Through a coordinated week of awareness and educational events, GrieveWell seeks to “put grief on the map” by engaging the community in thought, discussion and action related to grief and grief support during Grief Week April 8-12. GrieveWell is a local support group whose mission is to build a community that more effectively supports healthy grieving and healing and allows individuals to grieve well so that they can lead a full life after loss.
Larrea Young, who was born and raised in Ann Arbor, is the outreach and marketing specialist for GrieveWell.com. She received a BFA in Textile Design and a BA in Fashion from Indiana University and then returned to Ann Arbor to work as a designer tackling social issues.
Young recently answered questions from WeLoveAnnArbor.com about the group and the upcoming Grief Week.
Can you tell us about GrieveWell?
“GrieveWell provides resources and support to individuals in grief, as well as those who surround them, in order to build a community that promotes healthy grieving and healing. We envision a community in which individuals grieve well so that they can lead a full life after loss. We build a supportive community through (1) education and outreach like Grief Week and (2) peer counseling* provided by trained community volunteers who have traveled on their own personal grief journey and provide a supportive presence to our clients for up to a year.”
How did it come about?
“GrieveWell was founded nine years ago by a couple who found peer support useful as they grieved the tragic loss of their young daughter.”
Tell us about the upcoming Grief Week and why this is important?
“We are hosting our first ever Grief Week because we recognized the need to provide resources and education directly to the community and to spur candid conversations about grief. There is little in our culture that supports a healthy grieving process, and friends and family are often uncomfortable knowing what to say, or how to provide support. Once the funeral is over, friends and family return to the “real world,” and the bereaved are often left feeling isolated. Since only 20 percent of people will seek support outside of their personal network, it is vital to build strong supportive communities around those is in grief.
“Through Grief Week, GrieveWell wants to “put grief on the map” by getting people to explore how they can be more supportive, and sharing resources for healthy grieving in the Ann Arbor area.”
How did you get involved?
“I was first introduced to the organization by a close family friend whose daughter, also a close friend of mine, had died. I had previously been working on ways to reduce the rate of infant mortality in developing countries, and working with GrieveWell was a great opportunity to help people here in my own community.”
What are the challenges of putting on such an event?
“One of the biggest challenges of working with grief and planning an event like Grief Week is that everyone grieves differently. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for helping bereaved. That is why we try to offer such a range of support options from building a birdhouse, to painting, to yoga during the week of April 8 – 12. We want to be able to offer something for everyone.
What are the rewards of putting on such an event?
“The rewards are immense. It is so inspiring to see people who have navigated great losses but come together to be part of community and support others. For me personally, I feel good when I know we have created a space where people feel safe and comfortable sharing their stories. Everyone wants and needs a place to talk about their grief, but that can be hard to find in day-to-day life. That is one of the reasons we are including our Grief Art Exhibit in Grief Week. I wanted a platform to people to share their stories through art.”
How gratifying is it for you at the end of the day?
“It is incredibly gratifying! My grandma passed the week I started at GrieveWell and the team here was so incredibly supportive, and helpful as I processed that loss. Getting to help make sure others get that support is very rewarding. For Grief Week, I love seeing all the amazing artworks that demonstrate the power of art to express emotions and support healthy grieving.
“If I could only share one thing with people it would be ‘that you don’t know you need grief support until you do.’ Even if supporting grievers doesn’t resonate with you right now, each and every one of us will be affected by the loss of a loved one – either personally or by those around us. It is important that we all know how to be good supporters and how to grieve well.”