Spiritual Directors International

The Home of Spiritual Companionship

SDI Webinar: Holding Space for Grief - Spiritual Companionship & Loss

May 5-26, 2020

All sessions will be recorded - Watch live or at your own convenience

This webinar series is for you -

if you offer grief support as part of your calling,

or, if like millions upon millions of us,

you know someone who is experiencing grief,

and you want to be there for them,

but you aren't always sure how to do it.




"Let's get better at grief."

That's the inspiration behind a new documentary called Speaking Grief, which will premiere on public television stations this May throughout the United States.

It's also the focus of this new 4-part webinar series from SDI. Think of this series as a toolkit for loss - a chance to learn down-to-earth, open-hearted approaches that can be used in everyday situations.

In our time of pandemic, grief is all around us. Eventually, it will visit us all. If we want to get better at grief, we must learn to hold space for it.

In a first for SDI, this series will use clips from the documentary to support the learning process. Presenters will include the writer and director of the documentary, Lindsey Whissel Fenton, along with a deeply experienced group of 8 grief care experts and spiritual companions.

SDI is offering this webinar series because it believes spiritual companionship - with its deep listening, deep respect for the other and contemplative practice - can revolutionize the way ordinary people process grief around the world. If you do grief work, if you have experienced grief or if you know (or love) someone who is grieving, this webinar series is for you.


Webinar Participants Will:

  • Explore how they can prepare to respond to their our own grief and the grief of others
  • Learn how to own their discomfort around grief support and show up for grieving people in meaningful ways despite feeling awkward
  • Learn why and how to reframe the post-death social isolation experience so as to facilitate deep healing and spiritual growth
  • Gain an understanding of how to offer support in a way that matches a person’s unique grief needs
  • Receive practical guidance using personal stories that teach – including frank discussions of what has worked and what hasn’t.


Key Areas of Learning

  • Common assumptions about grief
  • Foundational "grief needs"
  • The importance of authenticity (and humility)
  • The physical and cognitive impacts of grieving
  • How one loss can affect all ongoing relationships
  • Grief as a set of emotions rather than a single emotion
  • Children’s experience of grief
  • The importance of embodiment when grieving
  • The difference between grief and trauma
  • How to recognize and support different grief expressions in the folks we serve
  • How to respond with awareness
  • How informal spiritual companionship can create connection




“We worry about saying the wrong thing. So, we say nothing. Saying nothing is a terrible thing to do.

For the grieving person it feels like abandonment...

Your job isn’t to make somebody feel happy, it’s to make them feel heard.

Letting people tell the truth about their pain is the best way to support someone.”

- Megan Devine, psychotherapist and grief advocate


 Our focus

Speaking Grief  describes its goal in this way: "To create a more grief-aware society by validating the experience of grievers and helping to guide those who wish to support them." SDI seeks to support this goal through exploring new perspectives and practices in the light of the deep-listening lessons of spiritual companionship.


Our Approach

Life learning, not book learning. Experiential, contemplative, spiritual. We want to open a gateway to understanding and connection.  We'd rather companion you to an insight than impress you with a list of facts. Because most of our audience are spiritual directors and companions – including chaplains, life coaches and others who offer spiritual care -, we focus on the practical and care-giving side of the equation. Of course, since we all are spiritual beings, this webinar series can benefit anyone. And anyone who has been touched by loss is welcome, no matter what spiritual tradition - or inclination - they honor.


Four consecutive Tuesdays May 5- 26, 1 PM Seattle/Los Angeles, 4 PM New York, 9 PM London; Wednesdays May 6-27: 4 AM Hong Kong, 6 AM Melbourne, Australia.

But if that timing doesn't work, you can enjoy the webinar any time you like. Each session is recorded so you can watch at your convenience.


Who We Are

SDI is an educational nonprofit, serving 7,000 members in 42 countries around the world. We are committed to supporting and growing access to spiritual companionship and the deep listening, open questions and compassion our healing modality offers.


What does it mean to hold space for someone else?

It is deep listening based on acceptance.

It is letting go of disapproval and approval,

so that we may acknowledge what the other experiences.

So that we may affirm and appreciate who they truly are.




