Years ago, I featured Domenic Ciannella, M. Div, in a business column I compiled for the Springfield Republican. His business stood out for me because what he offered was pastoral care and grief counseling. He was selling healing.
Domenic and I recently reconnected when Domenic sought me out to edit his book on navigating the grief process. Editing and producing “To Dance With Grief: Following the Rhythms and Motions of Mourning” was a joy because it was so well written. I know the worth of Domenic’s book and how it will ease the minds of people on a grief journey.
To help raise awareness, my colleague Lynn Moynahan interviewed Domenic about his work, his experience, his book and the process of producing it under the Janice Beetle Books imprint. Here are the questions and answers from that conversation.
What motivated you to work with people experiencing grief?
I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, since I’ve been ordained. I think working with people who grieve is absolutely amazing. I think they need to be heard. Our society today, as advanced as we are in many areas, does a poor job of understanding the whole grief process. As a result of that, people get shut off, and they end up bearing their whole grieving process either silently or not having any attention paid to them.
How do you help, and in what roles?
I became more involved in pastoral care when I became a hospice chaplain. I devised a bereavement program for groups, which I also ran. I am certified as a counselor. After I retired, I founded Acorn Pastoral Care, a counseling service, and I concentrate on grief and transitions. I value story, and I think people need to have their story heard. I listen first. By listening, you begin to find out what helped make their life meaningful. You’re able to see what is no longer in their life that has changed that narrative. And that’s what’s important and brings about what we know as grief or sadness. My sole goal is to normalize the process and help people move forward.
Tell us about your book.
It’s based on the program I devised for group counseling. It offers a process to help people validate their own grief journey and gives them something to learn from. The book allows people to say, “Wait a minute, this helps because this is the way I’m feeling. These are some things I can do. I don’t have to listen to advice that’s not healthy.” “To Dance With Grief” offers an introduction and allows people to become comfortable amidst the chaos in their own lives. It’s a non-judgmental read.
Grief is a complex and deeply personal experience. How did you approach writing about such a sensitive topic?
I concentrated on the fact that grief is something that is very much a part of who we are as human beings. I approached it as a way of authenticating the fact that while grief in itself is an individual process, the emotions that appear are common to everyone. The problem with grief is that people are thrown into a roller-coaster ride of emotions they’ve never felt before, but they are emotions that are common to who we are as humans.
What is your goal in publishing “To Dance With Grief”?
I’m hoping the book will reach a general readership, and I’m looking at it as a means for something available to clergy. I’ll be approaching clergy in the Episcopal Church with the book, as a tool they can use to familiarize themselves with the grief process and to have it on hand to give it to people they encounter. I find that most clergy aren’t really trained in managing grief. I have qualifications as a pastoral care giver, so it’s a different process. Grief isn’t just about the death of a person. It’s when there’s any loss in life—moving, empty-nest syndrome.
How do you hope your book will impact mourners in understanding grief?
I hope that they’d be willing to accept that it’s natural, and I hope they will be able to endure as they embrace it, and not shy away. It’s okay to talk about grief. Even with the wisdom of today’s world, we still don’t do a good job of this. If people can see that grief can lead us into a dance with life. I think that’s more positive than saying, “There’s something wrong with you.” I hope the book helps one person feel, “Wow, I’m not different. It’s okay to ask for help, and I don’t have to listen to what everyone wants me to do.”
How did your work with Janice enhance the book?
It’s been absolutely wonderful working with Janice. She’s made this process very simple. I think that she’s so knowledgeable with editing and publishing. She makes it simple that way and is encouraging. I find her a real delight.
What other projects, if any, are you working on, writing or not?
At this point none, but I probably will be. Do I know exactly what’s bubbling in my brain somewhere? No. I want to see this one through!
What advice do you have for people who are writing a book?
Stick with it. It’s easy to give up on something, when you hit a block for a moment. I think the key is to find your own voice and trust that it’s authentic. Persevere, and hopefully find a good editor. A good editor isn’t just someone making corrections; he or she becomes your cheerleader in a way because the process can be long and frustrating.