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Honoring Grief…Intending to Heal

“Healing means, first of all, the creation of an empty but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who can listen with real attention.”

- Henri Nouwen

"Honoring Grief—Intending to Heal" is a grief support companion training program for those who are new to companioning the bereaved and/or for those who are currently supporting the bereaved in various capacities and want to hone their skills.

The companioning model can be integrated into—and can greatly enhance—any modality of support to the bereaved, be it as a counselor, support group facilitator, minister, social worker, hospice worker, chaplain, funeral home employee, nurse, physician, spiritual director, friend, or family member. 

This approach to supporting the bereaved makes a clear distinction between other models that focus on treating, fixing, curing, analyzing, and resolving another’s grief.  Instead, the companioning model is about “being authentically present to the mourner, allowing the mourner to teach and guide you, and even being a temporary guardian of the person’s soul” (Alan Wolfelt).

The art of being a grief support companion is deceptively simple but most find it challenging as it demands personal accountability of—and tending to—one’s own losses, as well as allowing oneself to be vulnerable.  It is a model that is counter-intuitive, counter-intellectual and counter-western-cultural.  This training program’s approach and contents includes a healthy balance of head and heart.

Components of the Companion Training Program include:

· in-depth exploration of the companioning philosophy (with sensitivity to serving differing ages, cultures, ethnicities, and spiritual backgrounds)

· basic understanding of grief and its significance

· connecting spirituality and grief

· basic understanding of healing in grief

· surveying the necessity of being with difficult emotions and feelings

· clarifying the necessity of purposeful and intentional healing

· learning and practicing companioning skills with particular emphasis on:

1. real presence

2. creating and holding safe spaces

3. the art of curiosity through an appreciation  and integration of “beginners mind” 

4. developing listening and questioning skills

· practical implications of using the companion model in various grief support modalities.

Gatherings will include:

· presentation and educational activities

· small and large group interaction

· meditation and griever-friendly rituals

· opportunities to practice skills

· opportunities for personal integration.

Program Requirements:

· Attendance at all five Saturday gatherings

· A space of 1.5 years since a significant loss is preferred

· Reading, intentional reflection, integration and other assignments prior to the first gathering and between gatherings. 

Participants who complete the program will receive:

· four grief related books

· practical handouts

· certificate of completion of four Continuing Education Units.
Honoring Grief is approved for four CEUs (40 Contact Hours) through the University of Wisconsin—Parkside Continuing Education.

Registration and Application Process:

1. Complete and submit the registration form and the non-refundable deposit.

2. Once your registration is received, you will be emailed a biographical application form which is required to be completed and submitted for review by the training program team.

3. You will be notified regarding your acceptance into the program and mailed the assignment for the initial gathering.  You must apply by by Tuesday, January 7, 2020.

Saturdays, January 25, February 22, March 21, April 25, and July 11, 2020.  (Snow date May 9)
Cost of $475 includes $50 non-refundable deposit, all five training days, four books, handouts and materials, meals, and CEUs.


One or more of the following members of Grief Support Training Team will facilitate this series.

Melissa Minkley, MSW, CT, is the co-founder of Healing Life’s Losses Grief Support Services and is a social worker with over 25 years of experience in psychosocial oncology and bereavement counseling.  She is the Executive Director of Healing Hearts of Waukesha County, a program supporting children and families impacted by loss.  Melissa has companioned adults and children as individuals and in support group, workshops and retreat settings focusing on enhancing one’s holistic well-being.  Her personal experience of loss has given Melissa insight into the impact grief has on individuals, families and friends.

Tesha Urban is a second-career chaplain, who awakened to her vocation from her own journey through personal grief and losses. She serves as a chaplain for patients and residents in both hospital and long-term care settings in the Milwaukee area. She has offered workshops and tools to inspire wholeness and healing for people with life challenging conditions and has served as both a facilitator and member of grief groups. Tesha is completing her academic coursework at Loyola University Chicago for her M.Div. and M.A. in Pastoral Counseling degrees. She is a licensed minister with the First Congregational Church of Wauwatosa and is an associate with the Racine Dominican sisters.

Ann Marie Uselmann, MSW, LCSW, is a clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience journeying with those who have significant health issues, as well as those in grief due to a variety of losses.  She currently provides individual grief counseling at Ad Pacem—Toward Peace Counseling, in  addition to working with individuals affected by cancer at Froedtert Hospital and The Medical College of Wisconsin.  She is humbled and honored to work with those struggling to make sense of what life offers.

Download a brochure in pdf format.

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Honoring Grief…Intending to Heal

$50.00 deposit required
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