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  • Jessica Fulford

What is a Bereavement Companion?

As a part of my bereavement doula certification, I was required to read a book called “Companioning During a Time of Perinatal Loss: A Guide for Nurses, Physicians, Social Workers, Chaplains, and Other Bedside Caregivers.” Whew! Quite the title, right? This book was a game-changer for me. Even though I haven’t started my official business yet, I have already walked alongside several families in the last five years who have gone through a miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal loss. Plus, I have gone through child loss myself.

This book changed the way I plan to be present for others experiencing this loss in the future. The word “companioning” means being present to another person’s pain, not trying to take away or relieve that pain. Instead of having a predetermined plan to help “fix” their grief, you maintain a teachable attitude and offer a quiet presence. Each new client/family has something unique to share with their caregivers, but the caregivers must be curious and listening to discover it. People need witnesses to their grief, not rescuing from it.

My absolute favorite quote from the book is, “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.” So many precious people walked into the wilderness with us when we lost our son. Yes, there are practical things that can be done to acknowledge and honor the loss of a baby before, during, and after pregnancy. But there should never be a to-do list that takes precedence over simply walking alongside those who are hurting. Deep down, each family knows how they need to grieve. Companions are just there to offer choices and resources, while validating the life that was lost and the road ahead for family and friends.

It is my prayer that in the future I can be a helpful, faithful companion to those facing the loss of their little ones.

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