20 Jul

On Grief and Loss

In the end, as we as human beings mourn, we must discover meaning to go on living our tomorrows without the physical presence of someone we have loved. Death and grief are spiritual journeys of the heart and soul.

– Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., Companioning the Bereaved: A Soulful Guide for Caregivers

My work at Hospice of the Valley is coming to an end. For almost a year now, I have sat with clients who are moving through some of the most painful times of their lives. I have listened to stories of love, laughter, pain, illness, joy, trauma, hope… life. Throughout our time together, I have done my best to provide comfort for my clients, and to hold hope for the times that are yet to come in their lives. This has been a powerful experience for me, and I am so grateful for my clients’ willingness to share their journeys with me.

My position as an MFT Trainee ends with my graduation, so I am making space for new trainees to begin their work – and saying goodbye to clients. This is part of my own transition, and I have been a bit surprised by the depth of emotions that accompany this change. I am excited about the work that lies before me, the move that is in my near future, the end of my schooling at the university. And at the same time, I am sad to leave these people with whom I have developed deep relationships. I know that many of my clients are ready to move forward, and I am happy to launch them “out of the nest”. And for those clients who are still in deep grief, I know I am leaving them in capable, supportive hands. Still, it is tough to let go. A couple of weeks ago, a client said to me – with a lightness that let me know he would be just fine – “I think I may need a counselor, to support me through losing my counselor”. It broke my heart in the best way.

My clients’ individual stories belong to them – they are not mine to share. Here at the end of my time in this position, though, I do feel a need to catalog and share some of what I have learned about grief and loss. From the beginning, my supervisor has instilled in me the belief that our work as grief counselors is not only in helping the individuals that sit in our therapy rooms, but also in educating the community, moving our culture toward more acceptance of the experience of grief. We are a grief avoidant society, despite the fact that every one of us will experience loss in our lifetimes – and that avoidance keeps us woefully unprepared for the work of grief.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be using this space to share lessons I’ve learned about the journey of grief. My hope is that these words will provide comfort to those experiencing loss, as well as resources for the caregivers (friends, family, coworkers, community members) surrounding them.

Topics in this series (I am adding to this list as articles are posted):