Grief support group meetings
Heart of America Hospice has two grief support groups called “Scrapbooking Precious Memories.”
The Lawrence group meets from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 1420 Wakarusa Drive, Suite 202. The next meeting is today.
The Topeka group meets from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 3715 S.W. 29th St. The next meeting is Sept. 15.
The meetings are open to anyone.
Heart of America Hospice will provide a spiral bound scrapbook, tools and information on how to get started. Participants just need to bring pictures and memorabilia. They also may bring their own scrapbooks, materials and tools if they want.
For more information, call 800-396-7778 or 785-228-0400.
A picture is worth 1,000 words.
Put a book of them together and they can become a powerful tool, especially during the grieving process.
That’s why David Jenkins, bereavement coordinator for Heart of America Hospice, started two groups this year called “Scrapbooking Precious Memories.” There is one in Lawrence and one in Topeka, and they each meet twice a month.
“Part of the grieving process is telling stories, and stories are very often better told with pictures,” he said.
Dealing with grief
The support group offers a format where people can talk about their pictures, share scrapbooking ideas or simply listen.
The meetings are free and for anyone who is grieving — and that can be for the loss of a loved one, a job, a house, finances, mobility or something else.
“Grief has many facets,” Jenkins said.
He said it’s important to grieve so that the emotions and feelings will not manifest themselves in unhealthy ways.
“Grieving not only enables the important release of emotions, but also assists the integration of the loss in the reshaping of a person’s identity, which over time allows reconciliation with the death to occur,” Jenkins said.
Grief has no timetable, and everyone handles it differently.
“Our culture is not always real supportive of our grieving. It kind of expects us to jump back into life very quickly, and grief doesn’t work that way,” Jenkins said.
Topeka-based Heart of America Hospice provides a free scrapbook and supplies for participants. They just need to bring pictures and memorabilia. The informal meetings involve scrapbooking, conversation and storytelling.
‘You are not alone’
Debbie Andrews, Lawrence, started attending the meetings in April to help deal with divorce after a long marriage, the death of her father in February, and the death of a grandson in 2005.
“I realized that I had stuffed all of my grief down to survive,” she said.
She said the death of her father, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was particularly difficult because she took care of him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“He became the focus of my life,” Andrews said.
Although she isn’t ready to start a scrapbook yet, she finds the group meetings beneficial.
“You don’t become so wrapped up in yourself,” she said. “You realize that other people are walking the walk, too, and you are not alone. Each time, I’ve come away with something to think about and to apply to my life.”
For Lawrence resident Joyce Rizzardi, the group is a perfect fit because she enjoys taking pictures of plants and putting them into scrapbooks; she also is dealing with health and housing issues and the deaths of family members, friends and acquaintances.
“It does help to hear other people and support each other,” she said.
She soon may start another scrapbook in memory of one of her loved ones. To give her ideas, Jenkins shared the scrapbook that he recently made for his mother. It is in memory of his father, who died 15 years ago.
“It’s a gift to her and in a meaningful way support (for) her as she continues to grieve at age 83. It just touched her beyond words and it’s the neatest thing that I’ve ever done for my mom,” Jenkins said.
He said he put the scrapbook together, and then his mother provided information — in her own handwriting — to go with the photos.
“It was a very helpful process. There’s something about looking at the pictures and then asking her about what happened in this picture before I was ever born,” he said.
“It gave us a really meaningful way to look at the pictures. As we tell those stories, there’s so much healthy grief work that takes place.”