At some point in our 4 months together, there is always a discussion about the grief support practitioner’s role. Is it okay to give advice? What is it that people are really coming to us for and hoping to get out of our time together? Is it okay if we too are struggling with aspects of our own grief and relationships with loss and death, or can we only offer this support of we’ve “worked it all out”? How do we know when grief support sessions are no longer “required”? What does “finished” look like, in terms of our role and where our clients get to?
We love these discussions. These are such important questions for grief support practitioners to consider, and the fact that they’re considering these questions means that the popular myths of “closure,” having all the answers, and being in the all-knowing “expert” role are loosening their grip, or perhaps have already been completely abandoned. Yahoo! Now we can play and create meaning. Because, as much as answers feel like a kind of comfort, the reality is that…
There are no universal answers!
Some days as grief support practitioners, and indeed as humans navigating our own struggles, we wish for easy, universal answers to the big questions that loss, dying, death, and grieving throw at us. Surely that would be easier. We would not have to think so much. Maybe simple, universal answers would lock out second-guessing, regret, and guilt. And maybe there wouldn’t be so much room for judgement by others, and we could just enjoy the nice snug sense of belonging that often comes with looking around and seeing we’re being and doing the same.
And yet there are other days, when we can build our tolerance for the anxiety of not knowing, and then the sense of creativity and possibility calls out so loudly to us. And we feel the thrill of the freedom of being able to decide, act, create (whether it be as a grieving person ourselves, or as a grief support practitioner). And we feel the delight at witnessing other people’s unique and different stories, decisions, actions, meanings. At such times, it’s easy to feel grateful even for the fact that there are no single universal answers for us all, and we get to help our clients to create their own way forward after loss. And they get to make their own ARTful life.
The specific answers don’t matter. It’s the ongoing process of sitting with both the old and newly born questions together, and co-creating answers that matters. This is the process wherein agency is expanded, and meaning is deepened.
Explore with your client
Consider some questions that could open up a discussion with your client to deconstruct the myths of “closure” and universal answers…
- Have you previously had a relationship to grief that compelled you to find *the* answer (or “to be healed” / “find closure” / “get over it”)? What has it been like to be in relationship with grief, looking for *the* answer?
- Do you feel differently about your relationship to grief if you shift your experience to be one of a “continuous process of answering” instead?
- Do you find that allowing yourself to be in a “process of answering” is something new for you?
- Shifting focus from “product” to instead focus on “process” is often a huge relief for people. If you experience that sense of relief about allowing your grief experience to be a process rather than having to “finish” it into a product, has that come because you feel you’ve been given permission to do so?
- Did you grant yourself that permission?
- If you were going to make a permission slip to remind yourself that you’ve granted yourself this relief, what would the permission slip say? Look like?
- Would you tuck it away for yourself? Or post it somewhere others could see it?
- If others saw it, who in your life would not be the least surprised that you granted yourself permission? How would they support you?
If you’re curious to learn more nuanced, creative, and unique ways that you can help your client to experience a sense of they themselves being the expert as they grieve, apply to join our next Certification in Creative Grief Support.