Dr. Gloria Horsley connects with Dr. Janet McCord at an Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference. Dr. McCord is the director of Grief and Bereavement Studies at Marian University in Wisconsin. The two experts discuss what it means to be a grief counselor, including the unique challenges—as well as the benefits. Being a volunteer facilitator is no easy task. It requires love, listening skills, the ability to not make judgments of what children are saying, and the ability to validate what grievers are saying. Ultimately, the goal is to reflect back to them.
A child should expect a lot of love going into counseling, especially group counseling. The talking stick goes around, and everyone gets to say their name, who died, and anything else they want to share. Alternatively, they can pass. “I pass” is a rule that Dr. McCord allows. Adult caretakers cannot drop their kids off and leave. While they’re not required to be a part of an adult program, it’s an option the majority of parents take advantage of. Most adults don’t want to grieve in front of their children.
A Healing Opportunity for the Entire Family
Dr. McCord’s program is designed for the entire family, although she personally specializes in helping children through the grief process. During the 90 minute sessions, all members of the family have a safe place they can attend where love and empathy abound. When you lose someone, particularly in a stigmatized way, it can feel like nobody else has gone down this path before.
Attending a group session helps grievers see that this isn’t true. They’re surrounded by empathy and people who have been where they are. This can help rejuvenate their trek down the healing path.