In late summer, I began a clinical placement at Gilchrist Hospice Care’s Howard County Office in the Bereavement Services Department as a part of the masters program in pastoral counseling at Loyola University in which I am enrolled. When I told friends, family and even graduate student colleagues at Loyola that I accepted a position as a Bereavement Intern, the overwhelming response I received was one of several variations of, “Oh that sounds like such sad work….how can you do such sad work?” Although I was eager to help clients and grow my counseling skills, I wondered if working with grieving persons would indeed be exceptionally sad or discouraging.
The months here at Gilchrist unfolded with rich opportunity to contribute to people’s grief work through support groups, individual grief counseling, workshops, wellness days, retreats, and memorial services. I journeyed with those who lost a child, a spouse, a mother, a father, a grandmother, a nephew, a sister…all deeply painful losses with significant impact. I worked with clients aged 6 to 83 from diverse cultural, socioeconomic, religious and educational backgrounds….every one fascinating, with profound stories of love and life changed by the passing of someone close. As Counseling Awareness Month and my internship wind down, I reflect with gratitude on my experience as a Bereavement Counselor Intern and am encouraged by the triumph I witness in peoples’ lives.
Grief is an unwelcome intruder, disrupting life and forcing change. Over and over again, however, clients take courageous steps towards a new life without their loved one. They access inner strength through their spirituality, supportive relationships and connection with the loved one they grieve. Smiles emerge from tears. Glimmers of hope break through darkness. Healing happens. Life returns, even more resilient than before.
Counselors at Gilchrist have the sacred opportunity to accompany those called to this journey of grief. While there were certainly many moments of great sadness; overall, I found that listening to the bereaved, allowing them to tell their stories, explore their feelings and begin to heal has been far from sad. I have been inspired by the resilience of the human spirit and the power of counseling to promote healing.
I will gratefully take the lessons learned from these courageous clients with me as I move through my career and through my own life experiences.