Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., C.T. is an internationally noted author, educator and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine.
Dr. Wolfelt is the author of When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing. Affirming a pet owner’s struggle with grief when his or her pet dies, this book helps mourners understand why their feelings are so strong and helps them overcome the loss. Included are practical suggestions for mourning and ideas for remembering and memorializing one’s pet. Among the issues covered are understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet; understanding why grief for pets is unique; pet funerals and burial or cremation; celebrating and remembering the life of one’s pet; coping with feelings about euthanasia; helping children understand the death of their pet; and things to keep in mind before getting another pet.
Best known for his model of “companioning” versus treating the bereaved, Dr. Wolfelt is committed to helping people mourn well so they can live well and love well. His 2009 book, The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner: Eleven Essential Principles, is partly a counseling model and partly an explanation of true empathy, exploring the ways companionship eases grief. For caretakers who work with grieving people or for friends and family just hoping to stay close, 11 tenets are outlined for mourner-led care. These simple rules call for understanding another person’s pain, listening with the heart rather than the head, not filling up every minute with words, respecting confusion and disorder, and relying on curiosity rather than expertise. We love his Companioning vs. Treating model:
- Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
- Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.
- Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about leading.
- Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
- Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
- Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with words.
- Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
- Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about directing those struggles.
- Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
- Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
- Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.