Posts Tagged ‘Support group’

By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

414-651-2737    petereinl@churchandchapel.us    www.churchandchapel.com


I resolve to…

  • Grieve as much and for as long as I need to, and I will not let others put a time table on my grief.
  • Mourn this loss by fully experiencing my feelings and expressing them in healthy and appropriate ways with trusted others.
  • Ignore those who try to tell me what I should or should not be feeling, and how I should and should not be behaving.
  • Cry if I need to and/or want to, whenever and wherever I feel like crying. I will not stuff the tears of my grief.
  • Voice my loved one’s name, sharing their stories with friends, family members and others.
  • Lower my expectations of others realizing not everyone knows how I feel, especially those who have not lost someone to death. I will express my needs to others so they don’t have to guess what my needs might be.
  • Stop blaming myself for my loved one’s death, and remind myself, when feelings of guilt are overwhelming, that this is a normal part of the grief process and it will pass.
  • Seek out a support group, other resources or professional help and let go of feeling ashamed or weak in doing so. 
  • Commune with my loved one as I want, in ways that feel comfortable.


I further resolve to…

  • Eat, sleep and exercise every day in order to give my body the strength it will need to help me walk this journey.
  • Remind myself that loss of memory, feelings of disorientation, lack of energy, and a sense of vulnerability are all normal parts of the grief process.
  • Heal, even though it may take a long time and a lot of intentional grief work.
  • Stop trying to recreate life as it was before this loss and move to an acceptance that life as I’ve known it will never be the same again, nor will I ever be the same again.
  • Realize that I will not always make steady progress and when I find myself slipping back into the old moods of despair and depression I’ll remember this is also a very normal part of the grief process.
  • Be happy about something for some part of every day, knowing that at first, I may have to force myself and it may last only a moment.
  • Reach out to help someone else, knowing that helping others will help me to get through my grief.
  • Opt for life, knowing that this is what my loved one would want me to do.

Adapted from the Brooksville Spring Hill, FL , TCF Newsletter



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We thank Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes for his monthly contributions to the Grief Resource Center blog.

When a mother bird nudges her baby out of the nest, is she giving up or letting go?

When a tree loses its leaves in the autumn, is it giving up or letting go?

When a caterpillar decides to enter a cocoon – its chrysalis, is it giving up or letting go?

When a flower unveils its petals after days of being a bud, is it giving up or letting go?

When a woman who has treated her brain tumor for over two years decides ‘that’s enough’ and reaches out to hospice, is she giving up or letting go?

When someone decides he needs space and distance from his family of origin for a while, perhaps years, is he giving up or letting go?

When someone who struggles with addiction finally chooses to acknowledge the addiction and accepts needing a recovering program, is he giving up or letting go?

When a grieving person chooses to share her loved one’s belongings, is she giving up or letting go?

When life looks consistently bleak, every day such a struggle, each dominated by depression and he at last notices and chooses to get help, is he giving up or letting go?

What a tension and sometimes a fine line this question of ‘giving up or letting go’. There is clearly a difference between them both in attitude and in motivation, albeit subtle at times. Many, many years ago, shortly after being released from inpatient treatment for alcoholism and attending AA, my mom shared with me a reflection regarding ‘giving up or letting go’. Through the years I’ve posted this reflection in my offices and often find myself reading it. I share it with you now because it has helped me gain perspective many times, and, because, for most of us, a very significant part of our journey of grief involves, dare I say demands, our ‘letting go’ on many different levels. There is no ‘healing’ and/or reconciling our grief in giving up, only in letting go. There can be no ‘transformation’ in giving up, only in letting go. We’ll never experience fully living again in giving up, only in letting go. Although you may not be at a place of ‘letting go’ yet, or these words might not express your experience, may this reflection cause you to take pause, if only for a moment, to reflect upon the difference between giving up and letting go in you and how both are expressed in / through you. May it serve you as well as it has served me.

Giving up implies a struggle…Letting go implies a partnership.

Giving up dreads the future…Letting go looks forward to the future.

Giving up lives out of fear…Letting go lives out of grace and trust.

Giving up is defeat…Letting go is a victory.

Giving up is unwillingly yielding to forces beyond oneself…Letting go is taking control by choosing to yield to forces beyond oneself.

Giving up believes that God and the Universe are to be feared…Letting go trusts in the goodness and love of God and the Universe.



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We welcome back Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services for Church and Chapel Funeral Homes as our guest blooger. Please enjoy Pete’s thoughts on surrendering to grief.

“You don’t heal from the loss of a loved one because time passes;

you heal because of what you do with the time”. 

– Carol Crandall


Healing doesn’t ‘just happen’ after the death of a loved one. And, quite frankly, “Time heals all wounds” is a myth ~ an illusion at best. Healing doesn’t wait on time; healing waits on our ‘welcome’ ~ our intention. Therein dwells the hard grief-work of surrender, acceptance and integration. As each person is unique, this work will be done in one’s own time, on one’s own personal journey, in one’s individual way, a step at a time. It’s only in doing this important work that eventually one can fully live again in new and changed ways. Here’s an example.

