Grief and Loss Counselling
“There is no love without loss. And there is no moving beyond loss without some experiences of mourning. To be unable to mourn is to be unable to enter into the great human lifecycle of death and re-birth - to be unable, that is, to live again.” Eric Lifton
Dr.Alan Wolfelt is considered one of North America’s most respected grief educators and it is his belief that if we do not authentically mourn life losses, we do not live well- nor do we love well. Most of us have come to know that death is only one kind of loss to be grieved. There are many other types of loss which we may be expected to cope with. When we experience life losses however, mourning is required to integrate those losses into our lives. We carry our grief into the future if we do not mourn and that grief can manifest itself in unexpected and unplanned ways. Although loss and grief are normal and integral aspects of life, we must understand that grief is a process, not something to ‘get over’. Experience tells us that grief does not resolve-it reconciles. In his book "Companioning the Bereaved A Soulful Guide For Caregivers" (2006 ) Dr.Wolfelt has expanded on six reconciliation needs of the mourner on the journey through grief.He states that "while your grief journey will be an intensely personal, unique experience, all mourners must yield to this set of basic human needs if they are to heal " The six needs are as follows:Acknowledging the reality of the death, Embracing the pain of the loss, Developing a new self-identity, Searching for meaning, Receiving ongoing support from others and Reconciling your grief.
Dr.Wolfelt's model for grief counseling is based on his philosophy of companioning and this model "resonates with my spirit and makes my heart sing" so much so that I have adopted it in my private practice. Companioning the bereaved is not about assessing, analyzing, fixing, or resolving another person’s grief. Rather it is about being totally present to the mourner, even being as Dr.Wolfelt describes, “a temporary guardian of her soul.” Death and grief are seen as spiritual journeys of the heart and soul.
Although my MPS degree and practicum experiences prepared me to work with a diverse group of clientele, I am most inspired to journey with those who require grief care. As a grief counsellor I view my role as a compassionate companion and I strive to develop a counselling relationship based on trust and respect. As a compassionate companion, travelling with you on your private grief journey,it is my responsibility to remain humble, patient and caring while you, the mourner, teach me about your grief. It is also my responsibility to create conditions, starting with a safe, comfortable place, where you the bereaved person, can do the work of mourning on the road to healing and growth. As a warm and caring individual, I seek to genuinely practice empathic listening. This caregiving role allows me to walk alongside you as your equal, an hospitable companion on this sacred and most difficult of journeys.
Healing from grief is holistic in nature and I thank my co-researchers for teaching me that. Their healthy steps taken on the road to healing took many paths and I wish to share this "allegorical "excerpt from my thesis.
"Individual and group counselling provided a bit of a roadmap as they journeyed on unfamiliar terrain.Sharing their stories at bereavement groups,with those who travelled a similar road before them, provided insight.At times they found it helpful to peruse travel literature and brochures to guide them on their journey. Others, when they were ready, left the group to explore this healing road to grief on their own .They were invigorated by the fresh air and literally "walked for miles." Others found that sometimes the experience of running fast on this road released endorphines, alleviating some of the pain and hurt. Most found that keeping the body fuelled with nutritious food helped them to persevere when the uphill climb appeared before them. Supportive friends and some sisterly love were also manna on the journey. When faced with a roadblock, when the rocks on the road appeared to be boulders, some took an alternate route and found delight in a Reiki Master who did wonderful healing energy. This roadside assistance provided the necessary respite during this long and arduous journey.
As they continue on this very personal journey, many times during quiet solitude and prayerful sacred moments,these road warriors remembered all that they have been given.Wrapping those beautiful memories around their shoulders, like a warm fuzzy blanket,feels like a hug from their beloved.Searching the moonlit night and starlit sky, they give thanks to the Creator,resting in His abundant and unconditional love. Rest they will, for tomorrow is another day, a day filled with possibilities, as they prepare to continue their journey on this road called Grief."
Excerpt from Sacred or Scared :Post Death Encounters and the Surviving Spouse submitted by Beverly Hagen in partial fullfillment of the requirements for the MPS degree, October 2011.
"I would say to those who mourn...look upon each day that comes as a challenge, as a test of courage. The pain will come in waves,some days worse than others, for no apparent reason.Accept the pain. Do not suppress it. Never attempt to hide grief" Daphne du Maurier.