The Unfiltered Truth About Grief and Spirituality

In a poignant episode of “Church on the Block” Pastor Phil and Dr. Corniki Bornds explore the profound impact of violence on families and individuals, particularly focusing on the emotional and spiritual journey following the loss of a child to violence. Dr. Corniki shares her personal story of losing her son to gang violence, offering listeners a raw and honest exploration of grief, faith, and the role of the church in supporting those who have experienced such traumatic losses.

Understanding the Emotional Journey of Grief

1. Acknowledging Complex Emotions

Dr. Corniki’s journey through grief is marked by a range of intense emotions, including anger, disappointment, and confusion. She candidly discusses her initial struggle with anger towards God and the difficulty in finding comfort within her church community.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Allow Yourself to Feel: It’s crucial to acknowledge and accept all emotions that arise during grief, even those that may seem contradictory or uncomfortable.
    • Seek Safe Spaces: Find environments where you can express these emotions without judgment, whether it’s a support group, a trusted friend, or a therapist.

2. Finding Comfort in Spirituality

Dr. Corniki’s story highlights the challenges of reconciling faith with the pain of loss. She shares her struggle to find solace in scripture and her church community, emphasizing the importance of a personal relationship with God.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Personalize Your Faith Journey: Understand that your relationship with God is unique and may not always align with traditional expectations.
    • Explore Different Spiritual Practices: Engage in various spiritual activities, such as prayer, meditation, or reading different religious texts, to find what brings you comfort.
Dr. Carnicki with church members

The Role of the Church and Community

3. Providing Non-Judgmental Support

Dr. Corniki discusses the judgment she faced from others for her actions following her son’s death, such as taking a cruise. She emphasizes the need for people to process their grief in their own way.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Avoid Judging Others’ Grief: Understand that everyone grieves differently and what may seem unusual to one person could be a coping mechanism for another.
    • Offer Presence Over Solutions: Sometimes, the best support you can offer is simply being there, without trying to fix or change the person’s feelings.

4. Creating Supportive Spaces

Dr. Corniki’s initiative, HUGS, is a support group aimed at helping individuals navigate their grief healthily. This underscores the importance of community support in the grieving process.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Join or Create Support Groups: Look for local or online support groups where you can share your experiences and find solidarity with others who understand your pain.
    • Encourage Open Conversations: Foster an environment where people feel safe to talk about their grief and trauma without fear of judgment.

Navigating Trauma and Healing

5. Understanding the Impact of Trauma on the Brain

Dr. Corniki explains how trauma affects the brain and the importance of shifting focus back to the present moment to avoid being stuck in a state of trauma.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness exercises to help ground yourself in the present moment and reduce the impact of traumatic memories.
    • Educate Yourself on Trauma: Learn about the effects of trauma on the brain and body to better understand your reactions and find effective coping strategies.
Dr. Carniki holding baby

6. Turning Pain into Purpose

Dr. Corniki’s journey of transforming her pain into a purpose through her work with HUGS highlights the potential for growth and healing through helping others.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Find Meaning in Your Experience: Look for ways to use your experience to support and uplift others who are going through similar struggles.
    • Engage in Community Service: Volunteering or participating in community initiatives can provide a sense of purpose and connection.

Final Reflections

7. The Importance of Empathy and Understanding

Pastor Phil and Dr. Corniki emphasize the need for empathy and understanding when supporting those who have experienced loss and trauma. They highlight the importance of authenticity and being present for those who are grieving.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Practice Active Listening: When someone shares their grief with you, listen without interrupting or offering unsolicited advice.
    • Show Compassion: Small gestures of kindness and understanding can make a significant difference in someone’s healing journey.
Dr. Carniki and friend (grief)

8. Supporting Organizations Like HUGS

Pastor Phil encourages listeners to support Dr. Corniki’s organization, HUGS, which provides resources and support for those affected by violence.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Donate or Volunteer: Consider contributing your time or resources to organizations that support individuals dealing with grief and trauma.
    • Spread Awareness: Share information about these organizations within your community to help others find the support they need.


