During a recent visit to Atlanta, Dr. Alan Wolfelt of the Center for Loss and Life Transitions presented “Healing Your Grieving Heart When Someone You Love Has Died,” for the community, and “Dimensions of Grief” for professional caregivers. Cynthia Daniel, the program director for Kate’s Club, attended the event and gives us her take.
Dr. Wolfelt emphasized the importance of “hospitality” based models of grief support that create space to allow children and teens to do their own work of mourning. He made a clear distinction between grief (the experience) and mourning (the outward expression of the experience). Wolfelt spoke of grief being anchored in love not logic, a helpful reminder to soften the therapeutic model. He went on to say that a successful program will allow itself to be transformative rather than resolution focused.
At the heart of the conversation, were Dr. Wolfelt’s “My Grief Rights”:
1. I have the right to have my own unique feelings about the death.
I might feel mad, sad or lonely. I might feel scared or relieved. I might feel numb or sometimes not anything at all. No one will feel exactly like I do.
2. I have the right to talk about my grief whenever I feel like talking.
When I need to talk, I will find someone who will listen to me and love me. When I don’t want to talk, that is OK, too.
3. I have the right to show my feelings of grief in my own way.
When they are hurting, some kids like to play so they’ll feel better for awhile. I can play or laugh, too. I might also get mad and misbehave. This does not mean I am bad, it just means I have scary feelings that I need help with.
4. I have the right to need other people to help me with my grief, especially grownups who care about me.
Mostly I need them to pay attention to what I am feeling and saying and to love me no matter what.
5. I have the right to get upset about normal, everyday problems.
I might feel grumpy and have trouble getting along with other sometimes.
6. I have the right to have “Griefbursts.”
Griefbursts are sudden, unexpected feelings of sadness that just hit me sometimes—even long after the death. These feelings can be very strong and even scary. When this happens, I might feel afraid to be alone.
7. I have the right to use my beliefs about God to help me with my grief.
Praying might make me feel better and somehow closer to the person who died.
8. I have the right to try to figure out why the person I loved died.
But it’s OK if I don’t find an answer. “Why” questions about life and death are the hardest questions in the world.
9. I have the right to think and talk about my memories of the person who died.
Sometimes those memories will be happy and sometimes they might be sad. Either way, memories help me keep alive my love for the person who died.
10. I have the right to move toward and feel my grief and, over time, to heal.
I’ll go on to live a happy life, but the life and death of the person who died will always be a part of me. I’ll always miss the person who died.
Thanks to Southcare Cremation for sponsoring the event presenting one of the most prolific and progressive grief educators in the U.S.