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Healing hurting hearts

Healing Hurting Hearts Grief Support Group had its first session at the Senior Gathering Place in Prescott on Feb. 3. They held an initial three sessions and will resume April 3. Pictured (from left) are the women who started this programz: Penny Peterson, Cyndi Cashman, Joann Vaughan and Lisa Benedict. Submitted photo1 / 2
Donna Mathiowetz is one of the co-facilitators for the Healing Hurting Hearts Grief Support Group. She brings her own personal experience from losing her two teenage sons within two years of each other and her expertise as an inspirational speaker and author. Submitted photo2 / 2

Losing a loved one is a difficult time in most people's lives. Not knowing who to talk to or what are "normal" feelings during grief can make this depressing time even worse for some. But there is a new group in Prescott who helps people coping with the loss of a loved one.

Cyndi Cashman, who owns a hair salon in Prescott, said she saw people suffering from loss in the past few years and wanted to have a place for them to go in town to get help for grief. This led to the idea for Healing Hurting Hearts Grief Support Group.

Since Cashman is a Community Education board member, she thought a grief program could be facilitated by them.

"This [grief support] group seemed like it would be a great fit for the Senior Center also and hopefully those grieving would also find comfort in other events held at the Senior Center and be among 'friends,'" said Cashman.

Prescott Community Education Director Penny Peterson said Cashman came to her with her idea.

"Grief plays a role in each of our lives," Peterson said. "It's hard. Often devastating. As a community, it's our duty to look out for those in need of help and support and do what we can to make their lives a little easier."

Donna Mathiowetz, an inspirational speaker and author, brings her personal experience and knowledge from having suffered her own grief when she lost her two teenage sons within two years of each other.

The Healing Hurting Hearts Grief Support Group, Mathiowetz said, dedicates 30 minutes to an education piece and one hour to small group discussions. From her own grief experience, Mathiowetz said she didn't know what she was going through was similar to other people's reactions to grief.

"It was helpful for me to know a lot of things I was feeling were normal," Mathiowetz said. "[Grief support group] helps them normalize the grief, helps them feel assured that what they are feeling is normal."

Joann Vaughan, co-facilitator of the grief group and a retired mental health counselor, said she went through the loss of her husband in December; she sees the group bringing together people who share a common life experience in losing a loved one.

"They have the common bond," Vaughan said. "People will seek out each other. [They] have these people to help them along outside of the support group."

Lisa Benedict, of O'Connell-Benedict Family Funeral Homes, said this new support group will offer people grieving a place in the community to come for help.

"We wanted to offer a caring environment and helpful strategies for taking a few more steps toward healing their hurting hearts," Benedict said. "Our hopes are that we can provide a caring environment for those that are grieving a loss or losses, help them understand the grief process, feel support and connected with others, as well as finding helpful strategies in moving forward and navigating this grief path."

Mathiowetz said everyone's grief experience is different; the time it takes someone to feel "normal" again varies. But she said this group offers people support and the knowledge that things will get better.

"The intensity and longevity is different for everyone," Mathiowetz said. "Every relationship is different. Intense feelings [of pain] will pass over time or lessen."

Mathiowetz said the group is beneficial even for those who have not personally experienced a loss. Many times someone at work or in the community has experienced a loss and knowing how to react and treat that person after a loss is important.

Mathiowetz said many people, when they return to work after losing a loved one, feel "invisible" because co-workers don't know how to treat them or what to say. She said this support group may help others understand what a grieving person may need.

"There's so many times in that situation you don't know what to say or do," Vaughan said. "Learn to understand what is happening."

Understanding what someone is going through and caring about their situation, Cashman said, is important.

"Everyone has lost someone in their lives that can help us be sympathetic at least," Cashman said.

Mathiowetz said the support group is helpful to so many people.

"I have found it [Healing Hurting Hearts Grief Support Group] helpful for people not grieving, but have people in their group grieving," Mathiowetz said. "Help them learn to support and understand others that are grieving."

Those involved know this support group can benefit community members in need.

"As a funeral director and an owner of O'Connell-Benedict Family Funeral Home," Benedict said, "we are honored to serve those in the community and feel this is a small and valuable way to give back for those who are navigating through the grief process."

The support group had their initial sessions Feb. 6-20 and will resume on April 3. Healing Hurting Hearts Support Group is held at The Senior Gathering Place (1220 St. Croix St., Prescott); sessions start at 1 p.m.

"There is no cost to participate and all are welcome," Benedict said. "We will offer different educational pieces along with a time for sharing."