Volunteering: To honor a loved one

by Barbara FitzPatrick

2008 was a wonderful year and one of the saddest for me. It was the year I got married and the year my brother died, with just 7 months in between events that sent me through the spectrum of emotion. I’ll never forget where I was the moment I got the call from my mom, or the week that followed. So many tasks to manage and the grief was exhausting. No one talks about how exhausting grief can be.

Kenny1_Barbara fitzpatrickWhen my brother died, I promised to live my life for the both of us. So when the opportunity to move overseas came about I saw it as the perfect adventure we talked of going on someday. I was living in a new country just 5 months after his death. The rawness subsided but I didn’t know how to talk about his death to people I just met. So I didn’t, and instead I doubled up on work and trying to build a group of friends. But there was a hole in my heart. I needed to talk about my brother and I didn’t know how to start. There was no assistance for grief in my new country and I was lost. Thank goodness for Skype, family, and online resources! I was able to talk about my brother, cry, laugh, be angry, and I became comfortable talking about his life to my new friends. It was a s-l-o-w process, and certainly didn’t happen overnight. Sadly, one of my new companions lost her father and I was all too familiar with the experiences she was going through. I reached out to her, shared my story, and together we talked about the loved ones we lost. Having that support, comforting another during in her grief, these steps helped me immensely. And I learned that giving back can be healing in its own way.

Kenny2_Barbara FitzpatrickFast forward 5 years, I moved back to Austin and continued volunteering through various organizations to experience that comfort and joy of giving back to others in need. When I heard of The Christi Center, I remember thinking, ‘If only I had such a place when I needed it most!’ I thought that by volunteering I could continue to honor the loss of my brother and support those who are going through their hardest times in grief. For this, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such a warm, compassionate group of individuals at the center.

About the Author: Barbara FitzPatrick volunteers as a Healing Heart Ambassador at The Christi Center through their partnership with the Junior League of Austin. In addition to volunteering with The Christi Center, she has served local organizations GenAustin and Zilker Theatre Productions. Barbara is also employed as a Vice President at Gerson Lehrman Group, a research services firm. She lives in Austin with her husband and their son, Arthur (11 months).
Scroll to Top