Gregory, whose wife Marie died a year and a half ago from a tragic accident, has been very active in engaging and facing his grief and assisting his teenage son in doing the same. For me, Gregory has been an inspiring example that healing can only happen when one finds the courage to move toward their grief rather than ignoring, denying or moving away from their grief. Gregory would be the first to tell you that he is not done grieving or healing, and perhaps may never be. But, as you read the e-mail below from Gregory, those of us who are grieving can take heart in knowing that authentic healing can happen if we are willing to do the hard grief-work of surrender, acceptance and integration – bit by bit, one step at a time, in our own way, choosing to fully live again. Thank you Gregory!

Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 9:21 AM
To: Undisclosed

Subject: Time to Let Go


Hello All,

It’s been over a year and a half now since Marie died.  I’ve had many ups and downs through my journey with grief.  I’ve now come to the crossroads that in order to continue my healing I need to start separating myself from Marie’s physical presence.  I treasure all the great times we had together and the wonderful memories of our life and raising Robert through the years.  But all the physical things around the house bring back too much pain.

In a moment of weakness I received a flyer for a neighborhood rummage sale last Sunday.  Marie organized the sale every year.  She loved doing it (I did not).  But Grandma offered to tend the sale so I thought why not – I’ll participate.  It’s been a whirlwind of gathering all “Marie’s stuff” together for the sale over the past 3 days.  Robert, our son, has been gathering his “little boy” toys, shirts/pants and grade school reading books as well.  We have a lot available including holiday decorations, scrapbooking, stationary, candles, kitchen items, cloths and size 8 shoes.

Stop by the one and only rummage sale I will ever do.  Our Subdivision Rummage Sale runs this Friday and Saturday 9:00 – 4:00.  Grandma will be helping out and Robert on Saturday.  Tell a friend or two as Marie had a lot of neat items.

Here’s to you Dear,


PS: Any money raised will go to Healing Hearts of Waukesha County, the grief support group that’s helping Robert and I live life again.

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We welcome back guest blogger Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services at Church and Chapel Funeral Homes. This month, Pete encourages us to welcome breaks into our lives…

There’s nothing quite like taking a walk and breathing some fresh air after being confined in enclosed places for an entire day…Or, putting your feet up, enjoying a refreshment and watching a TV program after a long physical day of doing yard work and projects needing to be completed around the house…Or, at least for me, having a cup of coffee in a quiet space, candle lit, reading a good book, without any pressure of time constraints, on the very first morning of my first day off of the weekend. I value and badly need ‘breaks’ during the course of my day – during the course of my week.

The same can be true with those of us who are in the throes of doing – being immersed in – grief work. And, it’s true, grieving takes work and effort and intentionality especially if we want to heal. Someone recently said to me regarding their grief journey, “This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.” Make no mistake about it, grieving can be intense work. It’s okay and so very necessary for us to take breaks while we grieve. We cannot dwell on our sorrow every waking moment. Taking breaks doesn’t dishonor our loved one, nor does it equate to ‘forgetting’ our loved one. It does mean our body, our mind; our spirit needs some ‘fresh air’ to renew, to rejuvenate and to perhaps gain some new perspective.

Staying busy can be a form of taking a break. We need to keep a close eye on our busy-ness though, too often it’s easy to be soooo busy that we use it as a way to run from the necessary work of grieving. We hear it often from others, ‘just keep busy’ because if we do stay busy we can keep our minds off of our pain, our hurt, our fear. And while there may be some wisdom and gift in being busy, we need to honestly ‘check-in’ with ourselves regarding the level of our busy-ness and our motivation for staying busy. We also need to be aware of our substance use and/or abuse as we walk this path of grief. Sometimes we convince ourselves the over-consumption of substances (i.e. alcohol, drugs, food, etc.) can be a healthy way to take a break from our sorrow and pain. On the contrary, although seemingly attractive and easy, they provide an illusion of taking a break, and often result in leading us down an even more painful path.

Sometimes, it may mean giving ourselves a ‘push’, a nudge to allow ourselves to take a break. But it is really necessary and important for our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing and energy to do so.  Go bowling. Be with friends who are easy to laugh with. Volunteer. Get lost in a book.  Start an art project. Watch a movie. Cook a meal for someone. Choose to do whatever a ‘break’ might look like for you – what looks to be most ‘inviting’ for you. Yep, it won’t be the same without your loved one. But, in all honesty, nothing (including you) will ever be the same without your loved one and taking a break isn’t about trying to recreate what once was. No matter the intensity of our pain and hurt, we have a responsibility to ourselves, to those that care about us, and to our loved one, to be about ‘living’ again.  Indeed, taking breaks helps us to do the necessary work of grief in a healthy way and gives us permission to live again in new and changed ways.

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Life As We Know It

Image by CityTalk via Flickr

“We are tiptoeing around here like they are coming home. But they are not.” 

