Are you finding it hard to reconnect with the parts of your life that once made you happy? Small wonder. When you lose a loved one, concerned friends and family tend to see you in only one role: grieving person. That not only cuts you off from the kinds of interactions that might prove restorative, but it distorts the relationships that you ordinarily count on for comfort. Most troubling, the constant expressions of sympathy can mute your own internal cues — the ones you usually draw on during difficult times to restore balance, optimism and joy to your life.
How Can a Grief Coach Help?
As your coach, I help you to reconnect with your strengths, your coping strategies and the relationships, activities and inner resources that give your life meaning. I make no assumptions about what you feel, think or want. Rather, I come to our sessions with an open mind and an ear deeply tuned to the one person who knows best how to get your life moving again: you. Together, we explore your feelings, your strengths, your untapped capabilities, and the thoughts that may be impeding or slowing your healing. In tandem, we help you identify — then take — the steps that will restore momentum to your life.
Won’t This Disrupt My Grieving Process?
Bereavement researchers no longer believe that there is a “five-stage cycle of grief” that mourners must slog through before reconnecting with their lives. Instead, the findings of the last three decades of bereavement research point to something quite different and far more heartening: a majority of mourners are “resilient.” The key to their resilience? Waves of emotion that oscillate between feelings of sorrow and feelings of pleasure even from the earliest weeks of loss. One minute you may feel hollowed out by an acute longing for your departed loved one; the next you may feel a burst of gratitude for the attentions of a caring friend. It is natural, in other words, to experience both pleasant feelings and sad feelings following the loss of a loved one; to look forward with hope even as you look backward to reflect and grieve. Coaching strengthens and reinforces resilience by helping you to forge a positive vision for the future while at the same time processing the loss of a relationship that infused your life with love, stability and meaning.
What if There’s Something Wrong with My Grief?
There is no such thing as “right” or “wrong” grief. While loss is universal, grief is personal. You feel what you feel. That should be respected, not judged by you — or anyone else. You’ve earned those feelings the hardest way possible: you’ve lost someone you love. Own those feelings. Even cherish them. They are the expression of your love for the person you are grieving.
Will My Pain Ever Subside?
How you respond to your painful emotions involves a choice. Here’s where coaching can make a big difference. Coaching helps you to let go of assumptions and expectations you may have about what you “should” be feeling. It changes the questions you are asking yourself about what was, what happened, what will be. Most important, it helps to alter the mental narratives that amplify your sadness with feelings of loneliness or lack of motivation, helplessness or guilt. (Hint: If you are inclined toward thoughts that begin with phrases like “I wish that I’d” or “It’s not fair that,” or “I should have,” it’s likely that you are compounding your sadness with needless suffering. Why? Because thoughts like that indicate you are arguing with reality — and you will lose that argument every time. An adage, popular in Buddhist circles, captures this idea succinctly: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”)
How Does Coaching Differ From Therapy and Counseling?
Classic grief therapy and grief counseling involve an archaeological dig that looks backward to help you understand how you got to this moment. Grief coaching, by contrast, takes a forward-looking approach, with an emphasis on constructing an architectural blueprint of the future you want to step into. Drawn from the word “stagecoach,” coaching focuses on finding solutions that will take you from one point to the next. You pick the destination, then in partnership with your coach you embark on a journey to move from where you are now to where you want to be.
Who Sets the Agenda During a Coaching Session?
You do. Why? Because when it comes to your grief, there is only one expert in the conversation: you. Not only are you the only person who can identify your needs; you are the only person who can provide the answers you are seeking. But sometimes the fog of grief makes it difficult to see those answers.
What Role Does the Coach Play?
As your coach, I am your advocate and encourager, your cheerleader and friend. I help you to clarify and sharpen your agenda; recognize and clear away the obstacles that may be standing in your way; identify and take the steps that will help turn your inner longings into your lived reality. Along the way, I’ll sometimes give manageable assignments to help us both ensure that you are taking concrete actions that move you closer to realizing your goals. As the steps accumulate, you begin to feel momentum returning to your life. Your landscape — both inner and outer — starts to shift. The sorrow that was dragging you down or making you feel stuck quiets. In its place, there is a rekindling of confidence and determination, optimism and joy. You feel yourself reconnecting with the person you’ve been keenly missing: you.
How Can I Know if You’re the Right Coach for Me?
You can’t. Not yet. First, you need answers to some critical questions: Am I someone with whom you feel comfortable talking? Am I a person who inspires your trust? Am I someone who can understand your grief? Am I someone who “gets” you? The only way to address those important concerns is to spend some time with me. Toward that end, I offer a free phone session that gives you a sense of what it’s like to work with me, introduces you to the coaching process, and provides an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
Are There Additional Ways to Learn About Your Approach to Grief?
On this website, you can find dozens of essays and articles I’ve written about grief for The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Money, and PBS’s Next Avenue website, as well as other print and online venues. (Under the “Reading Room” tab, pull down to “Grief and Resilience.”) I’ve also published a memoir, “Four Funerals and a Wedding: Resilience in a Time of Grief,” that addresses how I coped with my grief following the loss of my husband, sister, mother and mother-in-law in the space of 14 months. If you’d like to learn what clients have to say about their experience partnering with me, you can find “Coaching Testimonials” under the “Coaching” tab on this website.
How Can I Learn More?
Via phone, Skype and WhatsApp, I’ve worked with more than 100 people, ranging from teenagers to septuagenarians, in the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central America. If you’d like to explore how we can work together to shift the focus in your life from endings to new beginnings, contact me at email@example.com.