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Companioning the Griever

By: Mary Schrader

When someone we love dies our life changes in an instant. We begin a journey we may not want to take. The grief journey can be compared to a rough roller coaster ride. When a loved one dies we grieve the loss in several ways. We realize we aren’t the same person we once were. We’ve lost our spark for life. We move into the deep darkness of our grief and we begin our journey not knowing how long it will take to heal or how rough the trip will be. Roller coaster rides can be scary and have lots of rough bumps. Our grief journey is much the same. Sometimes we aren’t sure if we want to go on living because we are walking in uncharted territory. Who is going to walk with us? Who is going to listen and be there for us during this sad time in our life? Our walk is easier if we have a companion to walk beside us as we talk, cry and reach out for support. How do we companion someone? If you have a friend or family member that is grieving you have an opportunity to be a grief companion for that special person. A grief companion is someone who walks beside you and listens to your concerns and validates your feelings of sadness, shock, disbelief and denial. The companion doesn’t try and fix you or expect you to be the same person you once were before the loss. A good companion never wants to minimize the loss to make you feel better and will never judge you for your feelings. Sometimes well-meaning friends want to take away the pain. There is nothing anyone can do to take away the pain. It is best if you move toward the pain with the support of a companion who understands. A good question to ask the mourner is, “How are you surviving?” Then stop and listen to what the person is telling you about the loss. Reflective listening is helpful as you companion a grieving person. Speaking their words back to them makes a person feel “heard.” Becoming a good listener is the greatest gift you can give someone. Pain that is not mourned will stay inside of your heart and may resurface years later because there was no expression of the loss. Mourning is about getting the pain outside of yourself so you get through it. We never want to try and get over the pain because we never do. Talking about the pain helps us to crush it down until the death doesn’t have so much power over us. We learn to have power over it. It is in talking about our past losses that we are able to move forward in our life to live and love in the future.