Hospice of Michigan Grief Support Services Manager Wesley Lawton, whose oversees the Macomb County region, said the support groups are a chance for those grieving to support one another.

Hospice of Michigan Grief Support Services Manager Wesley Lawton, whose oversees the Macomb County region, said the support groups are a chance for those grieving to support one another.

Photo provided by Hospice of Michigan


Hospice of Michigan offers virtual grief support sessions

New COVID-19-specific support group started

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published April 28, 2021

METRO DETROIT — Michigan residents who lost a loved one to the COVID-19 virus have a place to share their grief.

On the evening of April 21, Hospice of Michigan held its first-ever virtual COVID-19-specific grief support group.

The support group is held from 6 to 7:15 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month. The virtual sessions are designed to provide an opportunity for community members to receive the same care they would during an in-person session. Individuals can join by phone or computer at no cost.

Hospice of Michigan Grief Support Service Manager Jacqueline Morris is the COVID-19-specific support group facilitator. Morris expects the group to grow as more people find out about it and are ready to share their grief.

“I think the group went very well,” Morris said about the first session. “They were happy to have a place where they could come and share their grief experience. It’s a very sacred place. We provide a lot of information.”

During the initial session, Morris said the participants talked about how they feel isolated after losing family members to COVID-19.

“They feel alone,” Morris said. “The biggest thing they shared was not being able to have funeral services with rituals where everyone could attend with hot meals, laughter and hugs.”

Sometimes when people are grieving, others around them don’t understand or tell them to move on.

“That stops a person from sharing their emotions,” Morris said. “If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like swearing, swear. The support group is a sacred, safe place to be able to share your emotions and have them validated and normalized.”

Trained Hospice of Michigan grief counselors are offering a number of other virtual support groups including “Living On: Loss of Adult Child,” “Living On for Young Adults” and “Men Overcoming Loss.” There is no cost to attend.

Hospice of Michigan Grief Support Services Manager Wesley Lawton, whose office is located in Clinton Township, oversees the Macomb County region. But because of the pandemic, his virtual sessions are welcoming people outside Macomb County.

Grieving a loved one can create “all kinds of different feelings and experiences,” Lawton said. “Other people don’t understand what you’re going through and how your life is different. When you lose someone close to you it’s an enormous change. It can also feel like it can’t be real. It will be overwhelming.”

Lawton said the support groups are a chance for those grieving to support one another. Some Hospice of Michigan support groups are more education-focused, in which the facilitators do most of the talking. Some groups focus more on discussions between the participants.

“The facilitator will speak a little bit, trying to engage in dialogue to talk about their feelings,” Lawton said. “Talking about it is very healing. You feel less alone. You’re learning from one another. You have people that have a different perspective than you.”

Group therapy, he stressed, is just as effective as individual therapy.

Trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing and remembering things, increased anxiety, sadness, depression and hopelessness all are signs of grief. Morris suggested those grieving use tools such as journaling or writing letters to their loved one to help heal. Finding someone to talk to also can help with the grieving process.

Breathing techniques and self-care also are important when coping with loss. Morris also recommended physical exercise, such as running or walking, to help grieve.

“Working out gets the endorphins going,” Morris said.

Sometimes losing a loved one also can evoke feelings of guilt or anger. Lawton said people sometimes ask themselves, “What are some things I could have done better?” or think they didn’t spend enough time with their loved one.

“Some people feel guilty about recovering from their loss,” Lawton said. “They’re angry that the person left you and feel abandoned. In a group session I hope they’re able to meet with other people. I hope they feel they have been heard and understood on some level.”

Lawton suggests those suffering set aside time to grieve.

“Look at pictures of them. It helps keep their memory alive,” Lawton said. “Go through the (grief) and get familiar with that pain. Keep that person a part of your life in a healthy way.”

For more information on Hospice of Michigan’s virtual grief support groups across the state, contact Karen Monts at kmonts@HOM.ORG or (313) 578-6326, visit www.hom.org or call (888) 247-5701.