This sentiment from a scene in the movie Life as We Know It struck me this weekend. I think each griever reaches this moment when they realize that they need to change their environment in order to move along the path of healing. 

In the movie, Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel discover that their closest friends have appointed them guardians of their child in the unlikely event of their joint death. In addition to becoming guardians of the baby, they are honoring their friend’s wishes by raising their daughter in their own home.           

For many weeks, they navigate the challenge of raising a baby and co-parenting. After one particularly stressful day, they come together in the living room and talk about how hard this has been for them. They begin talking about how they have been existing in the house as if they were houseguests, tiptoeing around everything, so that it would be exactly the same, as if their friends were coming back. 

Katherine Heigl’s character states “They are not coming home.” This line seems so obvious, but it is emotionally profound. Each of us reach that moment of acceptance where we realize that we can no longer exist with the things exactly like they were, because they have now changed. We need to make the environment our own. We need to make space for the changes to come. 

The couple begins boxing up their friends items, changing pictures on the wall, and moving their own stuff into the house. This not only began the process of making it “their home” but also gave them room to begin parenting the way they would instead of trying to be their friends. 

We cannot pick when this moment will be for us to begin making changes. We “just know”. It’s a gut feeling and when it arrives, it’s healthy and healing to make those changes.

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The G Force roller coaster

Image via Wikipedia

I often get asked—which loss is worse: one that you know is coming due to an illness or a sudden unexpected loss? The truth is that they are both difficult losses and one is not easier to deal with than the other. 

Even when dealing with an illness for a long time, the death still comes as a shock because you can never fully imagine what life is going to be like without that person. One can not fully anticipate and plan for all of the ways in which their life is going to change without them. And if you were the caregiver you now have a ton of time on your hands and you may have lost your purpose, which was to care for your loved one. Lastly, many people have an expectation that they will have deep profound conversations with their loved one prior to their death, just like they do in the movies, but this doesn’t happen the majority of the time. This leaves unsaid communications. 

When a loss is sudden, the death is a shock and life changes instantaneously, in ways you may never have thought about before. There are probably many things that have been left unsaid because you thought you had time to get closure on those topics. 

The two losses that I think are more difficult to grieve are a death by suicide or homicide because both of these losses leave many unanswered questions and can bring about embarrassment or shame, which makes them more difficult to talk about. It can be helpful to find a support group for these specific losses so that you know you are not alone and others can relate to your unique experiences of grief. 

For all others, the feelings of loss are similar and intense. Grief feels like a roller coaster. It is helpful to talk about your feelings in order to release the intensity of them. If you feel that you can’t talk about them, write about them. Find support either through close friends and relatives or through a support group. Grief can make you feel as if you are going crazy and sometimes your friends and family stop wanting to hear about your grief. A support group can let you know that you are not crazy and that you are not alone. Read about grief so that you gain tips from others who have gone before you on how to cope with your loss. And remember that grief takes a lot of energy and is very stressful. Take good care of yourself—easier said that done, I know, but well worth the effort.

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It’s always very interesting to me to meet a new Grief Resource Center or Hospice volunteer. I always wonder what has led them to our doorstep? And it’s no surprise that when people ask me where I work, I often get comments like, “wow, how can people do that kind of work every day?” Or, “I could never handle that job.” The thing is, we have volunteers who do this because they WANT to, and they do it without reimbursement.

I have spent time with a few of our volunteers, and I have learned a lot about them personally. The common thread with those who are most dedicated and stay with our organization the longest is that they’ve experienced loss, travelled their own grief journey, and are ready to help others through this important time.

There is an art and a science to finding a truly amazing Hospice or Grief Resource Center volunteer. There must be a balance of compassion and passion. The timing must be right. Sometimes a grieving person comes to us under the guise of seeking a volunteer position. I think this is a sign of our society’s indifference to strong emotions and inability to recognize the importance of grief after a loss. Often, when people come to us wanting to volunteer, what they are really looking for is support on their own grief journey. Fortunately, these folks have come to the right place! We are able to support them down their own path, offer an open door to our agency, and maybe eventually they will be in a good place to become a volunteer.

The people who amaze me most are the ones who really are in a place to provide love and support to others with no strings attached. I have one volunteer in mind who has experienced the loss of her sister, gave herself the time she needed to grieve, and who now counsels our bereaved families over the phone. She has told me that often, people are thrown for a loop when they get her on the line, but I’ve also heard her end of a conversation – I know that she provides an open mind, a supportive, calm voice and maybe most importantly, a listening ear for those who need to talk about their pain.

This is not a unique story. Just like everyone you meet has a story, every volunteer has their own purpose, their own history. My purpose for writing about this is to recognize and thank those special people who come to us, and who are willing to use their own grief experience to help others. I believe that good can come from pain. I’m proud of each person who serves and who shares their heart with someone whose heart is a little more tender that day. It’s an evolution of the heart, and I think it’s amazing.

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