Grief Engagement

“If your desire is to support a fellow human in grief, you must create a ‘safe place’ for people to embrace their feelings of profound loss. This safe place is a cleaned-out, compassionate heart. It is the open heart that allows you to be truly present to another human being’s intimate pain.”

So says Dr. Alan Wolfert, founder of the Center for Loss. Dr. Wolfert developed a model for grief engagement that is rooted in compassion. He calls his model “companioning.” The model is insightful and aligns well with the spirit of biblical compassion and humility. Here are his eleven principles that guide the framework.

  1. Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  2. Companioning is about 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. Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  4. Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  5. Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
  6. Companioning is about walking alongside;it is not about leading or being led.
  7. Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
  8. Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  9. Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  10. Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  11. Companioning is about compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.
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3 comments

  1. I love this now like I did when you first posted it – and I have shared it with my Celebrate Recovery group, as I see part of its mission is to allow space for these open moments of sharing without any ‘fixing’ of the problems from those listening. But how can we balance this wonderful perspective with the promoting of wise counsel – all the while not entering into any dogmatic or judgmental attitude?

    1. Rob, great to hear from you as always. To me it’s a matter of timing. There is a place for counsel and advice. Engaging in this manner creates credibility and trust, the context necessary for speaking into a person’s life.

      1. I understand. That makes sense. Thank you. Maybe even waiting to see if the other person asks for advice is a good indicator. Job’s friends joined him a period of mourning before speaking, but even then they arrived at wrong conclusions – though their dialogue contained many accurate statements. Now that I think about it, that book is probably the greatest example supporting the companioning model.

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