About Wendy Kessler, MSW

Experience

Hospice Bereavement Specialist Bereavement Services Manager
Grief Counselor
2017 – 2022

Certifications

Grief Treatment Certification
June 2022

Certified Grief Educator
January 2022

Education

Master of Social Work
Emphasis in Health
San Diego State University

Bachelor of Arts in Sociology
Emphasis in Social Work
Point Loma Nazarene University

Grief Consultant, Educator, and Counselor

My career in grief work began in 2017 when I accepted a full time position as a Hospice Bereavement Specialist. For many helping practitioners grief support is their last choice of specialty. The box you choose if there are no other options. For me, grief work is the crossroad where the paths of my education, experience, passion, and vocation intersect.

Prior to working in hospice, I spent a decade mentoring young adults and developing a supportive community of twenty-somethings around my table. Every week scores of young men and women gathered in my home to cook dinner and share a family-style meal. But we didn’t just share food. We shared life. And those relationships continue to shape and refine me.

My first day as a Hospice Bereavement Specialist, I read through an orientation binder that highlighted the history of hospice. The concept of hospice originated in medieval times when people traveled long dirt roads by foot from one region to the next. In those days people did not travel for leisure. They walked countless miles because they were displaced refugees or war soldiers returning home, and some traveled for religious pilgrimages as well. Hospices were homes or lodges set up along common routes where tired travelers could stop for rest, nourishment, or medical attention. The modern day hospice – founded by Dame Cicely Saunders in 1967 – is also based on the concept of offering care to weary travelers. And today interdisciplinary hospice teams follow Saunders’ hospice care model by offering physical rest, emotional and spiritual nourishment, and medical attention to people who have reached the end of their life journey.

This orientation also explained that “Hospice” and “Hospitality” share the same Latin root of “Hospes”. A word that means “one who offers hospitable provision for travelers” also names the intersection of my lifework.

It turns out that ten years of practicing radical hospitality with twenty-somethings was invaluable preparation for hospice bereavement work. The recent college graduates I supported were in a season of tumultuous change on their life journey. They were grieving the end of the life they had known as full time students, adapting to undefined and unfamiliar roles, and forming new identities and relationships. There are numerous parallels to that vocational work and professional bereavement care. Because the emotional responses of those grieving a loved one’s death are always rooted in so much more than simply feeling sorrow. Mourning the end of a beloved’s life, adapting to life with a significant person no longer physically present, renewing our sense of purpose, and forming a new identity are all necessary tasks for the bereaved.

My hospice experience ignited my passion not just for grief care, but for grief education as well. How is it that the most common experience we share – loss and grief – is the most dismissed, ignored, avoided, and misunderstood process as well? As a society we are missing out on the fullness of living and meaningful connections with our community when we don’t know how to process the hard things that happen to us and walk along side one another authentically during seasons of loss. And so, after five years of offering hospice bereavement care, I left corporate supportive work to begin my private practice of grief counseling and education.

I really do wonder at how each step of my path has prepared me for the next season of my professional growth. Regardless of whether I am supporting twenty somethings transitioning to adulthood or supporting people grieving the death of a loved one or offering grief counseling to people adapting to a significant loss – the thread that runs through every juncture of my professional journey is that my job is never about fixing another’s pain or brokenness. My grief work is about witnessing where people are at on their journey, walking along side them without judgement, pointing out their strengths while offering support, suggesting tools and strategies to build coping and resilience, and always affirming the value of their life and the people they love.

Life is indeed a journey and in the uncertain stretches of grief most of us benefit from a guide. Someone to who can affirm our resilience, equip us with tools to make the challenges of the rocky terrain feel manageable, offer comforting presence when we feel alone, and point to the next step when we are ready to move forward. Through Grief Guide Consulting I’m here for you to offer education about the grief process, equip you with supportive tools, or to help you navigate your personal journey of loss.

Contact me to schedule a complimentary phone session to assess your unique needs and determine together what services are the best fit for you.