I was introduced to Domenic Ciannella, M. Div, about 10 or 15 years ago. A former hospice chaplain, he was a grief counselor who’d founded a service called Acorn Pastoral Care. He’d also been writing about grief for the Springfield Republican newspaper, and he was interested in being included in a column I compiled at the time, called “Voices in the Valley.”
As one who has experienced grief, I was more than happy to feature Domenic, but our connection was brief and limited to him answering questions via email; I edited his responses.
About six months ago, though, Domenic found me through my website because he was interested in publishing a book that would encapsulate all he knew about walking through the grief process. His book, “To Dance With Grief: Following the Rhythms and Motions of Mourning,” was already written, and I was eager to edit and produce it.
After my late husband, Ed, died, I found grief to be the most disabling experience I’d encountered in life. It was lonely and confusing, and I did not find a book that I felt was helpful. So, I wrote one; “Divine Renovations” was the first book I wrote and published.
My book is a raw look at the emotions one passes through in death and in the journey that follows a loss. It is my personal story, about how one person navigated the territory.
Domenic’s book, though, offers counsel, comfort, clarity, and hope.
In “To Dance With Grief,” readers will learn the difference between grief and mourning. They will be reassured that their experience is normal and told that they should pass through it in a way that feels comfortable to them. They shouldn’t rush. They shouldn’t feel pressured to “get over it.”
Domenic lays out a process people can follow and trust. He offers advice, questions to ponder and answer in a journal, and he offers a refreshing look at how to stay connected—and develop a new relationship—with the person we lost.
As I edited Domenic’s manuscript, I found nearly every word and thought to be resonant. I saw myself in certain passages. I wished I had had his book after Ed died. Instead, I muddled my way through, following my own disjointed version of his clear advice.
Domenic’s book is authentic because he knows grief, and he knows those who grieve.
He has been an ordained priest for over 20 years, and his specialty is in pastoral care. As Hospice chaplain, he ran an ongoing bereavement group, creating a program for people to follow. “I think working with people who grieve is absolutely amazing,” he says. “They need to be heard.”
Domenic also taught at Baystate Medical Center as part of its pastoral care program.
Certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist and Pastoral Care Specialist, Domenic founded Acorn Pastoral Care, a counseling service that draws on his experience and the program he created as a chaplain. He focuses on grief and transitions, and—much like me—he values story. “I find that once you’re willing to listen, it’s amazing what people will tell you,” he says.
In his work, and with his book, Domenic wants to assure people that they are normal and restore their hope and vitality. “I think people feel comfortable when they know that there’s a process to help them validate their own grief journey and have something that they can learn from,” he says.
His book is a guideline that, above all, allows mourners to honor their feelings and themselves.
“It is a process, but it’s not a straight line,” he adds. “The reason I use ‘dance’ in the title is because grievers can learn to open their arms and embrace who they are and what they’re going through. They will be led into something that’s absolutely amazing, and that’s a journey.”
When he publishes his book, which should happen in the next month, Domenic hopes to reach individual readers, and he also will approach clergy in the Episcopal Church and offer his book as a tool they can use to familiarize themselves with the grief process so they can help those they counsel.
He says: “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.’”