Grieving with Healthy Bodies and Healthy Minds
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” So goes the well-known saying.
Not a family, young or old, goes unmarked by the loss of a loved one. We are all touched by it and all wish that we were not. Though time often lessens the pain, grief is a journey that lasts a lifetime. Friends, counselors or churches can offer a person a soft place to land after a loss. Yet, personally speaking, having lost loved ones far too early, I have never found a more vibrant, comforting program than the one offered by Lory’s Place in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Founded in 2005, and named after Dr. Lory Schults who died in a traffic accident in 2004, Lory’s Place is a warm, loving facility that specializes in walking with an individual in his or her grief journey. Director Lisa Bartoszek outlines the program: “Lory’s Place provides peer support groups for children as young as 3 years of age all the way through adults of any age. Our foundational philosophy of the great impact of peer support is a guiding principle of our program services.”
At Lory’s Place, the groups support four realms of grief during their activities. Says Bartoszek, “People misunderstand that grief is not just an emotional response to loss. Really, grief touches all parts of a life: cognitive, spiritual, physical and emotional.”
The activities at Lory’s Place are structured to support all facets of how grief affects a person. Adults may write in journals, listen to books or share conversation. Staff often needs only to start a dialogue and let the adults dictate what they need on any given night. For children, colorful rooms include the “shipwreck room” where kids are allowed to safely throw pillows or rip up phonebooks to release emotions, or they may draw a memory picture. Though sad events bring people to Lory’s Place, one often hears laughter as participants feel safe and accepted by a roomful of others who truly understand.
Outside of the facility, Lory’s Place offers walking classes in warmer weather. Bartoszek says, “Anybody can walk. It is a great release for people to walk and talk and share their grief in a non-threatening way.” Another way Lory’s Place deals with the physical impact of grief for people is to sponsor “Cooking for One” classes.
On May 19th, Lory’s Place will hold its annual “Run, Walk, Rock” 5K fundraiser. “Lory was a runner, so this was a natural idea for raising money to honor her skills,” says Bartoszek. “And people get to see Lory’s Place in action.” (The event begins and ends on Upton Drive in St. Joseph where Lory’s Place is located.) Guests of participants can sit in rocking chairs that line the route. Many of the rocking chairs are sponsored in memory of a loved one.
In the summer, Lory’s Place offers camps for children to continue the “grief work” needed for each individual. One camp is focused on food. “We use the metaphor of food and how it can change from its raw form into something else. So, too, while you are still the same person, you are changed by grief. The camp will be a mini-culinary experience.” Two other camps will focus on art, one more expressive in nature in the arts district of Benton Harbor and the other to be held in the South Haven area with a focus on arts and using the beach as a backdrop.
Lory’s Place is located blocks from Lake Michigan. Its décor is beach themed. On a large wall is a mural of stormy lake waters with dark clouds. But in the middle of the clouds is a ray of sun trying to break through. This quote adorns another wall: “Lory’s Place offers a life ring of hope.” From personal experience, I cannot recommend enough that if your family ever feels adrift on those stormy waters, that you grab hold of the Lory’s Place life ring. All services are free, and that ray of sunlight beckons.
To learn more, please contact Lory’s Place at lorysplace.org.