The conversation between Pastor Phil and Dr. Corniki on offers invaluable insights into the complexities of grief and the role of spirituality and community in navigating traumatic experiences. By acknowledging the range of emotions, providing non-judgmental support, understanding the impact of trauma, and finding purpose in pain, individuals can find a path towards healing.

The church and broader community play a crucial role in offering empathy, understanding, and resources to those who are grieving. Supporting organizations like HUGS can further enhance these efforts, providing much-needed assistance to those affected by violence.

By embracing these principles and taking actionable steps, we can create a more compassionate and supportive environment for those navigating the difficult journey of grief and trauma.

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The Burden of Violence (00:00:12) Discussion about the impact of violence on families and individuals, particularly losing a child to violence.

Dr. Corniki Bornds’ Story (00:02:37) Dr. Corniki shares her personal story of losing her son to gang violence and her journey since then.

Coping and Healing (00:05:26) Dr. Corniki discusses coping with the loss of her son and how she navigated through her healing process.

Seeking Support (00:07:20) Dr. Corniki talks about seeking support from therapists, counselors, and support groups to deal with her trauma.

Questioning Faith (00:17:14) Dr. Corniki shares her struggle with faith and the church after the loss of her son and the lack of justice for the perpetrators.

Reflection on Grief (00:18:56) A discussion on the nature of grief and the inability to rush or choose when to exit the season of grief.

Reflecting on The Journey (00:21:08) Pastor Phil reflects on Dr. Corniki’s journey and the impact of her loss on her faith and relationship with the church.

Dr. Corniki’s Spiritual Journey (00:22:09) Dr. Corniki discusses her struggle with finding comfort in scripture after her son’s death and her anger towards God.

Community Support and Love for BJ (00:23:11) Dr. Corniki shares how the community’s love for her son provided comfort and support, leading her to support other families experiencing similar tragedies.

Navigating Grief (00:25:07) Dr. Corniki discusses her struggle to find comfort in scripture and the impact of her son’s death on her physical health, leading her to seek therapy.

Anger and Grief (00:27:38) Dr. Corniki admits to still feeling anger towards God, especially during significant events like her goddaughter’s graduation.

Dealing with Triggers (00:29:19) Dr. Corniki shares how certain places and events trigger her grief, such as driving through downtown or attending her goddaughter’s graduation.

Authenticity in Grief (00:30:25) Pastor Phil and Dr. Corniki discuss the authenticity of expressing emotions and the need for support without judgment during the grieving process.

Support Group “HUGS” (00:39:14) Dr. Corniki talks about the creation of her spiritually-based support group, HUGS, to help individuals navigate grief and process their emotions.

Turning Misery into Mission (00:42:46) Dr. Corniki explains how she turns her grief into a mission by organizing events at the park where her son was killed to honor his memory and support other families.

Memorializing Loved Ones (00:43:51) Dr. Corniki discusses keeping the legacy of lost loved ones alive and preserving their memory.

Spiritual Connection and Understanding Grief (00:44:48) Pastor Phil and Dr. Corniki discuss the spiritual presence of departed loved ones and the importance of understanding grief.

Coping Mechanisms and Brain Response to Trauma (00:46:50) Dr. Corniki shares coping strategies and explains how the brain responds to trauma, highlighting the importance of therapy.

Supporting Grieving Families (00:50:22) Pastor Phil and Corniki discuss the unique experiences of grief and the importance of supporting grieving families.

Finding Support and Resources (00:52:08) Dr. Corniki provides information on how to connect with her organization for support and resources.

Reflection on Life’s Brevity (00:53:59) Pastor Phil reflects on the brevity of life and the importance of living purposefully.

Encouragement to Seek Mental Health Support (00:55:47) An advertisement encourages seeking mental health support and emphasizes the importance of reaching out for help.

Maintaining Spiritual Fitness (00:57:00) A discussion on the importance of maintaining spiritual fitness and not becoming complacent in one’s faith journey.

Healing and Progress (00:58:55) A conversation about the importance of healing and progress, emphasizing the need to start the journey without waiting for perfection.

Related Radio Show: CHURCH ON THE BLOCK