a way to grieve.blog

29 Apr a way to grieve.blog

I’m not a grief counselor, but I deal with those grieving

When I started designing these unique urns, I hadn’t realized that because the process is collaborative, I would feel a connection to each person’s lost loved one. That’s one aspect of what I do that differentiates my personalized urns from what else is available. I’m not a vendor, functioning more like a new friend, offering a special way of remembering a loved one.

I take my role seriously, which is why I reflected on what Dr. Alan Wolfelt said in his speech at the Association of Death Education and Counseling Conference titled, “Beyond the Medical Model of Bereavement Caregiving.” He made the distinction between companioning and treating, explaining that companioning is about honoring the spirt, being still, listening with the heart, bearing witness to the struggles of others and being present to someone else’s pain.

He talked about those who urge bereaved people to “let go” with the goal of reaching “closure,” arguing that life is changed by the loss of a loved one. By admitting it and searching for how to reclaim our own lives, we give ourselves a purpose. We are, after all, compelled to go on living until we, too, die. To strengthen the point that we should acknowledge the loss and experience the grief, he quoted Helen Keller, “The only way to get to the other side is to go through the door.”

Though Dr. Wolfelt’s audience was grief counselors, his exploration of grief was important to me. I often become involved with people shortly after they’ve lost someone. They share memories with me and I want to function in a positive way. He pointed out that there is a need to embrace the loss and feel the pain, yet also have ways of distracting ourselves from it. My hope is that recreating a life by using pictures and other meaningful items serves both purposes. And I like to think that each urn represents an opportunity to grow, both for the client and for me.

No two losses were the same, just as no two people are the same. I’ve tried to be sensitive to the situation, creating a piece of art that seemed appropriate for what I’d learned about the deceased. In one case, I was designing an urn for parents who’d died years earlier, but the client explained that she wanted the same shape as the one she’d had. “It’s what I’m used to,” she told me.  Though I generally transform a metal urn, I found a wood one that resembled hers and had a picture frame crafted to accommodate what she asked for. It took extra effort, but I was happy to do it. After transferring the cremains into the new urn, she said, “My father read The New York Times every day so I shoved in the front page of today’s paper.” I think we both felt the project was a success though I wondered how he would have reacted to what’s going on now.

Sybil Sage is a mosaic artist living in New York. Her personalized urns have been featured in the New York Times. View Sybil’s projects, or order a project for your loved one: http://www.personalized-urns.com