No-Cost Grief Support Services Offer Solace to Those Who Have Lost a Loved One

Losing a loved one is one of the biggest changes that someone can face. Fortunately, it is a transition that does not have to be made alone. The Pleasanton location of Gentiva Hospice, one of the company's nearly 500 locations nationwide, offers grief counseling, either in groups or one-on-one, at no charge.

Bereavement coordinator Christina Voissem runs the Grief Support Group here in Pleasanton, which meets at Gentiva's offices from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. on the first Monday of each month. "Some of the topics that we've covered include just talking about grief and what that process looks like for people or families that are dealing with it; feelings and ways that grief shows up in different times in your life; suggestions for coping with grief and dealing with separation and loss; and differentiating between depression and grief and recognizing when it is something where you might want to get a doctor involved," she says.

Holidays and other family events can be a particularly challenging time for the grieving, and she has some special events planned for the occasion. "I'm going to be doing several in-services at different facilities in the area called, 'Grief and the Holidays,'" she says. "The idea is just to let them think through what is going to be different this holiday - obviously a loved one being gone, but questions like do you want to start a new tradition or keep existing ones, or maybe a mix of both. Or you might hold onto something that was important to that person but add something new as well."

For those who would prefer a more individual approach, Voissem offers one-on-one counseling as well. "Sometimes that's easier for folks. They might just need someone to talk to and it's too hard for them to hear someone else's story, so they can just share what's going on within them.

"A lot of times I find what's helpful with the one-on-one support is meeting with a family, so for example it's not just a spouse that has lost their spouse but maybe their daughter comes with them, so the two of them can hear each other sharing their grief," she adds. "It helps to continue the conversation, and I always say that the best way to help with your grief is to share stories, and you keep their spirit alive by remembering them. Sometimes that's just through talking about it, about what you're sad about or missing or what you wish was different."

Gentiva also holds an annual remembrance service - over 100 people attended the most recent one, which was held on November 7 - and plans are being made to hold a grief camp for children aged seven to 17 next fall. "Thirty minutes out of the day would be talking about your grief and the rest of the time would be play," she says.

If a particular business or organization in the area wants to host a grief support group, Voissem says, they are also willing to facilitate the creation of a new, on-site group.

Gentiva's local offices are at 6140 Stoneridge Mall Road, Suite 125. Gentiva-sponsored Grief Support Groups are also available in Alameda and Danville. For additional information, e-mail , phone (925) 737-0203, or access .

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