In a culture that doesn't support mourning, people who have lost loved ones are advised to buck up, move on and seek closure. Those who are able to show a public face of having resolved their grief are considered to be doing well. Those who are not able to return to work and normal activities within a short period of time may feel there is something wrong with them.
Misconceptions about grief and "touchstones" that provide support will be addressed in sessions Sept. 24 and 25 sponsored by South Wind Hospice and Larrison Mortuary, with additional funding from Pratt Regional Medical Center, Stanion Wholesale Electric Co., Horizons Mental Health and Taylor Printing.
Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a noted author, educator and grief counselor, will speak at a free public presentation on the 24th and lead a more in-depth workshop for members of the caregiving community on the 25th.
"Mourning in our culture isn't always easy," according to Wolfelt. "Normal thoughts and feelings connected to loss are typically seen as unnecessary and even shameful. Instead of encouraging mourners to express themselves, our culture's unstated rules would have them avoid their hurt and 'be strong.'
"But grief is not a disease. Instead, it is the normal, healthy process of embracing the mystery of the death of someone loved. If mourners see themselves as active participants in their healing, they will experience a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in life."
"Dr. Wolfelt will be a blessing for those who attend," said Ginger Goering, executive director of South Wind Hospice. "His work is known around the globe and he commands a great deal of respect in the loss, grieving and bereaving field. One of the best things he does, in my opinion, is promote the companioning model, which speaks to what hospice does so well, to maintain a presence with the person...being there fully, as opposed to assessing, analyzing or resolving another's situation."
In the public session, titled "Touchstones for Hope and Healing," Wolfelt will help dispel the myth that grieving has a timetable and a distinct ending, explain symptoms that are very normal that make people feel something is wrong with them, and suggest practical things they can do to care for themselves.
The full-day workshop will emphasize the importance of companioning, not treating the mourner. It will be helpful for counselors, social workers, clergy, chaplains, nurses and lay ministers or anyone who wants to learn more about caring for grieving persons.
Wolfelt founded the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colo., more than 20 years ago to help mourners and professional and lay caregivers.
His website, centerforloss.com, explains his companioning philosophy and includes a tab called Griefwords, that provides information for a variety of situations, including the death of a baby, death due to suicide, and how to live when you are seriously ill or dying.
He wrote his first book at age 19 about helping kids with grief and is the author of more than 50 best-selling books on grief and loss. He leads 60 to 70 community seminars each year and is a faculty member of the University of Colorado Medical School's Department of Family Medicine.