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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Repost: Little Ways Grief Changes Things


I accidentally dialed my son’s number the other night.  

All he heard amidst the noise of the baseball game he was attending was, “I’m sorry” which immediately put him in “oh no!” mode.  

A couple words later and he understood that what I was sorry for was interrupting him, not another tragedy that required a heart-wrenching, life-changing long distance phone call.

But that’s how it is now.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/07/19/little-ways-grief-changes-things/

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Why, “Just Think About All the Good Memories,” Doesn’t Comfort My Heart


I pull out the memories like treasures from a locked strongbox.

“Handle With Care” because they are all I have left.

But they are not enough.

They will never be enough to satisfy this mama’s heart.

We are supposed to have to remember our elders, our grandparents, even, maybe our spouse at some point-but not our children.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/15/why-just-think-about-all-the-good-memories-doesnt-comfort-my-heart/

Ask. Don’t Assume.

I’ll confess right here on the world wide web that I tend to go along to get along.

It’s a terrible and odd twist that the son who always encouraged me to speak up for myself has accomplished his goal by his absence.

Since Dominic left for Heaven I’m learning to ask questions I’d never dare ask before.

When someone does something or doesn’t do something, instead of assuming motives or assigning blame, I ask them why. It doesn’t always end well, but it’s worth the risk.

Most of the time I find the person has anticipated (often mistakenly) that his or her behavior, choices or words are helpful. Truly, family and friends are not usually out to hurt my heart.

Now, I admit in the beginning I didn’t care whether it was accidental or purposeful. I was already so burdened that any additional stress or strain was more than I could bear. I wanted people to put themselves in my shoes.

Truth is, they can’t.

All the times I IMAGINED what it might feel like to have a child run ahead to Heaven didn’t even come close to how it actually felt. All the scripts that played in my head when someone was late checking in, coming home or assuring me of safe arrival when traveling can’t hold a candle to the REALITY of a son never ever coming home again.

It’s not fair (but what about child loss IS fair?) that I have to educate others as I’m learning myself.

It’s simply reality.

I liken it to being forced to lead in a dance I don’t know to music I can’t stand to hear.

So I ask.

And I’m often surprised by the answers.

In utter innocence and genuine sympathy some friends and family make decisions they honestly think are good ones.

None of us has a road map for this journey-neither we who travel the road nor those who walk alongside us. It’s uncharted territory.

I would rather err on the side of love and grace then build walls between my heart and the ones I have left here on earth.

Sure it hurts.

But most things this side of child loss do.

I refuse to sacrifice relationship on the altar of grief.

“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

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Nagging Guilt in Child Loss

It came up again just the other day-a mama was lamenting her son’s death and listing all the ways it might have been her fault.

It’s natural to go down that path.

But it’s unfruitful. Because none of us are omniscient or omnipresent or omnipotent.

I should have known.  I should have been there.  I should have called, texted, spoken one more warning or given one more hug.

Should.  Should?  Should!

wistful woman looking out wet window

I have yet to speak to a bereaved parent who does not harbor guilt of some kind over the death of his or her child.

Not one.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/03/10/nagging-guilt-in-child-loss/

The Penalty and Gift of Love

Love is risky business.  

There’s no way to guarantee you’ll escape unscathed.  

And a broken heart can make us oh, so afraid to try again.  

I get it.  

My heart was absolutely, totally shattered when that deputy knocked on my door and delivered the news. 

But I refuse to lock my love in a vault so my heart can be safe.  

Because life without love isn’t life.  ❤

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