People travel from around the world to Vatican City to see Michaelangelo's Pietà, a stunning sculpture in marble depicting Mary holding the body of her deceased son Jesus. It is one of the most famous works of art, no doubt due to its beauty and masterful craftsmanship, but also because it speaks to a universal human experience: the pain of losing a loved one.
I have been around death, dying, and grief from a very young age. My mother was the charge nurse of an inpatient Hospice unit in my hometown, and I went there almost every day after school to wait for her shift to end. I would do my homework in the unit's "family room," where there were almost always family members sitting, talking, crying, and sometimes downright distraught. Often they initiated conversations with me, and talk to me (a young girl) about what they were going through. Sometimes we would just play board games to pass the time. Occasionally my mom would even ask me to go into a dying patient's room and sit with them, if they were alone and needed some company. I watched my mother and her colleagues comfort grieving families in their most difficult moments. I accompanied my mother to countless patients' wakes and funerals, and to her training sessions as she educated the public about dying and grief. Later, in my professional career, I was called on to work with students impacted by a mass shooting, floods, and other difficult crises. I have also been also a volunteer and counselor at a local grief resource center, running groups for bereaved children and teens. These life experiences have been such a blessing to me, as I have learned how to sit with people in their pain and walk with them on their grief journeys.
We live in a "happiness culture" that is grief-avoidant. We tend to not talk about death or grief. Potential clients sometimes call me and want to know when their pain will end, or how to make it "go away." The truth is, the pain from the death of a loved one does not ever completely go away – there is no "treatment" or "cure" for grief – however it can and does change and transform over time. There are ways to help really feel our emotions and help them move. There is wisdom in the idea that "the depth of our grief matches the depth of our love for the person who has died." An essential part of doing the work of grief is turning towards feeling all our difficult feelings, rather than resisting or suppressing them. We can actually cause ourselves more suffering when we seek to avoid our suffering. I view my role in grief counseling as giving my clients a safe space for them to experience their feelings, and pain, and a place to honor their unique, individual process with compassion and kindness.
It is my privilege to walk the journey of grief with my clients, "being with" them, helping them to feel deeply and find adaptive (healthy) ways of coping with their loss. I am a Certified Compassionate Bereavement Care Provider® – a training I sought because unfortunately there are few clinicians truly competent in guiding clients through the "dark abyss of traumatic grief." This model is evidence-based and it combines the best of grief theory, recent science, mindfulness, and the art of full presence and compassionate counseling. As a relationship-based therapist, my personal approach with grief is very much informed by existential therapy (Viktor Frankl, Irvin Yalom) and the beautiful concept of "companioning" the bereaved (Alan Wofelt).
I have also completed specialized training with Dr. Roger Solomon in the utilization of EMDR therapy with the grief and mourning of traumatic bereavement. This can be very helpful in processing the most distressing parts of the loss, working through difficult emotions, and helping the memory networks containing positive memories of the deceased loved one(s) to become unblocked and more accessible. Ultimately all of this allows for healthy assimilation and integration of the loss.
If you are struggling with the death of a loved one and want to know more about how we can work together on grief, please reach out to me at 607-237-3938.