WHAT IS A GRIEF EDUCATOR?
I like very much my teacher, David Kessler's definition of a grief educator.
"A Certified Grief Educator is committed to providing the highest level of grief support through education, experience, and insights into the often unacknowledged rocky terrain of grief. Certified Grief Educators completed a certificate program designed by world-renowned grief expert, David Kessler. They bring his unique methodology, tools, and decades of experience to help people navigate the challenges of grief."
I have often been asked why I chose to become a grief educator and grief specialist. Fair question of course, as we usually do not get up one morning saying that we are going to become a grief educator.
I lost my father just before turning ten and that was the first big blow in my life as I am the youngest of three and was everything to my dad and my dad meant the world to me. Then when we were sixteen, a very good friend of mine took her own life. After that, I lost someone in a war and in my mid twenties my partner whom I was very much in love with. He passed from a cancerous condition. I also lost two other good friends to suicide. All this inspired me to become a trauma focused hypnotherapist as well as a grief educator and a grief specialist.
This work is about having the knowledge, applicable tools, techniques, and an effective style to help others in grief. I take a holistic approach in my work.
I offer an individualized approach to grief. And I want to remind you that there is no timeline in grief, and I know there is not a cure. But as a grief educator, I can reflect and guide people in grief towards creating a life that honours their loved ones.
I am also delighted to bring my expertise about grief education and support by delivering workshops to local communities, charity organizations companies, nursing homes and hospices. These workshops will be customized to the organizations' needs and are a great tool to help 'educate' their team members on grief, the needs of a grieving person and on what to say to people going through grief.
As a grief educator, I understand that:
- Grief can be traumatic and transformative. People in grief are not broken, and I do not need to fix them. I offer people in grief my utmost respect and serve them based on their needs and their unique experience.
- The foundation of serving comes from a place of connection. Empathy, genuineness, honesty, and respect are essential elements of being a grief educator.
- True expertise in grief lies with the griever.
- Connection is important to our well-being. I use a mind/body/spirit approach to grief and remind people of the importance of connection to themselves, their friends, family, and community as well as cultivate an ongoing relationship with their loved one who had died.
- We are committed to providing a safe space for those in grief.
- As a grief educator, I offer a holistic approach to grieving. I focus on the past, present, and future and understand that in addition to the loss, culture, community, spirituality, and beliefs play a role in the individual’s grief.
- As a grief educator, I understand that the responsibility for change lies with the griever. I can inform, reflect, and support others. But their journey is ultimately their own.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE 6 NEEDS OF THE GRIEVING
1. To Have Your Pain Witnessed
Grief is brutal. It is crucial to begin by acknowledging their loss and let them know that they are seen and heard. Having grief witnessed is about making their loss real. There is no greater gift you can give someone in grief than to ask them about their loved one, and then truly listen. Show them you genuinely want to know. When we see our sorrow in the eyes of another, we know our grief has meaning. We get a glimpse, maybe for the first time since the loss, that we will survive, and a future after the loss is possible.
2. To Express Your Feelings
Once they have become more comfortable with their pain and discomfort, it is important to be able to express how they are feeling. My job as a grief educator is to empower them to find that language and their voice.
So often, when we ask people in grief how they are, they go into their grief story. It becomes an overwhelming and repetitive pattern. My job is to get them to connect with how they are today, at this moment by creating a safe space for them to do so.
3. To Release The Burden Of Guilt
Guilt and grief often go hand and hand. When working with people in grief this usually comes up again and again, layer after layer. We naturally wish we could do things differently. Our minds would always rather feel guilty than helpless. This is how our brain is wired. One of the things I teach is how to switch the “what-ifs” to “even-ifs”. It is important to explore our feelings of guilt in grief and then release them and forgive ourselves as well as others.
4. To Be Free Of Old Wounds
As we take a holistic approach to grief, old wounds will surface. Most of us have old wounds, trauma, and childhood experiences that inform who we are and how we process our grief today. In time and with processing our traumatic wounds can become our cherished wounds. Without addressing them they do not go away. In the past, people might have asked themselves, “What’s wrong with me? I am damaged, I am broken.” A better question may be, “What happened to me?” We aim to help others develop the tools and self-compassion to address the wounds that show up as personal beliefs that
started in childhood.
5. To Integrate The Pain And The Love
Acceptance does not happen overnight or all at once. So often people are looking for this lightning-bolt moment of acceptance and it just does not work that way. It is incremental. As a grief eductaor, my role is to help people in grief, to be there with them to help guide them and to educate them so that they can remember with more love than pain. Our loved ones will forever live in us, and in our memories. Grief will definitely not get smaller. But you will get bigger.
6. To Find Meaning In Life After Loss
Meaning comes through finding a way to sustain love for the person after their death while moving forward in life. Of course, this does not mean that you will no longer miss your love done, but it means that you will experience a heightened awareness of how precious life is. There are challenges to finding meaning. Every moment we are making choices - whether to move toward healing or to stay stuck in pain. Like all the other stages, the sixth stage of grief requires movement. We cannot move into the future without leaving the past. We have to say goodbye to the life we had and say yes to the future. There is pain in their loss, but there is also good. My role as a grief educator is to help people in grief find ways to savour the love, not just stay with the pain. And to help them find meaning in their memories and take that good into their future. If you see only the pain in a situation, it will grow. I am not suggesting you minimize or negate it, but if that is all you pay attention to, that is all you will have. When we move through pain and we release it, we fear there will be nothing, but the truth is, when the pain is gone, we are connected only in love. Hope has a very close relationship with meaning. In the same way our meaning changes so does hope.
Most of the information of this page come from the teachings of my teacher in my grief Educator certificate programme, David Kessler. David Kessler has been a real source of inspiration for me on this journey!