Companioning the Bereaved

Posted on April 6, 2022 by Rev. Pam Reidy under grief, loss, mourning
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When someone experiences a loss, the heart begins to grieve immediately. Still, many times we are not aware that it is grief we are feeling. Grief can mask as anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness, generalized anxiety or fear. Since loss is a part of life from the day we are born, we have usually developed strategies, some healthy, some not so healthy, to help cope with loss. These strategies come to the fore when we are grieving.  However strong our coping skills we need at least one companion of the soul while on the grief journey.  It’s just not a trip you should take alone.

Companions hold us up when we fear we will fall, they listen beyond our words to hear the voice of our heart. Companions let us take our time, stopping from time to time to catch our breath or look back to see from where we have come. Companions challenge us at just the right time, in just the right way, leading us safely into the mysteries we long to solve, but cannot understand. When choosing a companion for your grief journey, make sure love is their motive and openness is your posture.

I recently found a poem that perfectly describes the role of a grief companion. Written by Patricia McKernon Runkle, it will help the one who finds themselves midwifing the grief of someone they love.

When You Meet Someone Deep in Grief
by Patricia McKernon Runkle

Slip off your needs and set them by the door.

Enter barefoot this darkened chapel

hallowed by loss, hallowed by sorrow

Its gray stone walls and floor.

You, congregation of one

Are here to listen, not to sing.

Kneel in the back pew. Make no sound,

let the candles speak.

How beautifully this poem expresses the  role of a grief companion. Grief is hard work, companioning someone who grieves can be overwhelming. As with anything significant or meaningful, go gently. With grief, both the bereaved and their companion stand on holy ground, stroking the mysteries of love and hope.

Famed bereavement and loss expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt speaks beautifully about companioning the broken heart:

Being soulful as it relates to companioning people in grief is, in part, to acknowledge a need for people to have “safe places” to authentically mourn. Then, in order to respond to that need, it is to go within yourself and nurture and develop your soul in ways that give expression to your compassion.

To read more of his work and download a pdf Introduction to Companioning the Bereaved follow this link:

For my part, I advise that you choose carefully who will help midwife your grief, for they will be the one to provide gentle guidance, support, and knowledge as you navigate your loss.





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