Counselling for the Dying and Grieving

MS 3XH3/5XH5

Spring 2023
Sat 9:30am - 4:30pm

One of the most frequent roles for the pastor or pastoral counsellor is a call to aid those who anticipate death and those who have experienced loss at the death of someone else. This intensive course is a survey of topics related to counselling the dying and grieving.  Class discussion, readings and written assignments are designed to challenge the student in exploring their own beliefs, attitudes and values on death and dying, to begin understanding the end-of-life challenges for themselves and others, and to focus on one particular area of interest in the field of thanatology and/or death and bereavement counselling. Subjects covered will include (but are not limited to):  understanding psychological responses to loss, the processes of grieving vs. mourning, end of life issues and choices, MAID, helping children and adolescents, helping survivors of catastrophic loss and suicide (disenfranchised grief), Biblical and Spiritual resources for death and bereavement, handling questions of Theodicy, using Lament in mourning, and gender and cultural issues in bereavement.


  • To identify the experiences and adaptations commonly experienced in response to death and loss
  • To identify the behaviours and to understand the deeper emotional dynamics involved in dying and mourning processes, both psychologically and spiritually
  • To identify the specific goals, phases, and techniques unique to counselling those experiencing loss, the dying and the bereaved
  • To distinguish the developmental, cultural, religious, and gender differences in how people may experience loss, dying and bereavement
  • To distinguish the unique challenges and adaptations involved in doing grief counselling online or over the phone
  • To become familiar with the ritual mourning practices of other cultures and religions


  • To identify our own attitudes, beliefs and values about loss, death and dying
  • To explore and discuss for ourselves the important questions involved in coping with loss and with the end of life
  • To increase our tolerance in hearing others’ pain and being open to the experience of one’s own pain.
  • To increasingly practice empathic listening skills, effective responses, and appropriate support in all our relationships, especially when these have been affected by crisis and trauma


  • To observe, identify and demonstrate helpful versus non helpful responses in end-of-life situations
  • To develop skills in assessing an individual and family’s emotional and spiritual well-being, and be able to differentiate normal grief reactions from complicated grief adaptations, and their place and influence in the mourning process
  • To apply both psychological and theological perspectives in matching appropriate pastoral and counselling intervention to different types of loss and end of life crises, with different populations, and in different cultural, religious and practical contexts
  • To identify and critically evaluate both psychological and spiritual resources (reading, spiritual disciplines, other activities) that can be recommended to the dying and the bereaved to help them in their process, distinguishing between theoretical approaches and evaluating efficacy and appropriateness
  • To identify referrals for further psychological and medical help when necessary