10 Things To Look For in Your Grief Mentor


Grief is never easy, but your grief can become easier if you find the right support, encouragement, comfort and knowledge.  Where can you find all of these important tools to help you through your grief journey?  The answer is in identifying and securing for yourself a grief mentor – a fellow mourner who can share their past grief experiences, knowledge and wisdom with you.  What should you look for in a grief mentor?

  • A person who makes you feel safe, comfortable and cared for.  You want to make sure this is a person who can keep your personal information confidential.  Avoid anyone who you know likes to gossip.
  • A mourner who is farther along in their grief journey than you are.  Ideally you want someone who has at least one or more years of mourning under their belt.
  • A mourner who is grieving in healthy ways.  No mourner will have the perfect family, relationships, career and life.   Look for someone who seems to be successful in living and enjoying their life.
  • A person who has been a help to you or others.  Pick a person who always seem to think about others first and doesn’t need the spotlight to be on them all the time.  Avoid the grief mentor who turns your discussions into his or her own grief processing session.  You also want to avoid the person who seems to always be saying they have had it worse in their grief or in their life.  If they are always comparing their grief to yours and not really listening, avoid them.
  • A mourner who you feel may have a similar grief experience to yours.  (It is not necessary that they have the same exact type of loss or grief circumstances that you have experienced, but if they do, that would be helpful.)
  • A person who you admire and respect.
  • A person who has not only knowledge but common sense.  A person who you see makes wise decisions.
  • A person who is patient, understanding, and listens to you without judging you or giving you unsolicited advice.
  • A person who is warm, caring and would be willing to take a phone call from you anytime of the day or night.
  • A person who can make you feel better just by being present.

Mourners: Remember that a grief mentor who meets all of these qualifications is going to be a rare, special person indeed.  If you do find a mentor who meets all these qualifications, you will be very fortunate.

Also remember you do not want to wear out anyone you pick to be a grief mentor by monopolizing their time.  Don’t become clingy and overly dependent upon the person.  But at the same time, you do want a person to be your grief mentor who has time to help you and that you can call on whenever you are in need.

Where can you find a person like this?  I would suggest you look among your friends, coworkers, fellow church members and grief support group members.  Make sure the person you pick is willing to make the commitment to you before starting to seek their help as your grief mentor.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  available online at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-LPC-S-Larry-Barber/dp/1613796005 ), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-never-dies-lpc-s-ct-larry-m-barber-ct-larry-m/1104364890?ean=9781613796016).

The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” 

Both English and Spanish versions are available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX  http://grief-works.org.

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About griefminister

Director, GriefWorks & CounselingWorks Licensed Professional Counselor Certified in Thanatology (Study of Death, Dying & Bereavement) by The Association of Death Education and Counseling Grief Therapist, Educator, Consultant Author-"Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise.'
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7 Responses to 10 Things To Look For in Your Grief Mentor

  1. I think this is a great idea, yet what do you suggest for people who are already alone/ lonely, who do not have a support system to begin with (including church)?

    • Laurie,

      You bring up a good point. But there is usually someone there for every mourner…or at least available to reach out to. I have always been surprised by two things in my grief – the people who fail to be there for me who I expected to help me and the people who I never would have known would be supportive reaching out in their empathy and compassion to help me. My advice to the lonely is to not give up looking or asking for the support, help and encouragement they need. There are fellow mourners and others out there who are compassionate and understanding.

  2. Great blog with very good points. It’s also important to remember there are many organisations who specialise in grief counselling who have a wealth of experience drawn from their own personal understanding. When my father died I organised a counselor to come and speak to my mother. She was a very private person and didn’t want to burden friends and family, that really helped her. Talking and releasing emotions is so important.

  3. Louann says:

    Incredible points. Solid arguments. Keep up the great work.

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