One of the most amazing things here at American Training is the relationship between our Colleagues and those we serve.
Our Colleagues in Day Services and Clinical Services work hard to meet our Guests’ needs each and every day. They also go to great lengths to help them accomplish their goals and obtain their wants through our WOW! Magic. But, at times, to live our mission and empower our Guests to live the most meaningful lives imaginable, our Colleagues must go beyond the communicated wants and needs. They need to know each and every Guest well enough to know when a need is there, even when our Guests may not even realize it themselves. Below, our Colleagues share one of those times.
A Grief Group Begins
When a group of our Guests in Lowell experienced the losses of loved ones, our Colleagues noticed some changes in them. Renee, our Lowell Program Director, recognized they were struggling with grief, so she approached our Clinician Mary to start a Grief Group. Mary teamed up with our Developmental Specialist Jocelyn to begin a weekly group where our grieving Guests could talk about one of the most painful experiences in their lives – the death of someone close to them – with others who were experiencing similar situations.
The 90-minute group met for six weeks. Each week had a different focus to help our Guests understand and cope with their losses. Discussion topics included: thinking about loss, sharing my story, saying goodbye, what is grief, what do I need to do, and looking after myself. Each session began with a brief check-in and ended with our Guests sharing how they were going to take care of themselves that day and throughout the week. We discussed how there is no right or wrong way to grieve; that there is no timeline for grief; and any feeling experienced is natural. We talked about positive memories of those we lost and shared stories that reflected who they were and what they meant to us. Together, we shared how some of us may or may not have had the opportunity to say goodbye and how our lives are the same and different since our loved ones passed.
A Heartfelt Goodbye
At the end of the six weeks, we planned a special event. Each Guest had a chance to say a special goodbye by choosing their loved one’s favorite color balloon, adding a photo and/or a note, and releasing the balloon. It was an emotional and touching sendoff but one that our Guests enjoyed. One of our Guests, Joe, said he hopes his green balloon’s note reaches his friend in heaven, while another, Alejandro, said he loved the release so much that he plans do one with his family on his mother’s birthday.
The Power of the Grief Group
Anyone who’s experienced the loss of a loved one can attest to the fact that it’s difficult to talk about. And, at first, our Guests struggled to speak of their losses and loved ones. But as time went on, they opened up. Our Guest Tammy told us that she liked talking about her loved one and participating in the balloon release. “Sometimes my family doesn’t understand that it helps when I talk to my father.” Another Guest, Raymond, said it helped just being able to talk openly about life and death. Sharon, another Guest added that the balloon release really helped her. “Even though I was sad about it, I think it really helped me.”
If You Are Grieving
If you are experiencing the loss of a loved one, remember these tips:
A few photos from our balloon release: