I’ve learned so much in this journey.
I’ve had to unlearn some things too.
One of the things I’ve had to unlearn is that the medical model of “identify, treat, cure” is not applicable to grieving hearts.
Grief is not a disease. It’s not an abnormality. It doesn’t need to be treated and cured so that it “goes away”.
It’s the perfectly normal and appropriate response to loss.
A more helpful model is compassionate companionship.
What grievers need is faithful friends and family who choose to come alongside and refuse to be frightened away when the process seems long, tortuous and challenging. We need others to be present, to truly listen and to bear witness to our wounds.
Recently I found this list from Dr. Alan Wolfelt, founder of the Center for Loss (http://www.centerforloss.com) and I love it!
It’s an elegant synopsis of what compassionate companionship looks like in practice:
- Being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
- Going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
- Honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
- Listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
- Bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
- Walking alongside; it is not about leading.
- Discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
- Being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
- Respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
- Learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
- Compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.
~Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Eleven Tenets of Companioning the Bereaved
At one time or another each of us need someone to be present, to truly listen and to bear witness to our wounds.
When your world is profoundly dark, an outstretched hand is often the only way a heart can hold onto hope.