The death of a loved one is a highly traumatizing experience for many people suffering through this type of loss. An emotional, psychological, or physical breakdown is inevitable regardless of the stage of grief a person's currently experiencing. Grief support hotlines exist to intervene when needed and help a person struggling with loss’s profound pain and sorrow.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Can You Expect From a Grief Hotline?
- Popular National Grief Support Hotlines or Helplines
- Popular Pet Loss Grief Support Hotlines
- How to Find a Local or Statewide Grief Support Helpline or Hotline
Grief support hotlines offer critical incident support. They follow the mental health crisis intervention model used by many trauma support hotlines throughout the nation.
These counseling models aim at assisting bereaved individuals in successfully getting them through the feelings of overwhelm and despair that typically accompany a traumatic event. Their priority is stabilizing the situation, calming the suffering, and ensuring they access the grief resources they need beyond this initial phone call.
What Can You Expect From a Grief Hotline?
Grief hotlines exist primarily to get callers through an immediate crisis. A trained grief-sensitivity volunteer or staff member assesses your situation, the risk to your safety and wellbeing before talking you through a crisis de-escalation process.
Depending on your situation, the hotline worker takes the appropriate measures to ensure your safety first and foremost. When there’s minimal risk to your overall safety and wellbeing, the staff member or volunteer listens to you without judgment or interruption. They allow you to talk about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through.
The counseling given to bereaved persons through these hotlines does differ somewhat from other crisis intervention counseling. However, most grief counseling is a form of trauma counseling, but with a different name. When you need help getting you through a grief-related crisis, you can expect to get the immediate help you need to be followed by the added support of grief-specific counseling.
Hotline workers receive training in active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning. You can also expect to get treated with dignity as you work together to resolve your immediate conflict.
Popular National Grief Support Hotlines or Helplines
When faced with an immediate need for crisis intervention, there are several online resources you can turn to for help. Almost anyone with a smartphone can access free grief counseling online.
Through a quick internet search, you’ll come across some of the more popular grief support hotlines or helplines to help you out of your current emotional situation or emergency.
The following is a list of the more well-known helplines.
1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/National Crisis Hotline (800) 273-8255
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/National Crisis Hotline isn't just for individuals contemplating suicide. A voice prompt will identify the call made to a suicide prevention hotline. However, don't be alarmed. This hotline is there to support anyone experiencing any emotional crisis.
Trained volunteers are available 24/7 to take your call and help you get through the challenges you're facing as a result of your grief. When you call this number, you can expect your call answered electronically.
The hotline gives you the option to speak to someone in either English or Spanish. Once you've made your selection, a trained volunteer responds to your call generally in under two minutes.
2. SAMHSA (800) 662-4357
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers free access to mental health crises intervention services 24/7. Although SAMSHA doesn’t directly provide crisis intervention counseling, they offer year-round mental health crisis support by connecting bereaved individuals to appropriate national hotlines, grief counseling service providers, and other local grief-related services.
Callers don’t need to be insured to receive a referral. SAMHSA’s volunteers will match callers with the appropriate services and local organizations to help those who can’t otherwise afford to pay for these services.
3. Crisis Text Line - Text HOME to 741-741 in the U.S.
Trained crisis intervention counselors operate this crisis text line 24/7. Anyone who finds themselves in crisis can text this number and receive the help they need via text chat. The service is genuinely unlimited to any problem or emergency, and it aims to help suffering individuals get through their immediate hardship.
Their counselors will talk with you to help you through your time of need, and then they'll connect you with the appropriate support agencies where applicable for follow-up care.
Popular Pet Loss Grief Support Hotlines
Suffering through pet loss can feel as overwhelming and profoundly painful as losing another member of your close family. Pet-loss grief is real, and there are hotlines you can call to get you the comfort and support you need. The following information may prove helpful if you’re suffering through this type of loss.
Keep in mind that the national hotline phone numbers listed above can help you with any mental or emotional health crisis whenever you’re unable to reach a pet-loss-specific helpline when you need it.
