Walking with Others through Grief

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Walking with Others through Grief
By Jody Pierce, Executive Director
In memory of all who we’ve lost.

We all have experienced some kind of loss, whether it was the loss of a loved one, friend, neighbor or special pet. But it is often difficult to know how to be present for someone else who is grieving. The experience of grief can be so overwhelming and encompass many ever changing feelings and reactions. It’s common to feel uncomfortable and uncertain about what to do for someone who is grieving. Actually it isn’t as hard as we sometimes make it if we focus on the idea of “walking with” someone during a time of loss.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a leading grief expert and the founder of the Center for Loss & Life Transitions in Fort Collins, developed what he calls the companioning model for helping others through grief. Dr. Wolfelt turned the noun, “companion,” into a verb, “companioning,” to help describe how we can be with someone through their grief journey and how this can make all the difference in the world. We can’t take away someone’s pain, but we can be with them as they move through their grief, helping them not feel so alone. 

The goal of this kind of support is to bring comfort by being there. It is about walking alongside someone and not leading them. And bearing witness to someone’s pain and struggles without trying to fix them or make it all better. Since the pain of grief is unavoidable, the greatest needs for those who are grieving are to feel connected, safe and loved.

In the mental health field, we know that people who are grieving need to feel their feelings to process the loss and to eventually adjust to the change it creates in their lives. Trying to make everything better often is not what someone in grief needs and misses someone’s emotional experience. It is useful to let the mourner be the guide as they are the experts in their experience and everyone has different needs.

Dr. Wolfelt outlines some goals in companioning including;

  • To bring comfort by being there.
  • To be present.
  • To create a safe place.
  • To use sensitivity, warmth, acceptance and empathy.
  • To allow someone to express their pain.
  • To allow the mourner to be the guide.
  • To honor the stories and memories shared.

Almost everyone has the capacity to companion, walk with someone, be present and show genuine compassion. Companioning does takes courage but it can be a profound help to the mourner and in turn be a truly enriching experience for the one who walks alongside as well.

Pennock Center is offering a no cost Grief Support Group from 11 – noon beginning on Thursday, September 27 through October 17, 2019. Contact Jody at 303-655-9065, Ext. 16 to pre-register. Download the flyer