Course Description

Session 1 - May 5 -   Relationships | Body | Mind | Spirit | Everyone has their own arc of grief   Led by Lindsey Whissel Fenton, Jenn Hepton and Taqwa Surapati  -- This will offer an introduction of some of the basic patterns and characteristics of grief, but it will do so with a double focus. We will explore not just the experience of the person grieving, but what works and what doesn't when it comes to companioning them.  

Session 2 - May 12 -  – Humility | Authenticity | Awareness | How to Be Present  - Led by Lindsey Whissel Fenton, Alesia Alexander and Eric Massanari. The key to companioning people who are grieving is often presence - the acceptance that comes when we listen with full attention and without an agenda. In this session, we will look at approaches that are grounded in the acknowledgement and affirmation that comes with "showing up" authentically.

Session 3 - May 19 - – Caring for Caregivers | Trauma | Community Grief –  Led by Lindsey Whissel Fenton, Carole Trepanier and Shauna Janz - Could the social isolation that often follows a loved one's death also be an invitation?  We will explore this initiation into conscious unraveling, the illusion of separation, and direct engagement with the wider field of relationship potential, to find the gift therein. We'll also look at foundational "grief needs," the importance of embodiment when grieving, how to recognize and support different grief expressions in the folks we serve and how to recognize and support - or refer -  someone experiencing traumatic bereavement.

Session 4 - May 26 -   - Creating Safe Community | Dreams | Ritual | Storytelling  - Led by Lindsey Whissel Fenton, Jackie Hook and Grace Cheptu - We will explore the role of dreams in grief - how parts of ourselves we have separated from during grieving can re-emerge in dreams. We'll also learn practices, skills, intentions, postures and rituals for finding hope, healing and wholeness. We'll look at the importance of storytelling and ways a community can create safe spaces for grief.



Lindsey Whissel Fenton is a senior producer at WPSU, a public media provider (PBS and NPR member stations) based at Penn State University. An Emmy award-winning storyteller, Lindsey  has explored a wide range of issues through her work in public media and is passionate about using the platform to foster empathy. Some of her other projects include: A Time to Heal, and Pennsylvania Folklore: Woven Together, and You Can't Say That. Fenton also serves as a host for the radio series Take Note. Here is her profile at WPSU:  https://radio.wpsu.org/people/lindsey-whissel-fenton.

Taqwa Surapati is a cancer care chaplain at Stanford University Health Care in California. Taqwa completed her chaplain residency at Stanford Health Care, before going to Hartford Seminary in Connecticut for a Graduate Certification in Islamic Chaplaincy in 2014. Prior to that, Taqwa served for a decade as a Spiritual Care volunteer at Stanford and other local hospitals in the San Jose area. Currently finishing her Master of Art in Islamic Studies from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Taqwa’s interests include oncology chaplaincy, how people of faith think of end-of-life situations and advance health care planning. Taqwa came to the US in 1998 from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Jenn Hepton is a certified grief coach, a life coach, a grief awareness educator, an author and stillbirth and pregnancy loss awareness advocate. She coaches women who want to make sense of their lives after loss and who are tired of hiding their voices and feeling powerless in their grief. She says: "After any type of loss, a purposeful and mindful life seems unreachable - but it’s not." Her website is here.

Alesia Alexander, MSW, LCSW, CT - A therapist and clinical social worker for more than 20 years, Alesia has focused on at-risk children and teens in school and community settings, specifically children and teens who have lost a loved one to death. Her educational background includes a BA in Political Science from Hampton University, and a MSW from Florida State University.  Alesia holds a certification in Arts and Community Practice from Florida State University. She also holds a certification in Thanatology. She is the author of three resources for grieving children: Sunflowers and Rainbows for Tia: Saying Goodbye to Daddy (1999), A Mural for Mamita/Un Mural Para Mamita (2001), and Dream Clouds (2011), and a professional helping guide, Tapestries: A Creative & inclusive Approach to Grief Support with Young People & Communities (2013). She is co-drector of Tapestries Training Institute, which trains people and organizations who offer grief support.

Eric Massanari, M.Div., is an ordained pastor in the Mennonite Church USA, living in Newton, Kansas where he serves as a spiritual director and the chaplain of Kidron Bethel Village, a continuing care community for older adults. He is also a member of the SDI Coordinating Council. He has a passion for inter-faith learning, community building, and companioning people who are exploring the fertile ground of elderhood and those who are nearing the end of life. An avid poet and essayist, Eric is a contributing author of An Open Place: The Ministry of Group Spiritual Direction.

