Spiritual Direction and Grief

First I want to emphasize that spiritual direction does not replace counseling for grief recovery. Counseling is a very important part of the healing process for many people. I myself have received and benefited much from counseling in various seasons of my life. Counseling deals with important psychological aspects of our lives, and counselors can offer much important advice to assist you in dealing with grief.

My site naturally leans more toward spiritual elements of the grief journey because I have become a trained spiritual director. So I will naturally function more out of that training and passion. Also there has been much study and writing available on the psychological elements of grief, I will not try to cover this because it is not my area of expertise. Spiritual direction is much less known (although it is rapidly growing), so I will offer space for it here.

After John's death I began to regularly receive direction as part of my grief journey healing. It is not uncommon for people to have many spiritually-based struggles as a result of a major loss. I had many questions that I needed to work through. I am a rather private person, so having someone to sit with and explore the spiritual elements of my journey was very helpful to me. It got me past my natural inclination to just stuff things inside. The process was so helpful that I eventually entered the two-year training process to become a director myself.

Understanding Spiritual Direction

To understand what direction is it may help to compare it to meeting with a counselor. When a person meets with a counselor, the two of them talk together to name a problem, explore it's development, and try to come up with ways the client can work to solve the problem. The counselor offers advice from their years of psychological study and expertise.

Spiritual directors are not considered experts in religion or spirituality. Historically it was largely monks, nuns, and priests who served in this role. But these days anyone who considers their spiritual journey an important part of their life and passion is eligible to train to become directors.

Another difference is that the conversation with a director does not focus on a problem. The conversation focuses on the directee's relationship with God or their concept of the Divine. They explore the directee's image of God, how he or she relates to God, and how God is present to the directee in daily life. If you have read much on this site, you have probably come across a few places where reflection questions are offered. Almost all of these are the type of questions a director would typically ask a directee.

Directors have been called the "midwife of the soul." They sit with a person to guide and assist in the process of the spiritual birthing taking place in the directee's life. On this link, you will find more comparisons and quotes to explain spiritual direction.

Most directors are trained to be able to give direction to people from any denomination or religious background. Direction is not about convincing someone to change their own theology. It is about finding out how God is working and being revealed in the directee.

If you are interested in exploring more about direction, you may find the link to Spiritual Directors International helpful. They provide greater explanation to the process, as well as having an international list of directors. (A new window will open when you view this link.)

You may also find it helpful to view the following video of an interview with Janet Ruffing who has worked as a director and in training new directors for many years.

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