ESCANABA - Grief is personal and an individual's response to grief is also a personal matter.
To help individuals who have lost loved ones come to an understanding of the grief process and their own response to their feelings, OSF Hospice is offering a four-week program beginning Tuesday from 5-6:30 p.m.
With the guidance of the OSF Home Care Service's bereavement team, the "Living Thru Grief Group" will help individuals to experience and express grief with people who understand the process and who are able to provide caring support.
Facilitator is Diane Johnson, who served as a hospice nurse for 20 years. A graduate of Madonna University in Livonia, Mich., in 1992, Johnson supervised bereavement programs for St. Joseph Hospital, hospice in Ann Arbor for 14 years. She was also a hospice nurse at OSF Hospice until her retirement in 2011.
Since that time, Johnson has been volunteering in the OSF Hospice program, working under the direction of OSF Hospice social worker and Bereavement Coordinator, Erik Barnhart, in the bereavement program. She expressed the feeling that bereavement is a very important as a community service as people from all walks of life experience all types of grief.
According to Ilene Kotajarvi, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator for OSF Hospice, the program is not limited to individuals who have been involved in the Hospice program, but to anyone in the community.
"When people experience grief, their response can be from a recent loss or one that took place many years ago," she said. "The important thing is for individuals to feel that their experiences are real for them."
Kotajarvi said the team can provide a warm, caring and confidential environment that allows the grieving individual the opportunity to be supported by others who understand.
"They are not alone in this process," she said. "Groups can help in the grief recovery, group members understand that others have experienced similar emotional and psychological grief-related problems. And groups help members heal and find hope through trust, openness and honesty."
Kotajarvi said the grief group is open to the public for anyone who has experienced loss no matter how long ago the loss was.
"With some people there's never a closure, whether its something the person realizes or doesn't realize," she said. "It can go on for years. But everyone's different."
Even with group support, Kotajarvi said healing may take much longer than the four weeks of grief support.
"Some can begin the healing sooner while others take longer," she said. "The problem is we don't deal with grief in our society. A loved one dies and you get three days off of work and then you are expected to be over it and get back to work. It doesn't work that way."
Kotajarvi said an additional four-week support group will be offered in the fall.
The current program, which will take place in the OSF Home Care Services conference room, beginning Tuesday and will continue each Tuesday through May 8. To register for the program, call 786-4456 or 786-3915.