20 years ago, Dr Alan Wolfelt had commenced an initiative to create a ‘Centre for Loss and Life Transition.’ The primary focus of this sanction sought to fulfil his mission to Help People Help Others. What differentiates Dr Alan Wolfelt from other psychotherapists, is his innovative development and application of his ‘companioning’ model on the patients who seek his advice.
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief” – Shakespeare
There will be many questions that will stick with you after someone’s passing.
Some may ask: ‘How long will I feel like this for?’
Others may ask: ‘How do I bring them back?’
However, the most critical question one should ask themselves is: “How do I grieve properly?”
Dr Alan Wolfelt’s passion for helping people in the grieving process has led him to presenting workshops in hospices, schools, universities, funeral homes and many other community groups around the world. Accompanying his success are his best-selling publications that further explain his self-developed theories. They also contain a collection of his patients’ grieving journeys, included to specifically highlight their road to recovery. Dr Alan Wolfelt seeks to assist 3 kinds of people:
- A griever
- A person helping a griever
- Bereavement caregiver
In the four-day training course for bereavement caregivers, his primary goal is to spread the notion of his ‘companioning’ philosophy, which entails the caregivers to empathize professional in a ‘friend-like’ manner. Essentially, this revelation of Dr Alan Wolfelt: ‘companioning’ those in grieving, will grow and enable easier accessibility for grievers who are in need.
From his book, ‘Companioning the Bereaved’, he encapsulates the theory in 11 simple terms. ‘Companion’ is Latin for ‘messmate’, in other words, someone who one would share a meal with. His theory stems from this singular term, which captures the essence of this counselling relationship to which Dr Alan Wolfelt deems is the most effective. Companioning is not just analysing grief as if it’s a scientific case. Nor is it about fixing grief. Nor is it resolving grief. Instead, companioning is the nature of being physically and mentally present to the mourner. Being their anchor they hold on to.
Like the Humanistic theory by Carl Rogers, showing unconditionally positive regard without judgements and enforcing cues of understanding, will propel patient’s recovery. Bringing comfort to the patient is the ultimate goal.
The 11 companioning rules are as follows:
- Be present in one’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
- Placing yourself in one’s shoes; it is not about sympathizing.
- Honour the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
- Listen with the heart; it is not about analysing with the head.
- Bear witness to the struggles of one; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
- Walk alongside one; it is not about leading or being led.
- Discover the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
- Be still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
- Respect disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
- Learn from others; it is not about teaching them.
- Compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.
Like Shakespeare once theorised – to weep is to make less the depth of grief – so grieve away if you’re the griever. Grieve together if you are the friend. Grieve with the griever if you are the companion.
Visit Dr Wolfelt’s Center for Loss and Life Transition for more on his work and philosophies.