All of us in caregiving fields make every effort to be experts in our areas of service. As Specialists, first and foremost, our goal is to provide the very best information and educational resources to those who are seeking our assistance. This is true of everyone who is committed to excellence in any field.
This brings up an important question. Would you expect your automobile mechanic to be able to help you in understanding the jet propulsion systems in a rocket? After all, they are both engines, and you have complete confidence that he has complete knowledge concerning the engine in your car. Of course not. You may even find this question ludicrous!
The purpose of this comment was to illustrate an important point. When you are working with grievers, you develop an amazing level of trust. They may have shared things with you that they have not even told close friends or family members. When they asked you questions concerning their loss, you provided them with answers and direction that have made it possible to recover. That level of trust in your expertise may result in them asking you questions well beyond your area of knowledge. When this happens, you will need to have solid independent support services at your disposal to help them.
The questions they might ask can vary greatly, depending on their needs. If they have suffered mental or physical abuse, and the counseling they need to take additional action is above your skill set, you will need a referral resource. Perhaps they are needing assistance in handling their finances. Again, this may not be an area in which you have professional training. They may share with you that they, or a family member, have substance abuse issues or perhaps they might share thoughts of suicide. No matter the issue, if that is not part of your expertise, it is vital that you have resources to which you can direct them to the best assistance possible. This means that you need to develop a list of trusted and competent referral resources and references.
The key ones to have at your disposal include specialists in the field of mental health, especially those who focus on mental, physical, and substance abuse. It is also wise to have contacts versed in providing counseling to those considering suicide and for those who have taken on such self-destructive behavior patterns as cutting. You may also wish to develop contacts within the law enforcement community for assisting people who are dealing with an attack or murder. A great sidelight to gathering this information is that it also allows you the chance to tell the people at these agencies exactly what you have to offer.
This may sound daunting, but it really is not that difficult. In the past you could find a great deal of related information in the “blue pages” in your phone book. A great resource today in most larger communities is with the 211 service on your phone, which provides information on local social and mental health services. (If you have this service in your town, you might inquire about being listed on it as well.) If neither is available in your area, it may involve an internet search for local service providers. Whichever route you follow, you will also need to personally contact these agencies or individuals to access whether they actually still offer these services and to determine if they are people with whom you have a level of comfort.
Once you have your referral list that does not mean that you can sit back and relax. It is wise to recheck these resources every six months to make sure that they still provide these resources. If someone needs this help, the last thing you would want to do is to make a referral to an agency that no longer provides these services.
I have also found it valuable to reach out to the other people providing any kind of grief assistance in the community. This form of networking helps to get the word out concerning the work that you are doing with the Grief Recovery Method. Over the years, I have had many people contact me looking for a group that is faith-based or is focused on a particular loss. While I am looking for the information they have requested, I ask them what happened and tell them about makes my group different. I tell them about “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” and that it offers a step-by-step action plan to deal with any emotional loss. I also tell them that our Grief Recovery Method program is not about supporting them in constantly reliving their pain, but instead offers direction on moving through that pain so that they can once again enjoy their fond memories. More often than not, by the time I have that contact information for the group they were seeking, they have decided that they would rather attend my program. The fact that I had that information about the other groups in my community offered me an opportunity to build a relationship.
You will rarely need any of these outside independent support services. When someone really does require this specialized support, you want to have that information at your fingertips. This is one of the things that identifies you as a true professional in this field. It further reinforces that you care enough about those you serve to go that extra distance in gathering resource information.
The Grief Recovery Method offers the tools to assist the vast majority of your community. The fact that this program is used successfully around the world and that the basic principles that are the foundation of the program have been in place for over 35 years, is proof of its effectiveness. You simply need to assure yourself (and your community) that when necessary, you are a professional who is not afraid to reach out to other professionals when circumstances demand outside assistance.