Companioning the Bereaved 

16 Oct 2018
16:10
Lecture Hall

Companioning the Bereaved 

Grieving over the loss of a loved one is a universally recognized behavior that involved  the bereaved’s entire community of family and friends. More recently, the cultural norms that once supported this activity, is increasingly yielding to the quickening changes in our industrialized world. Accordingly, families are moving further apart and  careers demand more attention. Those once closely held family customs that once served to bond and comfort are falling into disuse. Replacing the lost opportunities for bonding, a new technology of therapy and counseling. Unlike the customs of our grandparents, the new therapy rather views the grieving process as an illness requiring treatment with the aim of returning the bereaved to “normalcy.” Countering this trend has been the pioneering work of people like Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ works on death and dying, and Cicely Saunders work to create Hospice in order to permit family involvement and support as an alternative to the impersonal clinical procedures often involving the artificial prolonging of life with feeding tubes and breathing apparatuses. More recently was Alan Wolfelt’s efforts, through his Center for Loss and Transition, to return the act of bereavement to a natural and vitally important human process toward a spiritual transformation. From these pioneers, we are learning that the skills needed to companion the bereaved can be achieved by anyone motivated to acquire them. The personal development of skills such as companioning the bereaved is very much in line with Helena Blavatsky’s encouragement in her article, “Practical Occultism” for her students to take up a practice that “leads to a knowledge of what is good to do, as to the right discrimination from good and evil; a path which also leads a man to that power through which he can do the good he desires, often without even apparently lifting a finger.”

Some principles involved in the companioning of the bereaved:
Bereavement, grief and mourning are normal experiences. Though traumatic, these experiences are ultimately transformative.
While the process of companioning the bereaved is collaborative in its nature, it is only the bereaved who is the expert in the manner best suited for the experience of that grief.
The role of the companion is that of a gardener, not a fabricator. The Companions role is to understand and provide what is needed to facilitate the journey.
In the case of complicated mourning, the bereaved may need help in understanding the central needs of mourning and how to embrace them.