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Virtual grief counseling in the COVID-19 world

Gilda’s Club hosting its annual West Side Walk and Block Party
Posted at 3:47 PM, Apr 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-25 16:38:37-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Whether it be from losing a loved one, learning about a cancer diagnosis, or coming to terms with the COVID-19 world - experiencing grief is never easy.

"It feels like in this Covid world of ours that the whole world is on pause, but we know that grief and cancer never take a break," said Wendy Wigger, president of Gilda's Club Grand Rapids.

It's normal to feel alone and isolated, especially now when people have to social distance themselves from loved ones.

"In this time of required physical distance one thing we don't want to do is create social distance or emotional disconnect," Wigger said. "I think particularly when you're going through either one of life's toughest chapters; a cancer diagnosis, or the death of somebody in your life. It's very important to say, emotionally connected to other people."

That's why services like Gilda's Club of Grand Rapids and Hospice of Michigan are virtually open and ready to support current and new members.

"We're providing virtual support groups for people that are diagnosed with cancer of any kind, or connected to somebody with cancer, or those that are dealing with a grief due to death of any cause. Not just cancer-related death," said Wigger.

"We're doing a lot more phone calls, as well as video meetings over Skype or zoom or things like that," said Wesley Lawton, Grief Support Services Manager for Hospice of Michigan.

Gilda's Club is offering a variety of virtual group support session and workshops on Zoom for people of all ages and family dynamics.

Similarly, Hospice of Michigan has also transitioned their grief counseling services online. Those services covering everything from coping with the death of a loved one to coming to terms with the societal and mental effects of COVID-19.

Hospice counselors say they've realized working with people virtually hasn't changed the grief counseling process much.

"Research shows that it's really just as effective as in person counseling. So I would say that it's just as helpful," said Lawton. "The things that we can't do really are just those physical things. So you know, placing a hand on a hand or giving a hug."

It's important to note that these online services are free and are available for anyone to use.

"I think in this time where we're really having to work through some very unprecedented experiences that we can connect with each other, in a way, even if it's not physical, but socially, emotionally still stay connected," Wigger said. "There is something to be sad about doubling that joy, and cutting that grief or sorrow in half."

For more information on Hospice online services, click here.

Gilda’s Club is also adapting social activities and workshops to new platforms including virtual exercise classes, youth activities and more. Here is a listing of this week’s virtual support groups and additional virtual offerings:

Wednesday, April 15

· Adult Grief Support Group

· Anxiety Workshop

· Kundalini Yoga

· Young Adult Grief Support Group

· Family & Friends Grief Support Group

· Spouse Grief Support Group

· Parent Grief Support Group

Thursday, April 16

· Craft Workshop: Mask Sewing

· Adult Christian Cancer Support Group

· Adult Cancer Support Group

· Family & Friends Cancer Support Group

Friday, April 17

· Sit & Be Fit

Saturday, April 18

· Family Improv Workshop in conjunction with Gilda’s LaughFest

For more information on Gilda's Club Grand Rapids, click here.