After the loss of a loved one, counseling can help individuals who are struggling to work through the grief process. While counseling services are sometimes covered by health insurance, not everyone has coverage that provides free or affordable access to a professional counselor. Fortunately, there are some options available for people to seek free grief counseling to receive support, comfort and help navigating their grief.
Employee Assistance Program
If your employer offers an employee assistance program (EAP) as part of the employee benefits package, that means you probably have the ability to schedule a certain number of grief counseling or therapy sessions with a licensed professional at no cost to you. When companies offer this type of benefit, it is usually provided to all full-time employees without requiring separate enrollment. Some companies even provide EAP benefits for all part-timers and/or the family members of their employees. Check your benefits enrollment paperwork or ask your company's HR representative if this type of benefit is included in your employment package.
Support groups are a powerful resource for people who are grieving. It's generally free to participate in both in-person and online grief support groups. Rather than providing individualized counseling, support groups provide a way for people who are grieving to connect with others who have lost a loved one. Usually, grief support groups are operated by volunteers who are committed to helping people with no expectation of compensation. Participating in this kind of group helps bereaved individuals realize that they're not alone and provides a way for them to communicate with other people who truly know what it's like to try to move forward after losing a loved one.
Hospice agencies provide services not only to people who are dying, but also to their family members and others in the larger community. If a member of your family was cared for through hospice care, you're entitled to grief services for about a year after the loss. Local and regional hospice providers also offer free services to members of the community in certain instances, such as after a natural disaster or a school tragedy. Some agencies, like The Community Hospice of New York, provide free grief counseling to any community member in the areas they serve. Visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to find a hospice agency in your area.
Organ Procurement Organization
If the loved one you lost was an organ donor, you can seek free grief counseling services via the organ procurement organization (OPO) that coordinated the process. OPOs are all part of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO), so it's easy to find the agency in your area via the Find Your OPO page on their website. Just click your state and you'll be able to see the name and contact details of each agency located there. To find out what is available in terms of grief counseling, just call your local agency or simply review the services listed on their website.
TAPS National Military Survivor Helpline
Parents, spouses, children, and other relatives of military members who died during service face unique grief challenges after their loss. Because these individuals are all seen as part of the greater military family, services are available to help them cope with their grief. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides a 24-hour helpline for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one who died as a result of military service. You can call the National Military Survivor Helpline at 800-959-8277 to speak with a trained grief professional at any time of the day or night.
Vet Center Bereavement Counseling
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides no-cost bereavement counseling to people who are grieving the loss of family members who perished as a result of their military service. These free bereavement counseling services are offered on-site at the 300+ Vet Centers located in communities throughout the United States. If you'd like to use this service, start with the online vet center locator to find the facility closest to you, then call to schedule an appointment.
Hospital-Based Grief Support
Some hospitals offer more than just care for your physical health, including counseling groups and sessions. If your deceased loved one was hospitalized prior to or at the time of their death, reach out to the facility where they received care and ask what kind of grief support they have available for families. Even if your loved one wasn't hospitalized, it's a good idea to check in with local hospitals to ask if they offer any free grief support services to local bereaved individuals. Chances are that most faith-based hospitals offer at least some kind of grief support. Hospitals with behavioral health units already staff mental health professionals and may offer counseling as a community service.
College and University Counseling
Colleges, universities, and community colleges typically provide no-cost counseling services to students via a counseling center or student support services. The counselors who work in these departments are there to help students with issues that may impact their school success. They can help with a wide variety of counseling needs, including providing support to students who are grieving. The counselors who work in this capacity can also help refer students to other community resources for grief counseling if needed. Schools with graduate programs that train counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists often have in-house clinics where supervised counselor trainees offer free services as part of their educational process.
If you are a member of a church, ask the pastor, priest, or another clergy member if they would be willing to meet with you to help you navigate the grief process. Chances are that a member of your church's clergy will be more than happy to help you in this way. Even if you're not a church member, you may be able to connect with a local pastor who will be open to consulting with you, or who can connect you with other church or community members who may be able to help. Many ministers and pastors go through training designed to help them effectively support people who are dealing with grief. Local churches may also partner with area agencies and serve as host sites for counseling services.
Catholic Social Services Agency
There are Catholic Social Services (CSS) agencies located in many dioceses throughout the United States. They typically provide a wide variety of services, including professional counseling, to community residents regardless of faith. These organizations often limit free services to low-income individuals, but some may offer free or very low-cost counseling to people in need of help regardless of their financial situation. Reach out to the Catholic diocese in your area to find out if there is a local CSS agency, then follow up to find out exactly what options for grief counseling may be available to you.
Funeral homes and crematory services sometimes offer grief support to the families who entrust them with carrying out the burial or interment wishes of their loved ones. While they don't typically provide actual counseling services, funeral home employees are usually trained and prepared to provide comfort and support to those who are grieving. Some may offer periodic candlelight services or vigils that are open to grieving families to attend. Funeral homes usually maintain a list of local grief support groups and other services, so they can provide you with information on a variety of community-based resources through which grief support may be available.
Seek Help When You Are in Need
Thanks to options like the ones listed above, no one has to grieve alone. While grief may not ever completely go away, seeking counseling and opportunities to connect with others who are grieving or are equipped to provide support can help you find a way to continue living a full and happy life after losing someone you love.