Exciting Announcement

There have been some exciting additions at GSR in the new year! Amanda Mahoney and Jessica Kuhn are very excited to announce that Bonnie Cochran, LCSW will be joining the Grief Support of the Rockies team. With over twenty years of experience as a clinician in grief support, we are certain the expertise Bonnie brings to our organization will be invaluable. Collectively, we look forward to continuing to offer quality grief support services led by licensed and registered psychotherapists with extensive educational backgrounds, training and expertise in grief and loss. Together we have almost 40 years of experience working with grieving children, teens and adults and feel fortunate to have been and continue to be mentored by experts in the field, including Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD and Michelle Post, LMFT (a member of Dr. J. William Worden’s Southern California Bereavement Specialist Group 2004-present). Our education, training and professional obligations hold us to the highest standards for the well-being of our clientele. We are confident that Bonnie will be a wonderful addition in supporting our mission. Look for information on an open house in the coming months.

About Bonnie

Bonnie C. Cochran, LCSW is a Board Certified Diplomat in Clinical Social Work with over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist, specializing in grief, loss, bereavement and reproductive trauma. Her passion, throughout her career, has been working with families that have lost a child, perinatal loss and reproductive trauma, infertility and acute crisis care. Bonnie has a Hospice background, serving families in all stages of loss – from a terminal medical diagnosis through bereavement follow-up care. She is a certified facilitator in The Grief Recovery Program and continues to be on the Community Crisis Debriefing team, serving northern Colorado. Bonnie has received extensive training in Mind/Body modalities, having personally trained with Herbert Benson – Relaxation Response (Harvard Medical School); Mel Bucholtz, MA – The Tuning Effect (a prodigy of Milton Erickson, MD); and Pat Ogden, PhD – Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in Boulder. She is also a certified teacher for Loss & Found, a program she designed and created with Mel Bucholtz, MA for The Omega Institute in NY. In addition to her private psychotherapy practice, Bonnie volunteers her time and professional mental health support services to veterans through the Give an Hour program. Bonnie is also a co-founder of 3Hopeful Hearts, a nonprofit organization that supports bereaved parents and families in northern Colorado. Bonnie is proud to have worked for the last seven years helping to support bereaved families and promote public awareness before stepping away to pursue other avenues of support for the bereaved. Bonnie continues to lecture nationally around the many complexities that grief encompasses, helping people create their journey to healthy healing and discovery.

You survived the new year… Now what?

Most people enter the new year with wondrous ideas of hopeful transformation – a time to reflect over the past year and remind us of the changes we want to make for a better future. But for those grieving, standing at the doorstep of a new year can be quite complex. While many feel they are forced to step over the threshold, leaving their loved one behind, some feel they are ready for the previous year to end, yet finding themselves entering with great trepidation. Wherever you are in your grief journey, please know that you are not alone and we are here to help.

How to support those who are grieving

People often struggle to support a grieving friend or loved one – not knowing what to say, how to express their feelings or even how to approach this very unifying experience. We do not talk in a healthy way about death and dying. Instead, there has been a trend in our recent past to pathologize the grief process, ignore it, or even deny the experience altogether. When an opportunity to support someone who is grieving presents itself, a caring individual, friend or partner can be left feeling helpless, perpetuating a sense of isolation for both parties and often resulting in limited conversations and/or support. Here are a few helpful ideas to keep in mind if someone you care for is grieving: There is no predictable, orderly way to grieve. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. When someone we care about is grieving, it is helpful to remind ourselves that no two people grieve in the same way. This is not only okay, it is common and expected. Some people grieve quietly, others grieve loudly. Some people reach out while others isolate. Some people want to attend a support group, others may prefer individual support or support from religious leaders, friends or family. A grieving person may interact in their daily lives as they had prior to the death, and suddenly, their grief may hit them like a wave in the ocean – powerful and at times, unexpected. This is commonly referred to as a grief burst. If we can remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that grief can come to us at unexpected times, it allows us to simply be present with our loved ones while they walk through their grief. It also creates space for us to recall that, even though a person may be presenting in a manner that feels familiar to a time before their loss, their grief is still valid and present. People do not “get over” a death or “move on” from a loss. The people we cared about, loved and lost and the memories we created with them will stay with us always. The grief we experience does not simply disappear. With time and work, the sadness changes, ebbs and flows. It does not simply go away. Outdated and unhelpful euphemisms like “get over it” or “it’s better this way” are often unhelpful because these statements create shame, isolation, and contribute to self-doubt. Dr. J. William Worden, PhD speaks about the Four Tasks of Mourning. During this very fluid process based in developmental psychology, the grieving person is encouraged to recognize these tasks as part of their grief process. Among the four tasks is to experience the pain of the loss. If we are encouraging the grieving person to “get over it” we are denying them a supportive, compassionate environment to process and experience the pain of the loss. Remember: with grief, there is no timeline. Being “strong” does not mean suppressing our feelings. Often, the grieving person is told to “be strong”. This advice is not only offered to adults, but children too. What is the message that we are sending to those we care for when we tell them to “be strong”? Are we giving them permission to grieve at their own pace, to talk about their feelings of grief and loss or are we telling them to “buck up, get over it”? Are we telling them they are doing something wrong, that being in their feelings is equal to being weak? At Grief Support of the Rockies, we firmly believe that being strong means being with your feelings of grief and loss. It can be a lot easier to suppress your feelings of grief and loss, to ignore them or minimize them. Going into the emotion, unpacking what is coming up for you in order to process and move forward in a new way takes not only strength, but courage. The best gift we can give a grieving person is to simply sit with them while they grieve. Dr. Alan Wolfelt says we should “listen with the heart” instead of the mind. Grief is not a problem to be solved, but rather an answer to a loss. We can be with the grieving person, and we can listen with our hearts. So, what can you do for a grieving loved one? Listen with the heart. Deliver meals. Say the name of the person who died instead of referring to them as “he” or “she” or “they”. Share memories. Call to check in. Research shows that communication to a grieving person decreases significantly 3 months after the death. Offer to listen, not to problem solved. Allow the grieving person to be the expert on their grief. Love. Offer compassion. Validate their experience. Avoid euphemisms like “it’s better this way”, “be strong”, “they wouldn’t want you to be sad”, “you were lucky to have them as long as you did”, etc. Be honest with your feelings of sadness, with your uncertainty of how to support them or what to say and offer to simply listen as often as needed. Be comfortable with not knowing how to “solve” their grief – grief is not a problem to be solved, but rather an answer to a loss.

Other News

Co-founder Amanda D. Mahoney, MA has another offering of her Compassion Cultivation Training coming up in Fort Collins and Boulder! Fort Collins: March 23-May 11, 2016, 5:30pm-7:30pm Boulder: March 29-May 17, 2016, 5:30pm-7:30pm Do you crave a more authentic connection with others during your daily interactions, wanting to see life through a more compassionate lens? Learn to intentionally choose compassionate thoughts and actions that help relate to others and yourself in a more connected way. Register today for Stanford University’s Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) led by certified CCT teacher Amanda D. Mahoney, M.A. Register at coloradocct.com
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving
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