting them know that they can share their pain with me, that no part of it is trivial or unworthy, can open a space to truly feel those feelings that they’ve been telling themselves are “no big deal”.  There are so many ways grief can affect your life. It is really healing to be able to talk about them.

  4. Q: Can grief coaching be effective for children and teenagers? A:  Absolutely.  While I am not trained to work with children or teens in a one-on-one capacity, young people experience grief as profoundly as adults, and we know how big those feelings can be!  Children also can exhibit their grief in a very different way from adults, often “puddle jumping” from sadness to happily playing in a confusingly short period of time.  Speaking with trained professionals makes a big difference for understanding their behavior and being able to provide them proper support.  There are some excellent resources for kids that I’d be happy to talk with anyone about; some of them are right in our local area!

  5. Q: What role does support from family and friends play in the grieving process, and how do you incorporate that into coaching? A: Support from family and friends is huge for people that are grieving.  In the case of a death, the griever now has a big hole in their social structure, and feels very alone.  This is compounded by experiencing feelings that seem very foreign, since our culture has done such a good job hiding grief away.  Grievers need to know that the people they love care, and aren’t going away.  Even when the griever is slow to respond, it still matters to them that you reach out. Incorporating that into coaching for me means talking about those relationships with the griever.  We discuss how their relationships have changed, how they feel about it, and balancing their needs against what the people around them are able to give.  Being able to articulate their feelings with the people around them can help heal their existing relationships and create a warmer community for support.

  6. Q: Are there strategies you recommend for managing grief-related anxiety or depression? A: I do discuss these issues with grievers, as it’s very common to see anxiety or depression increase as a result of grief.  I also advise anyone dealing with anxiety or depression to discuss with their doctor to determine if their situation would benefit from licensed therapy, as my credentials are not medical.

  7. Q: Are there ways to distinguish normal grief and signs of a more complicated grieving process that may require additional intervention? A: This is such an interesting question, as people working in the grief space all agree that although there is no set timeline for grief, there absolutely are signs of prolonged grief disorder, a condition that has only officially been recognized in the last 2 years.  How long it takes to get through a period of shock and into acute grief and from there out of acute grief varies very widely, because people’s situations vary very widely.  As a rule, the larger issue is whether progress is being made, not what the pace of that progress is.

  8. Q: What role do cultural differences play in the grieving process, and how do you incorporate cultural sensitivity in your coaching approach? A: Grief is an experience that is as unique and individual as each person is.  It is also marked by many common experiences that people can connect on.  So much about grief is cross cultural, which puts me in a position where I’m able to help many different people.  In the case of death related grief, cultural sensitivity is an imperative especially surrounding beliefs regarding life after death.  We all look for meaning, we all search for ways for our connection to live on.  It’s my job to meet the griever where they’re at, which includes sensitivity to their culture and background.

  9. Q: Can grief coaching be beneficial for those who have experienced non-death-related losses, such as divorce or job loss? A: Absolutely.  I’ve worked with clients experiencing many different kinds of death-related loss, as well as permanent separation from adult children, and even spoken with folks struggling with pet loss.  Divorce is a very different way to lose a spouse than to have them die, but many of the same struggles are present, and working with a coach can help to confront these struggles and find a path through.

  10. Q: How can someone find the right balance between remembering a lost loved one and moving forward with their own life? A: I’m going to take this moment to reassure everyone: You are never going to forget your lost loved one.  You truly will not.  It is unspeakably painful that they have died, but your love has not.  It’s a legitimate worry, as memories do get fuzzy over time.  But the essence of that person, who they were to you, and the love you shared, it will remain clear the rest of your days. Moving forward with your own life does not mean leaving your loved one behind.  The things you loved about them, you’re going to want to carry them with you.  If you follow your instincts as you make choices in your journey, you’re going to find that you automatically let your shared values inform what your life becomes.  And in that way, they will live on through you.

  11. Q: How do you operate individual coaching sessions versus a group setting? A:  Individual coaching sessions have a trajectory over a period of time, where my client and I are able to get into detail over their progress through the present to begin building future goals. When I work with groups, I focus on providing a framework for the group to be able to feel safe to share.  There is an education aspect as we all get familiar with how grief is portrayed in our world versus what it really is, but the true magic of a group setting is seeing how people’s very different stories have emotional touchstones that ring a cord with everyone else.  We are truly not alone. Stephanie Gill, parishioner and grief coach, will facilitate a group of comfort and support as participants learn about grief and discuss life after loss, Tuesdays, Feb. 20 to March 19 from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the library. 

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