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"Grief Therapy in Diverse Religious Contexts" Forum Attracts 100

by Jeni Strednak (MAMFT) | Nov 08, 2013

On Monday, October 14, Louisville Seminary hosted a forum, "Grief Therapy in Diverse Religious Contexts," which attracted 100 CPE and MFT Supervisors, pastoral caregivers, therapists and students interested in counseling. Current Seminarian Jeni Strednak (MAMFT) attended the forum, and wrote the following article. 


As those who are called to care for others, we often find ourselves sitting with people who have experienced loss.  We see them in the counseling room, the church, hospitals, schools, prisons, the field of battle.  Sorrow and suffering are, after all, as much a part of life as joy and hope.     

On October 14, we came together at Louisville Seminary as a community of caregivers to learn more about the grieving process, how to honor the unique experiences of those we serve and, perhaps, how to help ease some of those moments in our clients’ lives.  

Leading us in this discussion was Dr. Dinelia Rosa, director of the Teachers College at Columbia University, dean of the Hope Center for Educational and Psychological Service and 2013 President-Elect of the New York State Psychological Association. Rosa led the morning plenary discussion, and in the afternoon we witnessed an interfaith panel discussion of experts moderated by Dr. Loren Townsend.

Video of Dr. Rosa's morning talk

Rosa, who is also staff psychologist at Bellevue Hospital Medical Center, presented us with two widely accepted models of grieving and couched those in a broad biopsychosocial context.  She made a special effort to increase our awareness of the complexities inherent in grieving in multicultural settings.  Particular attention was also paid to acknowledging disenfranchised grief in those we serve – grief arising from events in our lives that, for various reasons, are not sufficiently recognized and processed at the time of the event.

“Dr. Rosa brought with her a unique perspective.  She helped us recognize specific challenges of working with people of different faith backgrounds and religious traditions while incorporating the understanding that faith and religion interrelate with other areas of diversity such as gender, race, culture and ethnicity,” said Jenny Schiller, director of clinical training at Louisville Seminary’s Counseling Training Center.  

Rosa encouraged participants to proceed in our work with “courage, curiosity and humility.”   She reminded us to set aside our preconceptions and the “cloak of authority,” and to meet those we serve wherever they happen to be in their grief journey.  “It is when we remain open to learning about our clients’ unique life contexts and retain a willingness to learn that we are the most effective caregivers,” she said.     

The afternoon panel discussion brought together Rabbi Laura Metzger, the Rev. Dr. Leigh E. Conver, Chaplain (Colonel) David E. Graetz and Dr. Anne Gatobu. These panelists broadened our understanding of the unique nuance religion adds to the grief process, and illustrated some physical and ritualistic differences in several functional contexts.  Each speaker reinforced the idea that although there are similarities in the methods with which grief is dealt in many situations, each individual is wonderfully unique and worthy of the opportunity to grieve in their own special way, supported by an unassuming caregiving population.

Video of afternoon panel discussion

One of the most beautiful things about Louisville Seminary, especially evident this year, is the effort put into the creation of learning opportunities for the community. This symposium was made possible in large part by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation through the Seminary’s Doors to Dialogue Initiative.  

Read about the upcoming Pastoral Care in Interfaith Settings lunchtime colloquium. It will take place on November 19. Registration is required and space is limited.

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