April begs us to notice the arrival of spring—the usual rains that fall, and the flowers that shoot up through the softening ground. For me and other Gilchrist counselors, April also means Counseling Awareness Month. It has me thinking about the healing and the hope grief counseling can bring to those who are struggling.
Some of those seeking grief counseling are surprised by the intensity of feelings that come out of nowhere or by the challenges to their concentration, and the disruption that it brings to their days. Some come wanting to know when the grief will be over, or how to get through it. Others are reeling from the experience of what just happened, and want a way to make sense of it.
To describe how grief counseling can help, I decided to ask someone who had experienced it. I asked a bereaved daughter to tell me what brought her in, something she did that was helpful to her, and what she learned.
Meet Cindy Leverette-Ward*. Cindy’s mother died in the summer of 2016, after months of being in a residential care community. Cindy had visited her mother daily, and the process of advocating for her had led the two to become even closer. Her mother’s death was both devastating and disorienting, on many levels.
In seeking grief counseling, Cindy reflected, “I was raw, and I knew I needed help. I came in sad, and I learned to turn the sadness into a celebration. I realized my mother died one day, but she lived more than 34,000 days, and I’m going to celebrate those days.”
And celebrate she did, through the making of a memory quilt. After seeing an example of a memory pillow that I showed her, Cindy became inspired to create a quilt that honored different parts of her mother’s life. She did this through photographs that she had transferred onto fabric, and cut into squares. Cindy thought about her mother’s favorite colors and love of roses, and featured those on the quilt as well.
Moving her stool around the bed that she used for her work space, Cindy hand-stitched together the symbols of her mother’s life, and infused the quilt with the love of a devoted daughter. The seven months of thinking about her mother’s life and planning how to represent it on the quilt brought her great joy, comfort, and an even closer connection. The making of this tribute quilt, which now hangs on Cindy’s third floor landing where the sun shines on it through the window, was an act of love and remembrance, and it eased Cindy into moving forward, while still holding on.
*Name used with permission.