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Virtual grief support groups

virtual grief groups offered by OptageThe mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), “to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,” is fulfilled when the actions of our employees demonstrate our stated values. In our continuing series, “We Will,” we introduce you to PHS employees who are living out these values and working together toward a better, brighter future for the older adults we serve.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. — 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NIV

The story of Jabez shows God at work, delivering a man from his pain and suffering and into a life of blessing and enriching others’ lives. As a Scripture passage within our PHS Biblical Framework, we believe God wants to enrich our lives, too. This week we share a story from Optage Hospice. Optage is our home and community services division.

Optage Hospice Chaplain Jenny Schroedel tells us about new, virtual grief groups and the healing that is now being made possible for many in 2021. By using technology resources well, we at PHS will expand our borders for ministry — a reflection of our Stewardship value.

“When we saw the pandemic start back in March,” Jenny begins, “we realized that this will be really hard for our residents and our residents’ families. We were asking ourselves, ‘What can we do? How can we respond?’”

She continues, “At Optage we go where the loss is and will try to meet it and support people. Our new virtual grief support groups have been nearly a year in the making,” exclaiming, “Zoom is a miracle!”

'Help each other find a path forward'

Grief groups are not just for those who’ve lost a loved one. Grief comes with any profound loss, says Jenny. “This effort is an attempt to create connection and understanding and allow people to help each other find the path forward.”

Optage Hospice Chaplain Jenny Schroedel
Chaplain Jenny Schroedel facilitates virtual grief groups through Optage, the home and community services division of PHS.
“For example,” she says, “the grief group in January is called Finding Meaning and Purpose Through Loss. It came out of the pandemic because we recognized that so many people felt a sense of powerlessness.”

Jenny explains, “The groups will combine sharing and learning. We’ll use Zoom for video chat and connect no matter where people are at — across PHS communities, families in their homes, even from farther distances beyond PHS sites.”

Participants journey together, helping one another feel that their burdens are a little lighter now that their grief is no longer carried in secret or in isolation. “They find out it’s normal to grieve,” says Jenny, which can help people shift to finding hope and meaning.

Joining a virtual grief group, Jenny says, is “acting in the name of hope. The hope is, ‘I might learn something; I might be able to find support; I might be able to be a support.’”

Past participants of Optage grief groups have said:

"In our group, something magical happened. We connected on a different level, learned stories about each other and the person we're each caring for, and talked about our shared caregiving path, through all the joy and anguish that entails. Caregiving can be so isolating. This group helped me to know that I was not alone." — Anne Mickelson, Boutwells Family Connections

"When I first inquired about attending the grief group, the facilitator asked me what I was looking for. I said, 'I am looking for somewhere to belong.' That is what the group has given me…a place to belong." — Kathy Meloch, Waverly Gardens

A journey of transformation and blessing

Jenny concludes, “A lot of times, those who’ve had major losses go on to be really effective advocates or tremendous supports for people who are in the midst of pain,” adding, “Loss can break your heart, but it can also open your heart. Once it’s open, you can help so many more people.”

We at PHS are grateful for Chaplain Jenny, the Optage Hospice team and each courageous person who will share their grief and hope. Together we will expand our borders for ministering and healing during a pandemic.

Whether you live in a PHS community or several states away, you are invited to join one of our virtual grief support groups that meet by Zoom online video chat. New groups continue to form each month. Current groups that are formed or forming (each limited in size):

Upcoming Grief Groups
Held via Zoom

Finding Meaning and Purpose Through Loss
TUESDAYS | January 5-February 9
10:00-11:00 AM
(Limited to 12 people)
Caregiver Book Club:
Loving Someone Who Has Dementia
by Pauline Boss
THURSDAYS | January 7-March 11
6:30-7:30 PM
(Limited to 12 people)
A Grief Observed Book Club
Join us weekly to discuss the powerful journal
CS Lewis kept after his wife died. Ideal for those
grieving the death of a spouse.
THURSDAYS | February 4-25
1:00 PM
(Limited to 12 people)
To register for any of the Grief Groups or to ask questions, contact Jenny Schroedel via email at or call 651-341-7105.
Plus! Sign up for the Springs of Living Water e-newsletter – offering resources and tools for navigating loss.

Further reading:

Waiting for the Light: a winter solstice reflection
Needing help is okay, and even Christlike
‘Free me from pain’: a prayer of transformation
Living in the unknown – finding hope in the future

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