Interview with a GCBCI Graduate

Peter completed the Graduate Certificate in Bereavement Counselling and Intervention in 2013. He is now a Practitioner Associate (Volunteer Bereavement Counsellor) with the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement alongside working with a community Palliative Care team in Bacchus Marsh.


What did you enjoy about the course?

I loved learning of the history of why grief has become so excluded from society and general conversation and why it has become almost impolite to grieve, or discuss death. There was also one class when we learnt of all the theories about how grief occurs, and it’s really enriched both my experience of life and how I support and educate grieving clients.

What did you least enjoy about the course?

What I didn’t love, but needed to know, was how to sit with someone experiencing intense emotion. Role-playing with reasonable acting colleagues was safe, but also quite real and scary. I’m not used to anger, but grief causes a whole lot of anger and now, while I’m not comfortable with angry grievers, I don’t need to change the subject away from anger.

What has been the most useful aspect of the course?

I found the mix of education and role-playing very useful. I needed the education, I needed to soak in theory and methodology, but I also needed to struggle to say, or not say, the right thing with real people. I also benefitted from role-playing a grieving person. I learnt by acting how isolated a grieving person can be and when I acted out a grieving person wishing to commit suicide, I grappled with how reasonable it seemed to do so.

Did completing the course assist you in finding employment?

I found a job in a community Palliative Care team in Bacchus Marsh. I love the job. It’s possible that I may have gotten the job without the qualification, but I couldn’t have thrived, or done the job effectively, without the qualification. I also felt like the job description was almost a list of who I am and what I can do. I didn’t need to lie at all in the interview!

How did the course equip you for carrying out your new role?

Most of my work entails normalising grief, reminding people that grief has a different trajectory for everyone and yet it is a common experience. I also manage volunteers and my training helped me be able to train others in micro skills, listening, grief theory, being comfortable with silence and other skills. I often work with men, who often grieve at times and in different ways to women. I learnt a lot about gendered grief in the course. I maintain contact with the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, which has helped me feel comfortable and supported in starting a Bereaved Partners group.

Why would you recommend this course to others looking to specialise in grief and bereavement counselling?

It’s the only course of its kind around and it mixes current theory with practical work. The GCBCI is taught by people who are currently practicing, rather than people who were counsellors long ago. This keeps the course relevant.

Is there anything further you’d like to add?

I started studying grief counselling as an interest, so I could do a better job of supporting grieving friends, but during the course I began to see counselling as a career, either within other jobs, or working for myself. Grief continues to strike me as a boom industry, because people and communities lose lives, jobs, and mental health almost endemically.