“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” So goes the well known saying. Not a family goes unmarked by the loss of a loved one. Though time often lessens the pain, grief is a journey that lasts a lifetime.

I lost both my father and mother at young ages, not anything my friends could understand. While other supportive family filled in the gaps that were missing no one but my sister could truly understand what I was feeling. And even she and I grieved uniquely.

Southwest Michigan is truly fortunate to have a facility that specializes in walking with an individual in his or her grief journey. Lory’s Place in St. Joseph, Michigan is a grief healing and education center offering services for anyone experiencing a loss. They promote that no one is ever turned away. Founded in 2005, and named after Dr. Lory Schults who died in a traffic accident in 2004, Lory’s Place is a warm, loving environment. Large beach murals fill the walls with an extensive library of books related to death and dying.

Lead by Lisa Bartoszek and her trained staff, Lory’s Place schedules a variety of support groups that meet a range of needs. Adult, teen, and children groups, suicide loss groups, and miscarriage or still birth loss groups meet a couple of times a month with staff and trained volunteers. “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,” said Bartoszek.

Adults may write in a journal, listen to books, or share conversation. Staff often need only to start a dialogue and let the adults dictate what they need on any given night. Colorful rooms include the “shipwreck room” where kids are allowed to safely throw pillows to release frustrations and the art room where they can draw a picture or paint a memory box. Though sad events bring children to Lory’s Place one often hears laughter as children feel safe and accepted by a roomful of others who truly understand as they play. Volunteer Elaine Stephens, who works with the children, says, “I don’t find work at Lory’s Place to be sad and depressing. It is very life affirming. Personally it is very meaningful to see courageous children and families and gives me a real sense of purpose to walk with them on their journey.”

Lory’s Place now offers support groups in several area schools from New Buffalo to South Haven.

All services are free. A phone call to Lory’s Place to discuss what you need is the first step to take even if you don’t know what you need yourself. One participant summed up her experiences. “Lory’s Place fills the holes that doctors, teachers, parents, and friends aren’t quite able to. Lory’s Place floats life preservers out to people’s hearts and helps keep them afloat…until they can tread water on their own!” A teen said, “Lory’s Place has been like a checkpoint for me. I would look forward to Lory’s Place group nights, and when group was over, I would tell myself, ‘You can make it for two more weeks.’”

There was no Lory’s Place when I lost my parents. I can only imagine how my trip through life might have been easier had I been able to surround myself with other people who truly “got it.” I never wish anyone to be in the position of the participants at Lory’s Place, but should you be in that very low spot, I hope you will pick up the phone and give it a shot.

 

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Marcy Blesy

Marcy Blesy is the author of the children's picture book, "Am I Like My Daddy?", which follows the journey of seven-year-old Grace as she learns about her dad who died when she was five. This book of hope teaches children that it is normal to have incomplete memories and how to get answers to the questions they may have. She is also the author of a middle grade novel and a young adult short story trilogy. Marcy runs an elementary library and serves as a volunteer at Lory's Place, a grief education center in St. Joseph, Michigan. She lives with her husband and children in Southwest Michigan.

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