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Letter to the editor: Grief center offers help in facing loss

Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 12:01 am

At last – a dream come true. A grief center for this community. In 1987 I became a widow following the death of my husband Tom. During his illness, we had the good fortune to become acquainted with Visiting Nurse & Hospice. These wonderful people, the nurses, social workers and volunteers, were angels of mercy who came into our lives at a terrible time. They were there for us with their compassionate care and concern.

Following Tom’s death, I was invited to attend a bereavement support group that met monthly. This group was open to those who had experienced the death of someone loved. This group was sponsored by Visiting Nurse & Hospice. As I approached my first meeting six weeks after Tom’s death, I couldn’t imagine sharing my feelings of loss, sadness, anger and many other emotions with strangers. It only took one meeting with these wonderful people, many of whom were further along in their grief journey, to know that they understood much of what I was feeling and did not judge; nor did they encourage me to “buck up.”

I no longer felt alone in my grief. Unless we have walked a similar walk, we don’t know what to say or do to ease the pain of the bereaved. The group was led by a social worker and, as in all support groups, members were encouraged to talk about what was happening in their grief journey. After attending this group for a number of months, I was asked to become a co-facilitator. Evidently my ability to talk about my feelings openly gave others courage to do the same. I realized that I needed to learn more about the grief journey if I was to in some way assist others in healing such a terrible wound – the death of a loved one. I entered college and began studying with a renowned grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt at his Center for Loss in Colorado.

After a few months of co-facilitating, I was asked to assist in forming another bereavement support group sponsored by Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. Subsequently I was asked to combine the two support groups and to be the facilitator. Thus a weekly bereavement support group co-sponsored by these two wonderful organizations, offered to the general public, free of charge, began.

I am now a practicing grief and loss counselor, continuing to facilitate the support groups after 25 years. Public awareness of the need to process grief has grown to the point that classes are offered at our local colleges on grief and loss. I have the privilege of guest-lecturing in these classes, teaching students how to help the bereaved.

And now a grief center. For those of us who have taken part in bereavement groups and experienced our own healing as well as witnessing the healing of other group members, this is, indeed, a dream come true. Thank you Visiting Nurse & Hospice Home and all who have benefited from your service to the community and all those who support your work.

Dar Richardson