GRIEF & LOSS

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Great Fortune Designs owner, Mary Pat can work with you to design and install a memorial garden to honor your loss. Here is a link to her site: greatfortunedesign.com/grief-gardens

Grief Gardens
Interactive memorials providing a space to heal and honor.

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Allison Daily

Director, Pathfinders

Guest Commentary:
Remembering and honoring victims in our own way

As published in The Aspen Times June 6, 2022

When tragedies happen in our world, even though we may not have a relationship with the victims, we grieve. The deaths may bring forward our past grief or trigger something deep inside of us from our past. We also grieve from a place of fear. When senseless acts of violence happen, it shakes our world, and we stop trusting the world around us. Grief can come in many forms with loss of trust, security and safety among them.

The most recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was an unimaginable tragedy, and it rocked us all, whether or not we knew the victims. Allowing our own grief to surface around a tragedy like this is important. For some, it is putting love in to action by taking supplies to Uvalde, as one of my closest friends is doing. For others, it is donating money. I know for many it is taking political action. One of our first reactions, when a loss like this happens, is to do something, allowing our grief to speak through our actions.

Along with processing what we feel, it is also important to sit with the grief. This can be one of the hardest parts. “What does that even mean?” you may wonder. For me, it is allowing myself to acknowledge all of the emotions a tragedy brings to my mind and to not try to distract myself or push them all away. It is about being fully aware of my fear, my sadness and anger, and not trying to run away or deny it. Then I just feel and allow that feeling to be a part of my honoring. It is in these spaces that I find I can get to the heart of healing.

For those struggling with the events of the past few weeks, I encourage you to take the time you need to process them. Find the time to sit down alone and light a candle, play music or do anything that will help you quiet your mind. Take time to think of the children and adults who died. Allow yourself to go inside and take some time to find the compassion and pain and fear you have inside. Allow your heart to wrap itself around them and tell them how sorry you are that they were killed for no reason. Just feel for them and those who love them.

Then ask yourself, from that place of compassion, what is it you can find within yourself that can honor them today? What is one small thing you can do to just remember and hold space for those who died? Maybe it’s simply just being quiet and allowing yourself to feel for them, or it’s planting something that you can look at to remember them. Let it be personal and private.

 

Our past and our present surface when we grieve. If you are employed in a school, you may be questioning your basic fears of working in a space that you may never know is safe or if you have experienced trauma or violence in your past, current incidents may dredge up emotions and bring them to the forefront again. Grief is deeply complicated, even when it doesn’t involve someone we know.

We all need a place to house our love, grief and sadness. We all have these emotions, and although sometimes they are hidden deep within, if we take the time to listen to them, to nurture what we are feeling, we become kinder and more compassionate with ourselves and others. And eventually, in time, our love becomes greater than our fear.

For the families in Uvalde who have lost their loved ones, their lives are never going to be the same. While we cannot live from a place of perpetually hurting for others and their loss, what we can do is take the time to remember and honor them. We can find our own unique and personal ways to visit their memory, hold them close, and promise that we will not forget them.

Allison Daily is the executive director of Pathfinders, a local nonprofit serving residents from Aspen to Parachute. Pathfinders provides free/low-cost counseling for those dealing with grief, loss and serious illness. To learn more or donate, visit pathfindersforyou.org.

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Tamara Tormohlen

Executive Director

Aspen Community Foundation

Photo by Steve Mundinger

Giving Thought:
Grief can build a community

As published in The Aspen Times May 19, 2022

Grief and loss are two inescapable realities of life, and yet as a culture, they are something that few of us are comfortable with addressing. It can be especially difficult to help children and young adults navigate.

The past two years have brought many losses for all of us. There have been losses of life, but also loss of old ways of being, events, community and more. These impact each person differently and how we navigate these losses shape who we become moving forward.

At Pathfinders, a nonprofit serving Pitkin, Garfield, Eagle and Mesa counties with psycho-social support, they have found that supporting those experiencing loss and grief is an opportunity for growing community.

