Who Is Your “Lunch Buddy”? January 22, 2017

Author, educator, and grief counselor Dr. Alan Wolfelt is well known throughout the country for his grief work and inspirational teaching. Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend a day-long seminar in which Dr. Wolfelt  introduced the Companioning Model to a number of bereavement specialist working in hospice care.


In that training he taught that the bereaved must find their “therapeutic third” who could offer genuine support during their grief work.


He stated that about a third of the people we know are those who come to us with good intention stating, “if you need anything, give me a call.” They mean well and believe that you will be the initiator of your own care by contacting them.  Trouble is, one in grief is often not sure what they need nor how to ask. So they are often not heard from again.


Another “third” of the people we know are those who want to console or advise us with sympathy or exhortation. They too believe they are helping, but often they want to alleviate their own discomfort that occurs while being with another in suffering.  Often their “support” leaves the bereaved feeling either judged or invalidated in the pain they are carrying.


This “third” that is said to be “therapeutic” are those who have learned to companion another in their pain.  The word “companion” is derived from the root “co – pan” which more literally means “mess-mate” or may I say “lunch buddy”.  This is the person who has been graced with the wisdom of knowing that they need not have answers to the questions that arise through the course of “meaning-making” and the search for interpretation, which is a vital element in reconciling one’s grief.  They are willing to sit in sacred silence amidst the tension  and turmoil of spiritual struggle, not  feeling compelled to rescue.


Who is the one person you may know who is willing to meet you for coffee or a meal at any time of the night or day?  Who is the one with whom you feel “safe” to allow the darker side of your struggle  to emerge without fear of judgement.  Who is your “lunch buddy”?


Henri Nouwen penned this beautiful description of a true companion and friend


When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advise, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pains and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion; who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement; who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness. That is the friend who cares.


Submitted by Patrick Stroup, Bereavement Coordinator for Signature Hospice


Dealing with grief? Come to our Grief Group facilitated by Patrick Stroup. A six-week group beginning on Monday, January 23rd at the Beaverton Office 6:00-7:30pm.


Bethany Stroup

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Address: 7929 SW Cirrus Dr # 23, Beaverton, OR 97008