(written by Marty Tousley and originally posted on her blog, Grief Healing.)
Depending upon where you are in your grief journey, at some point you may feel the need to channel your pain, as well as the time and energy once devoted to your relationship with your loved one, into something productive and meaningful ~ through the gift of volunteering. As one who truly understands the grieving process, you may feel ready to reach out to others who are suffering the pain of loss. Now that you’ve found your own way through the many challenges of grief, you have a great deal to share with others who are suffering: you can identify with their struggles, empathize with their sorrows and doubts, and offer valuable information and support.
Giving back to the courageous folks who serve your community is yet another alternative. Consider how Scott Mastley (whose brother died in an auto crash) honors the men in his local fire department every year, as a way of thanking the individual fireman who comforted his brother as he lay dying. He writes, “I gathered the courage to call the man who sat in the car with my brother while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. The man was a fireman, and he was off duty, painting a house to earn extra money, when he saw the accident.” Read on here: Turkey Talks: Thanking the Man Who Comforted My Brother.
In Giving to Others Helped Mom Make It through Loss of Daughter, bereaved mother Jenny Hander describes how she brought hope and healing back into her life following the death of her newborn. Because her baby was a twin, she realized she had a double supply of stuffed animals, toys and books for her surviving daughter – far more than she needed. Beginning at home and branching out into her community, she began collecting and distributing new and gently loved stuffed animals to children in her city, on behalf of the national organization SAFE (Stuffed Animals For Emergencies).
“Donating stuffed animals to children in need allowed me to share the love I had for my daughter who had passed,” Jenny writes. “In two years, I distributed over 2,000 stuffed animals to local children’s shelters and hospitals.” According to their Web site, SAFE chapter members “collect new and gently used stuffed animals, toys, books and blankets to be redistributed to emergency organizations, children’s services, hospitals, homeless shelters and many other places that help children during times of crisis. These emergency organizations use the stuffed animals to ease the children’s nerves and calm their fears. Your donations let the children know you care and help them feel a little more SAFE when they need it most.”
For her part, Personal Property Services expert Julie E. Hall encourages readers to Use Your Stuff to Bless Others . Find more compassionate advice “for dealing with a lifetime accumulation of stuff” on Julie’s helpful and informative blog, The Estate Lady Speaks.
Especially at this time of year, when so much of the focus is on gift-giving, you might consider asking yourself these questions: Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do? What causes or issues are important to you? What skills do you have that you could offer to others? Are you ready to offer the gift of volunteering?
If you would like to volunteer at The Christi Center, email Jocelyn Brown, Manager of Volunteer Resources. Our volunteers support the organization by providing phone and administrative support, planning events, assisting in the Healing Garden, and facilitating our 21 monthly support groups.
If you would like to volunteer in Austin during the holidays, you may find opportunities at the following websites:
Micro-volunteering on Sparked
About the Authors:
Marty Tousley is a nationally certified grief counselor who moderates online grief discussion forums for Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ. A published author who writes and blogs on various aspects of grief and loss, she has a special interest in the human-animal bond and in using social media to inform and educate the public about the grief that accompanies all kinds of loss. Find Marty online at GriefHealing.com and at GriefHealingBlog.com.
Jocelyn Brown is Manager of Volunteer Resources at The Christi Center. She has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2008. She finds working with volunteers very rewarding, and aims to make the volunteer experience rewarding for each of them as well. “Working in the nonprofit sector has opened my eyes to what can be accomplished in our communities, and on a larger scale, throughout the world. This is why I am so passionate about volunteering and serving my community.”