The couple had been together for 27 years, and she struggled with the grief of losing her spouse and best friend.
“One of the things I like about Ohio’s Hospice is the organization communicates with you after the death of a loved one,” said Graham, who is retired and lives in Xenia. “I received several phone calls from Pathways of Hope at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, and I received newsletters about grief that were very helpful.”
Through the phone calls and newsletters, she learned about the bereavement counseling Ohio’s Hospice offers. In July 2014, she met with Deb Holt, a bereavement counseling professional, who recommended that she join a grief counseling group offered through Pathways of Hope.
“Talking with Deb was so helpful,” Graham said. “But the group counseling was the most helpful to me because I was able to talk with people who have gone through this experience of losing a spouse. You begin to understand that the others in group counseling are feeling what you are feeling.”
After the sessions ended, winter was approaching, and she was concerned about depression. So, the grandmother of five scheduled another appointment with Holt, who asked her whether she had thought about volunteer work.
Grateful for the grief support, Graham decided to volunteer with Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton. She attended an orientation session and volunteered with Holt and the grief groups. “I helped set up the room, set out the attendance sheet, assisted with paperwork and set up refreshments,” Graham said. “That’s how I began volunteering with Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton.”
During the first few grief counseling sessions, she remained quiet. But after a few meetings, she felt like she wanted to contribute to the conversation to share her experience. “I was eight to 10 months ahead in my grief process,” she said. “I wanted to let them know that there is hope.”
She talked to Holt and began contributing in the meetings. She now greets the people as they come into the meeting and offers an arm around their shoulder. “It’s just a little care from someone who knows what they are going through,” said Graham who also is involved in the Family Advisory Committee at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton. “I provide them with 30 seconds of comfort.”
As part of the group grief counseling sessions, Holt encouraged participants to exchange contact information and keep in touch. While Graham’s original group did not keep in touch, she connected with several ladies in a different group. She asked the ladies if she could join them, and they welcomed her in their group.
“Five years later, we are still in contact with one another,” said Graham who enjoys watching her grandchildren’s play basketball and volleyball. “We go to lunch twice a month and talk on the phone together. It’s hard to explain. But when you have been through that same experience of losing a spouse, it’s very comforting to talk with one another.”