Shauna Janz, MA, supports individuals, families, communities and organizations, and has been designing and delivering trauma-informed programs since 2008. Audiences have included non-profit organizations, local and provincial government, First Nation communities, post-secondary education institutions, school district counseling teams, rural communities and international summits. Alongside her private practice and online school of Sacred Grief, Shauna is a trainer and mentor with the British Columbia Bereavement Helpline supporting traumatic bereavement by homicide, suicide and drug-related death. She was the Executive Director of the charity Learning Through Loss serving youth and adults with grief education and support; the founder of the Victoria Holistic Death Care Gatherings uplifting grassroots perspectives, and a co-visionary for the annual Deathly Matters community conference. She is a lover of inspiration and creativity, and can be found dancing, playing music, and walking in the wilds of nature and mystical communion. Her ancestors are from the lands of Scot Celtic, northern Germanic and Nordic cultures. www.shaunajanz.com

Carole Trepanier of “The Death of Me” is an animist ritualist living in Perth, Ontario, Canada, who specializes in endings and awakenings -forms of Death. Trained in Indigenous community care and mental health counselling, Carole worked for over 20 years engaged in holistic community care and global transition work in partnership with NGOs, healers and leaders around the world. Profound life initiations—the deaths of 10 close loved ones in 2013, years of caregiving for her mother (died in 2016), and related traumas/revelations—sparked a return to focused ritual training with wisdom keepers, direct Spirit engagement, deep exploration of Death's many forms through traditional ceremony, and renewed service to Life.  Carole believes that what is being asked of us in Death (and beyond) is not especially different from what is being asked of us in Life, and ritual/direct spirit engagement can help ease us through the many deaths of initiatory change. Carole’s offerings include energy work, light trance journeys, forgiveness/unburdening ritual, death rites, psychopomp, home funerals, Ancestral Lineage Healing, Spirit engagement, and Earth transition/Earth-honouring ceremony.  

Rev. Grace Cheptu, M.Mus., M.Div.  - “Cheptu” is an Archetypal Dreamwork Practitioner who companions others along their spiritual journeys guided by the sacred script of their dreams. She enjoyed her vocation as a music therapist and music educator prior to pursuing her calling to theological education, chaplaincy and pastoral ministry. When personal crisis visited, Cheptu found support to embrace the power of vulnerability and the growth edges her dreams presented with such specific, loving intention. Now she creates healing space for others in their times of uncertainty, disappointment, pain and loss. She works with individual and groups. Her website is here.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA: Jackie is a certified spiritual director, Life-Cycle Celebrant™, end-of-life doula and writer who coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program with Koch Funeral Home in State College, Pennsylvania. She offers grief companioning, personalized funeral service creation and officiation, community outreach and end-of-life support. Jackie also offers spiritual direction and programs/retreats in loss, grief, spirituality and forgiveness. She is the co-founder of Learning to Live: What's Your Story?, an initiative that provides opportunities for meaningful exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation. She holds a BS in Business from Penn State and an MA in Wellness from the University of Central Florida. Her website is here.




Loss is not just a thief.

It also reminds us that nothing can make us incomplete.

We are whole beings.

No matter what.

Our journey is an awakening to this truth.


Additional Information

Each session will run 75 minutes. We understand that the timing of the seminar will not be convenient in every time zone on the planet. For those who have trouble making this time, a recorded copy of each session will be made available to all those who sign up. CEU credits are available for all those who participate. (See below)

Who may join the webinar?

Everyone is invited to participate in SDI Webinars. 

Are CEUs available?

SDI will provide a certificate of completion for self-reporting to agencies. More information can be found here:  continuing education units (CEUs).

Tuition (4-part webinar package):

SDI Member Rate USD$79.00

Non-Member Rate USD$109.00

(Please remember that becoming a member costs $79 - or $59 for students - for 12 months. Benefits include Presence, our journal of spiritual companionship, and can easily save you far more than the membership fee itself. Learn more here. )

Tuition for webinar participation is non-refundable. All registered participants will receive access to the online recording of the SDI Webinar following the event.


Scholarships are available for those facing financial hardship. Please apply here.


Grieving is both a departure and a coming-home.

The journey is long, but always worth it... because we are always worth it.



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