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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

Unfortunately, the deadline to register for this program has passed.  However, we are planning to offer the program next year.  Feel free to contact us with any questions or to be placed on an e-mail list to be notified when the dates for next year's program are set.

Grief Support Companion Training Program

Honoring Grief…Intending to Heal is a training program for those who wish to companion the bereaved and/or are currently supporting the bereaved in various capacities.

The approach of companioning serves as the foundation—the very root system in offering any modality of support to the bereaved be it as a counselor, support group facilitator, minister, pastor, social worker, hospice worker, chaplain, funeral home employee, volunteer, nurse, physician, spiritual director, friend, family member, etc.

The companioning model makes a distinction between other models of treating, fixing, curing, analyzing or resolving another’s grief.  Instead, companioning is “about being totally present to the mourner and even being a temporary guardian of the person’s soul” (Allen Wolfelt).

The invitation in companioning is to allow oneself to be vulnerable enough to “get into people’s buckets” (Manning) of sadness, pain, confusion, anger, relief, guilt, shame, etc.  In other words, to learn to be totally present and to simply bear witness to someone’s pain without trying to take away their right and need to be in and express pain so that she/he can authentically heal.

The art of companioning is deceptively easy and simple, but most find it challenging as it demands personal accountability of and tending to one’s own losses and grief, as well as being counter-intuitive, counter-intellectual and counter-western-cultural.  Its approach includes a healthy balance of head and heart, while leaning more heavily on the heart (since grief is primarily heart-based).

Components of the Companion Training Program include:

* In-depth exploration of the companioning philosophy (applicable in serving all 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 thru 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

* Continuing Education Units.

Honoring Grief is approved 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.  Registration is due by Monday, December 31, 2018.

Saturdays, January 26, February 23, March 23, April 27, and July 13, 2019; Snow Date: March 30, 2019
8:30am – 4:30pm
Cost of $475 includes $50 non-refundable deposit, all five training days, four books, handouts and materials, meals, and CEUs.
Unfortunately, the deadline to register for this program has passed.  However, we are planning to offer the program next year.  Feel free to contact us with any questions or to be placed on an e-mail list to be notified when the dates for next year's program are set.

Training Program Team:

Melissa Minkley, MSW, CT, is the co-founder of Healing Life’s Losses Grief Support Services and is a social worker with 25 years of experience in psychosocial oncology and bereavement counseling. She has companioned adults and children in individual, support group, workshop and retreat settings focusing on enhancing ones holistic well-being.  Her personal experience of loss has given Melissa insight into the impact grief has on individuals, families and friends.

Pete Reinl, companion and spiritual guide, is the co-founder of Healing Life’s Losses.  With over 30 years of experience serving in faith and secular communities, retreat centers and funeral homes, Pete co-creates spaces of sanctuary for healing, honoring, storytelling, listening, exploring, integrating and transforming.  He has spent the last fifteen years dedicated to companioning those who are in life transition due to loss, as well as training others who wish to be companions of the bereaved.  His background includes certification in pastoral ministry and spiritual direction.  Having experienced several significant losses and his own life transitions, Pete brings with him a wealth of personal experience and wisdom in addition to his professional and spiritual background in loss, grief, and healing.

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 & The Medical College of Wisconsin.  She is humbled and honored to work with those struggling to make sense of what life offers.  Ann Marie blends her professional training and her own life experience to provide compassionate care for the people she companions.


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