4. Lap of Love Pet Loss and Bereavement Resource Line (855) 352-5683
Suffering through the loss of a beloved pet is often similar to any other type of significant loss. If you're struggling with the emotional pain and suffering resulting from the death of your furry companion, there’s support to help get you through. The Lap of Love Pet Loss and Bereavement Resource Line is available to grieving individuals from 10 AM to 9 PM EST every weekday.
The hotline doesn't offer crisis intervention but rather a resource line that can connect you to certified grief companions specialized in dealing with pet loss. The fee for a one-on-one session is $50, or you can connect with an online grief support group free of charge. Often these online support groups are available 24/7.
5. Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University (508) 839-7966
The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine offers a free pet-loss grief support service Monday-Friday from 6 PM - 9 PM EST. This hotline allows you access to a trained volunteer. When calling outside of these hours, the automatic hotline response will enable you to leave your name and phone number for a volunteer to return your call as soon as one is available inside their hours of operation.
The school provides grief support for pet loss and bereavement. It also offers grief comfort and support to pet owners anticipating their pet's death due to illness or scheduled euthanasia.
6. CARE Pet Loss Helpline (217) 244-2273
The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine supports the CARE Pet Loss Helpline. Here you’ll find trained volunteers to help you through your pet-loss crisis on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
As with most other helplines with limited hours, the CARE Pet Loss Helpline allows you to leave a message for them to return your call during their regular hours of operation.
Several colleges of veterinary medicine throughout the United States make this service available to individuals struggling to cope with the death of a beloved pet. You may want to consult with your local institution to see if they offer this service.
How to Find a Local or Statewide Grief Support Helpline or Hotline
Getting the grief support you need when you need it is crucial to getting through a time of crisis. There are many grief-specific local and statewide resources you can reach out to if you're facing distress. As with any crisis intervention, you should seek out the places you can turn to for help before you need it.
Preparation helps calm your fears and anxieties about what to do should intervention become necessary. When you're struggling with your feelings and emotions, it becomes more challenging to think straight, making it difficult to know where to turn to for help.
One of the first places you can start your search is conducting an online investigation for grief support helplines or hotlines in your local area. You’ll find that the top search results yield the national crisis intervention hotlines followed by more localized services.
Another thing you might discover is that there’s a breakdown of services by affliction or category. Most hotlines search results come up with suicide prevention hotlines and expand from there. When looking for local and state-specific services, make sure to add your location or geographical area to your search query.
Call your local hospice provider
Hospice providers usually have grief support helplines available to help those suffering through a grief-related crisis. Many, however, aren't open 24/7, and you'll either have to wait to connect with someone during regular business hours or reach out to them ahead of time in preparation for such an event.
Hospice typically has a list of grief counselors they can refer you to if they don't offer in-house counseling services. The service is usually accessible to anyone in the community they serve or to their client's extended family struggling with grief related to their loved one's illness, anticipated death, or post-loss.
Tap into V.A. Services
For veterans of U.S. military service and their family members, the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital (V.A.) offers resources specific to those who’ve served the country in active or reserve duty.
Your local V.A. hospital, where available, has grief counselors as well as helplines to assess and intervene when emotional and psychological crises arise. Their bereavement crisis intervention is made available to the family of service members who’ve died in the line of duty or service to their country. They also offer free individual and group mental health counseling for other grief- and trauma-related losses.
Check Your local university
Many universities offer free or reduced-cost grief-related support services to their students and members of their communities. Most veterinary schools provide bereavement support to those struggling with grief after pet loss.
Schools or teaching facilities where students learn and train to become mental health counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists also offer their services to individuals willing to trade counseling sessions for student-training opportunities.
Getting the Help You Need
Grief crisis intervention is an essential part of coping with grief for some individuals struggling with profound sadness after suffering through loss. Because it’s impossible to predict who’ll need these services, preparation is one of the best defenses against overwhelming grief.
If you or someone you know is in an emotional or psychological crisis, don’t hesitate to call the National Crisis Hotline first. They operate their phones 24/7, and they can connect you to a trained volunteer almost immediately to help you out of a crisis.