The growth in the provision of counselling services in British primary care offers an opportunity for general practitioners (GPs) to refer patients to counsellors following bereavement. This study explores the factors that influence GPs referral decisions. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 50 GPs from two cities in southern UK. The study found that GPs draw on notions of abnormal bereavement in making referral decisions. Indicators of bereavement problems related to: the nature of the death; level of social support; and reaction to the death. GPs views about the types of patients likely to benefit from counselling were further criteria employed in referral decisions. The study indicated that consideration of these factors may discriminate against certain types of patients being referred. Further education in the range of psychological theories of bereavement may assist GPs in understanding their bereaved patients' experiences and in developing their skills in recognising abnormal reactions and making appropriate referrals.