Longform

The Wide World of Grief

Page 10 of 10

Wolfelt's also become a powerful proponent of the funeral business, writing columns in numerous industry publications, including The Director. He thinks funeral services are extremely important in helping people come to terms with death. "A lot of people tell their loved ones, 'I don't want a funeral when I die' -- but what does it say to kids if, after you die, they just get rid of you?"

A cynic would say that's the kind of thinking that warms a casket-maker's heart, but Wolfelt doesn't care -- or if he does, he's not going to let that stop him. Indeed, the relentless promotion of the grief-counseling concept that he and his ideological cousins have maintained seems to be wearing down the opposition. For instance, Time, the very magazine that bruised Wolfelt last year, put in its September 4 issue a joint review of three books aimed at helping children grieve (including Parenting Through Crisis: Helping Kids in Times of Loss, Grief, and Change, by Colorado author Barbara Coloroso) that was generally positive and only the slightest bit snippy.

Detractors remain, but Wolfelt is confident that his ideas will eventually win the day; he sees his pro-counseling philosophy branching out from Colorado, and the Center for Loss in particular, like vines in his grief-gardening model. And when they take root, everyone will finally realize that mental health can be achieved only by confronting sadness, not fleeing from it. "People say to me, 'Isn't what you do depressing?'" he admits. "But it's really more about opening up your heart and supporting people who can then go on to hope for the future.

"What I've learned," he says, "is that grief gives you an appreciation for the joy of life."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts