Companioning The Bereaved

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:

  1. Being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  2. Going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
  3. Honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  4. Listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  5. Bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
  6. Walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  7. Discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
  8. Being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  9. Respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  10. Learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  11. 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. 

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“I Lost My Child Today” by Netta Wilson

My son’s death is a moment in time, a date on the calendar, a thing of the past for other people.

I understand that.

But for me, it’s an ongoing event.

Every time Dominic SHOULD be here but isn’t I lose him again.

Every milestone he should be marking but doesn’t I lose him again. Every Christmas, every birthday, every ordinary day when something funny happens or I want to send him a text or message, I lose him again. Every time I need his advice and insight, I lose him again.

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I didn’t lose him once, I keep losing him.

Over and over and over again.

I lost my child….Today

… I lost my child today. 

People came to weep and cry, 

As I just sat and stared, dry eyed. 

They struggled to find words to say, 

To try and make the pain go away, 

I walked the floor in disbelief, 

I lost my child today.

I lost my child last month. 

Most of the people went away, 

Some still call and some still stay. 

I wait to wake up from this dream. 

This can’t be real. 

I want to scream. 

Yet everything is locked inside, 

God, help me, I want to die. 

I lost my child last month.

I lost my child last year. 

Now people who had come, have gone. 

I sit and struggle all day long. 

To bear the pain so deep inside. 

And now my friends just question, Why? 

Why does this mother not move on? 

Just sits and sings the same old song. 

Good heavens, it has been so long. 

I lost my child last year.

Time has not moved on for me. 

The numbness it has disappeared. 

My eyes have now cried many tears. 

I see the look upon your face, “She must move on and leave this place.” 

Yet I am trapped right here in time, 

The songs the same, as is the rhyme, 

I lost my child……Today.”

Netta Wilson

Repost: My Cup Overflows

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

~Psalm 23:5b

I remember standing in our field with my husband at sundown one day, thankfulness and grace and mercy and wonder flooding my heart-and I whispered, “surely my cup overflows!”

Surely, God’s hand is in this, is on our lives-He has brought us to this place of blessing.

And that’s how I used to always think of that verse-the cup overflowing with goodness and blessing.

But what about when the cup overflows with sorrow?  

Read the rest here:  My Cup Overflows

Repost: Fathers Grieve Too

In honor of Father’s Day tomorrow, I’m reposting this blog from a few months ago.

It’s true that there is a lopsided representation of mothers’ points of view in the child loss community.  But much of that is a function of the (very general) tendency of women (as a group) to be more vocal about their feelings than men (as a group).

I hope more bereaved dads will take up the mantle and make their voices heard.  So many broken hearts need to know they are not alone.  ❤

I’ve gotten a similar comment from two different bereaved fathers in the past two days.

It goes something like this, “I’m offended by the implication (one was in a meme, another was a reader comment) that mothers grieve more than dads”.  

I appreciate the comments even though I disagreed with the interpretation these men gave to what was actually stated.

I responded by saying that since I am a mother-not a father-I write from my own perspective.  I don’t try to fit my shoes on anyone else’s feet.

Read the rest here:  Fathers Grieve Too

Repost: Ask Me. Please.

I have been guilty of this more times than I ‘d like to admit. 

I assume someone else’s feelings mirror my own and act on that assumption by withdrawing or not showing up or “giving them space”.

But the problem is, most times, on reflection, I realize my action (or inaction) was really all about sparing my own feelings  or staying within my own comfort zone.

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

~Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

So I’m learning to ask hard questions.

Read the rest here:  Ask Me, Please.

Repost: What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

There’s a kind of relational magic that happens when people who have experienced the same or similar struggle get together.  

In an instant, their hearts are bound in mutual understanding as they look one to another and say, “Me too. I thought I was the only one.”

It was well into the second year after Dominic ran ahead to heaven that I found an online bereaved parent support group.  After bearing this burden alone for so many months, it took awhile before I could open my heart to strangers and share more than the outline of my story.

But, oh, when I did! What relief!  What beautiful support and affirmation that every. single. thing. that was happening to me and that I was feeling was normal!

Read the rest here:  What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

Repost: Barefoot Over Broken Ground

I first shared this in 2014 not quite a month after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

His leaving has made me much more aware that what we read as “stories”where we can turn to the last page and know the ending, others lived in real time, with no ability to fast forward to the ending.

Read the rest here:  Barefoot Over Broken Ground