Grief is overwhelming on all fronts and can leave you feeling drained. If you're hosting a Zoom memorial service, some platforms like GatheringUs have specialists who can guide and support you through the planning process.
When you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one or another type of significant loss, you may want to talk with others to release some of that heaviness. Your circle of support may also be grieving along with you, and may not be available to give you the emotional support you need.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Ways to Find Free or Low-Cost In-Person Grief Counseling
- Ways to Find Free or Low-Cost Grief Support Groups
That’s where grief counseling comes in. Grief counseling offers you an outlet for your grief, and support to help you understand and come to terms with your loss.
However, counseling can be expensive especially if you do not have insurance or other ways of lowering the cost. There are several options available to you in choosing and receiving the care that you need. Below are some ways for you to find free grief counseling within your community or online.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it's tough to handle both the emotional and technical aspects of their unfinished business without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
Ways to Find Free or Low-Cost In-Person Grief Counseling
There’s no set measurement for how long grief lasts. You can experience symptoms of normal grief for several weeks up to a few months, with normal grief perhaps lasting up to a year. If left untreated, complicated grief can develop and extend your grieving process from a few months to a few years.
There’s no doubt that finding the care that you need to help you cope with your grief can be challenging, even when you are at your best. You might be unable to afford to pay for counseling or might not have the proper insurance, prohibiting you from gaining access to needed grief counseling.
Should you find yourself in need of grief counseling but unable to gain access through insurance or due to inhibitive costs, there are resources available within some communities that can help you obtain grief counseling for free or at a low cost.
One of the most readily available resources to turn to for help is hospice. You and your loved ones may be eligible to receive free grief counseling as part of the services that hospice provides. Most hospice or palliative care providers offer free grief support services to the community even if you didn’t use hospice services through them.
The Hospice Foundation of America is one such resource you can turn to for needed help. Along with most hospice and palliative care providers, they can give or refer you to the proper resources to get you the care that you need. They generally offer the following services for different types of grief, loss, and bereavement:
- Trained social workers and chaplains
- Counseling services to prepare you and your loved one for the end of life
- Counseling services that help mend broken relationships
- Bereavement services
- Family grief and loss issues
- Survivor needs
- Social, cultural, and religious issues counseling
- Normal and Complicated grief forums
The above counseling services are available for individuals, families, and groups dealing with grief and bereavement issues stemming from the prolonged illness or death of a loved one.
Hospitals can also provide the services of volunteer chaplains and other bereavement counselors that offer support to those experiencing grief and loss issues within the hospital setting. The counseling services a hospital provides may include:
- Individual, group, and family counseling
- Educational and support services
- Case management and counseling referrals to resources within the community
That being said, obtaining grief support in a hospital setting may be challenging, as most people spend only a limited time either receiving care or attending to their loved ones in the hospital. Grief counselors and hospital chaplains offer support whenever there's a crisis involving a hospital patient or emergency.
The types of losses that hospital chaplains and counselors are trained to deal with include bereavement and mourning from the death of a loved one. They also offer support with ambiguous loss issues occurring when a person is still alive but physically and psychologically impaired, such as when in a coma.
3. Colleges and universities
Community resources may be your first option to look at, thanks to local publicly-funded colleges and universities. Two different approaches to obtaining care through your local institutions are either receiving care as a student or as a volunteer patient helping mental health students with their continuing education and training.
Chances are you can find many counseling options with local colleges and universities when experiencing issues of grief and loss. Here are some of those options:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Grief coping techniques and strategies
- Individual assessments
- Printed materials
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4. Churches and places of worship
Your local church, temple, or other places of worship can give free or low-cost grief support and counseling for members of the community. These are usually volunteer counselors who are available to lend support to the member community outside the support they receive from spiritual and religious leaders.
Most places of worship will offer you free one-on-one grief support. In cases of emergency, it’s customary to offer a small tithing or cash gift for the services offered outside of the normal religious services. You may want to discuss any financial concerns ahead of time.
5. Funeral homes
Funeral homes are also places where you can inquire about grief counseling, especially if you are there organizing your loved one’s funeral.
This type of grief support in the funerary industry is called aftercare. A funeral home’s director can give you grief and bereavement counseling, depending on your needs. This usually includes a one-on-one meeting with the funeral director or other specially trained bereavement specialists employed by the funeral home.