More than two decades ago, Patherfinders’ founders Kristin MacDermott and Tina Staley began their work with cancer support groups with the belief that “no one should have to walk alone through a cancer diagnosis.” While their work began with a focus on cancer, it has since evolved into providing support for anyone needing assistance related to grief, loss, chronic illness, end-of-life planning or stress.

In 2016, after realizing the gap for school-aged children, a school-based program was created after Melissa Seigle, a licensed professional counselor and certified bereavement counselor, joined Pathfinders. Her work in schools with Denver supported the development of Pathfinders Schools Based Grief and Loss Program, which now serves schools across their service area.

 

This program has grown exponentially since its inception and especially since the start of the pandemic.

Allison Daily, Pathfinders executive director and grief counselor, said, “COVID affected children’s ability to be children. Children saw more fear at home, they were isolated and with adults who also had older, unprocessed grief.”

The school-based grief program is referral-based. Most of the referrals come from elementary and middle schools. Pathfinders counselors meet either with individual students or in groups. In the first week of the 2021-22 school year alone, Pathfinders received 27 referrals from school counselors about students who needed support for a loss and the needs have continued to grow across the region since.

Pathfinders’ support for students is long term and built on strengthening relationships while also teaching coping and resilience skills.

“When you are in grief or stress, you breathe at a lower capacity. We help children recognize this and teach them how to breathe when scared or sad and how to move through,” Daily said. These skills support increasing their emotional intelligence and are valuable for moving through the rest of their lives.

Daily points out that middle schoolers are especially vulnerable to the impact of grief and loss because they are often overlooked and already experiencing a lot of physical and emotional changes.

“Middle schoolers are experiencing so many changes at once and the expectations put on them are changing. Our counselors work to redevelop trust by being honest and giving support for their human needs,” she said.

Aspen Middle School experienced loss of a student through death by suicide early this school year. Pathfinders has been meeting with a group of their peers and is committed to continuing to support them as the grief evolves and becomes less acute. Counselors support students in understanding that processing grief and loss is not linear and does shift over time. Acknowledging this and providing space to speak openly is one of the ways the organization and counselors support community building.

Students who are supported by the program are better equipped to support others in need because they have been shown that there are people they can depend on and can offer support. This creates a deeper sense of community for them and has a ripple effect.

Pathfinders teaches students about service and how to show care for community. Daily shared that high school students who have been supported by the program have gone on to make meals for families experiencing loss or going through cancer treatments as an ongoing effort to build community through the process of moving through grief. “One student shared recently that without Pathfinders she would not have the skills to support her boyfriend who is now going through a loss of his own,” she said.

While loss and grief are a part of life, no one has to walk alone. Whatever stage of grief you are in, Pathfinders is committed to supporting the residents of this community.

PATHFINDERS ONGOING GRIEF SUPPORT

YOU WEREN'T ALONE THEN... YOU AREN'T NOW

Join us for powerful, effective tools, compassion and support

to help you navigate this difficult journey.

Serving the Roaring Fork Valley

Be sure to check our News Page

Groups are currently offered in Carbondale, Glenwood and Rifle

 

Contact: Allison 970-925-1226 for information, locations and times

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Grief is Complicated
One of Pathfinders' most sought after services is Grief and Loss Support and Counseling.

At some point, we will all experience losing a loved one. When that happens, allowing a compassionate, supportive person to help you through the process can be a gift beyond value.

 

When someone we love dies, we are often left, not only sad and lonely, but with a wide range of emotions churning around inside. That is when it is vital to have someone emotionally uninvolved in the loss, available to help process and allow the space for whatever feelings arise while not attempting to change the way we feel.

The gift of Pathfinders lies in providing a 'Witness' to the pain and loss, and as a 'Guide' to help process the enormous range of emotions that come with grieving.

 

We also have a lovely program that we have developed to help you through this difficult time — GRIEF & HONOR. Click the link below to see if this program is something that feels right for you to try.

 

No matter what the circumstances, please contact us if you or someone you care for could use support.

Need help or support? Check our events page.