Yesterday, I was slamming memoirs as being irrelevant to helping other people grieve, but personal experience with loss does matter.
I believe that in order to work effectively with people who are grieving, you do need to have experienced grief…but you also need to have completed the grieving process.
When I went back to graduate school 3 months after my mom died, I wasn’t allowed to work for hospice or do any other grief work for 2 years. At the time I was outraged because I was all fired up about helping others through what I was still going through…wrong.
Now I am so grateful for their restraint because by insisting on those 2 years, they insured I had the time to heal from the most profound loss of my life without imposing my experience on anyone else.
Instead, by the time I began facilitating bereavement groups, my own healing was complete which allowed me to be a compassionate presence, comfortable sitting with their pain without it triggering my own.
My own experience may have ignited my passion but that’s not what taught me about grief. It was sitting around that table in Somerville Massachusetts with the folks who came to every meeting from the beginning to the end of their grief, that I learned the many faces of grief and what it really takes to heal.
Those folks inspire me to this day. Their stories and those of the hundreds of hospice families that followed, are reflected in the pages of How to Survive Your Grief. They are the real experts and I thank them so much for allowing me to walk with them for that part of their journey.