About Wendy Kessler, MSW

Experience

Hospice Bereavement Specialist Bereavement Services Manager
Grief Counselor
2017 – Present

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 professional career began in 2017 when I accepted a full time position as a hospice Bereavement Coordinator. For many helping practitioners grief work 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 crafting a vocation rooted in mentoring young adults and developing a supportive community of twenty-somethings around my table. For nearly a decade, scores of young men and women gathered weekly 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 Bereavement Coordinator I read through an orientation binder that included a page on 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 well-worn routes where tired travelers could stop for rest, nourishment, or medical attention. The modern day hospice – founded by Dame Cicely Saunders in the late 1960s – is also based on the concept of offering care to weary travelers. Today, interdisciplinary hospice teams follow Dame Saunders model of offering physical rest, emotional and spiritual nourishment, and medical attention to people who have reached the end of their life journey.

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

It turns out that ten years of practicing radical hospitality was invaluable preparation for hospice work. Most of the twenty somethings I supported were recent college graduates 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. 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 also necessary tasks for the bereaved.

A key parallel between supporting twenty-somethings transitioning to adulthood and supporting people grieving the death of a loved one is that my role is never about fixing others pain or brokenness. It is about witnessing where people are at on their journey, walking along side them without judgement, pointing out their strengths while offering support, and always affirming the value of their life and the people they love.

Life is indeed a journey, and grief is woven into every significant loss not just death. From that perspective grief is the most universal experience we share, and yet it remains widely misunderstood. In the uncertain stretches of our path, 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.