Alan Wolfelt workshop helps to guide the grieving

The director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition brings his workshop on grief and loss to Vernon May 16 and 17

Alan Wolfelt believes that there are three forgotten truths surrounding grief and loss, and the renowned grief counsellor and educator will share those truths in two seminars next week at the Vernon Atrium and Conference Centre.

In the workshop presented by Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services, participants will learn how those who walked before us have much to teach about the mysteries of life and death.

And you will learn about the wisdom anchored in three paradoxical truths of mourning: you must say hello before you can say goodbye; you must make friends with the darkness before you can enter the light; you must go backward before you can go forward.

Wolfelt is director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Colorado. He is a faculty member of the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and the author of more than 50 bestselling books on grief and loss.

His workshops, “Exploring the Need to Grieve and Mourn: Healing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Friends,” and “Exploring the Paradoxes of Mourning: Enhancing Your Understanding of the Three Forgotten Truths,” take place May 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. for the general public, with doors open at 5:30 p.m., and May 17 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. for caregivers, and aimed at helping those who want to learn more about how to support people who have experienced loss. Nurses, psychologists, counselors, social workers, chaplains and other professionals helping people cope with traumatic grief are invited to attend — doors open at 8 a.m.

As a former pastor and community care and advance planning services director with Alternatives, James Chapman encourages everyone who is living with grief and loss to attend.

“Everybody processes differently and Dr. Wolfelt will say that many people are dealing with a loss that has never been processed,” said Chapman. “We need to process not suppress. We like to just not think about it and maybe it will go away, but it comes out in depression, aches and pains, insomnia.”

Chapman said western society still likes to abide by the “keep-your-chin-up” mentality when it comes to grief, so different from what he experienced as a child in Equatorial Guinea, West Africa, where his parents were missionaries.

“When someone died you could not sleep because the wailing went on all night,” he said. “And if the person who passed away had some level of prestige in the village, the family would hire mourners and there would be this big procession all through the village and everybody would follow and they’d be crying and there would be this huge hoopla, so it accomplished exactly what we need to accomplish here and that is, we honour this person, we cry within our deepest soul for this person — that’s process, not suppress.

“What I get all the time is ‘I’m here to take care of my dad who is in palliative care.’ The tone is neutral, not one bit of emotion. I am all business with him but inside I’m crying out because I know that inside he’s hurting and there will come a day when it’s all going to hit him.  But right now he’s in denial and he doesn’t want to feel, so what has he done? Push it down and it all goes away. We live in a society that doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t want to look at it and doesn’t want to talk about it.”

Everyone is welcome to Wolfelt’s seminars next week, but pre-registration is required by calling Alternatives at 250-558-0866. Tickets are $10, payable by cash or cheque, and registrations will not be accepted at the door. Tickets can also be picked up at the Vernon Alternatives office, 4417-29th St., week days, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


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