Likewise, they may be well-positioned to connect you with other community members who can also provide professional grief counseling. Funeral homes are also used for those who wish to meet up as part of a grief support group. Aside from grief counseling, funeral homes may also provide the following:
- Sending the family cards and notes on significant dates for the first year after the death
- Making personal follow-up visits to the home
- Sponsoring informational grief programs
- Hosting holiday memorial services
- Providing brochures on grief and loss
- Offering a free lending library of books on grief and bereavement
6. Non-profit agencies
There are also dedicated nonprofit agencies such as GriefHaven that accommodate all those who are grieving with educational resources.
GriefHaven offers free of charge the following tools and information to those who are bereaved:
- Unique, effective, and current grief support tools
- Grief education
- Collaborations with grief support professionals
- Grief research and findings
- Ways for grieving individuals to honor their loved one
7. TAPS National Military Survivor Helpline
TAPS, or Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, helps military families cope with the loss, grief, and bereavement stemming from the death of a military service member within their family. They offer a yearly National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Washington D.C. over the Memorial Day Weekend.
The foundation can dispense valuable counseling and bereavement resources to families coping with the death of a military service member, but also provides care to all families struggling to cope with loss. Part of the services they provide include:
- A survivor care team that connects you to all available grief-support-related resources
- Grief counseling
- Education assistance
- Suicide loss support
- TAPS publications
- Grief and loss education
Ways to Find Free or Low-Cost Grief Support Groups
Most of the options listed above are for those who have in-person grief counseling in mind. At times when in-person care isn’t possible or available, other options include free or low-cost support groups that can be found online or within your local area.
Some in-person support groups will arrange for volunteer transportation if you aren’t able to make your sessions due to limitations on your mobility. Online grief support groups are a great alternative to meeting in person. These groups meet virtually at convenient and flexible times to accommodate most members’ needs.
8. Online resources
If you’re looking to meet with an in-person support group, try searching online for “free grief counseling near me” or “free grief support groups in (name your city or area)”. This search should yield you with a few, if not several, options of grief support groups that are specifically aimed at the type of loss you are dealing with.
The more specific the search terms you enter, the greater the chances that you’ll find a group that can relate to what you’re experiencing. Some groups might request a small fee or donation to help offset the cost of the meeting space or the refreshments offered at each meeting. If you’re unable to afford even a small amount, ask if you can volunteer setting up instead.
9. Community resources
Other community resources might include local food banks, homeless shelters, centers for women and children, men’s counseling centers, and community youth groups sponsored through your area’s parks and recreation services.
These members of your community may offer support within their organizations, or they may be able to refer you to other sources within the community that can provide you with the help you need. Start by reaching out to those that you’re most comfortable with. If you feel uncomfortable calling them yourself, ask a trusted friend or family member to help you with placing these phone calls.
10. Grief support agencies
You might also discover some grief support groups through agencies specifically geared to helping those who are experiencing grief and loss. Agencies such as GriefShare provide both in-person and online support groups to help you along in your grief journey.
They offer the following services for free or at a reduced cost:
- Video access to expert advice on grief and loss
- Focused support group discussions
- Workbooks for personal study and reflection
You can find them online to get information on a GriefShare chapter near you, or you can take advantage of all the online resources available to you at no cost.
Getting the Grief Support You Need
Locating and getting the help you need is easier than you might think. Start with what’s comfortable to you by making phone calls or going online to search for area resources that are convenient for you.
Your local churches, houses of worship, hospitals, and colleges can all be great sources to get you started in your journey toward grief healing.
- Jacobson, Lamerial & Butler, S. “Grief Counseling and Crisis Intervention in Hospital Trauma Units Counseling Families Affected by Traumatic Brain Injury.” The Family Journal, October 2013, researchgate.net/publication/258193307_Grief_Counseling_and_Crisis_Intervention_in_Hospital_Trauma_Units_Counseling_Families_Affected_by_Traumatic_Brain_Injury
- “Services.” Hospice Care of America, hospicecareofamerica.com/services.html
- Bocchino, Gregory P. “Community College Grief Counseling Services: A National Survey of Grief Counseling Services for Counselors at Community Colleges in the United States.” Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, University of Rochester Rochester, New York, 2008, pqdtopen.proquest.com/doc/304990511.html?FMT=ABS