How to comfort others

During their time of grief and hardship

When someone we love and care for suffers a loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or how to respond. You might feel compelled to "fix it" somehow in order to reduce or remove his or her pain. The Wolfet Companionship Model of Bereavement offers great insight into your role as a supporter.

As you read through these tenets, let them resonate within you. Recognize that supporting someone in grief is about joining them in companionship while offering validation along the journey. You can never underestimate the power of your presence.

Dr. Wolfelt’s 11 Tenets of Caring for the Bereaved

  • Companionship is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on intellect
  • Companionship is about curiosity; it is not about expertise
  • Companionship is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them
  • Companionship is about walking alongside; it is not about leading
  • Companionship is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward
  • Companionship is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with words
  • Companionship is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head
  • Companionship is bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about directing those struggles
  • Companionship is about being present to another person's pain; it is not about taking away the pain
  • Companionship is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic
  • Companionship 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

When you encounter an acquaintance or intimately join a loved one in grief, you can take wisdom from this companionship philosophy and ease into your roll as a someone who listens, validates and empathizes. It is not your responsibility to take the pain away or make it better, however much you wish that you could. This is an opportunity for you to create a safe space for someone to share their feelings and thoughts, and to learn from his/her journey as it is shared with you.

About Dr. Wolfet

Dr. Wolfet is the founder and director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado. He is known for his "companioning philosophy" approach to bereavement.  You can check-out more here.