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Surviving Together: How One Woman’s Journey Through Grief Is Helping Others

By Liz Lawson Young

When Linda Frost accepted a position at CareWell Services 26 years ago, she did not expect to be facilitating grief and caregiver support groups. But life has a way of taking you on journeys you didn’t expect.

Frost began her career at CareWell, then known only as the Region 3b Area Agency on Aging, as a Supports Coordinator. She then moved on to a supervisory role for the MI Choice Waiver program, and eventually settled as the Clinical Director, a role she filled for well over a decade.

During her early years at CareWell, Frost experienced the loss of her two young grandchildren and then her daughter, all in four short years. This overwhelming grief led her to reach out to her church community for support.

“There were groups for all other types of people, but not for those experiencing grief. So, [the pastor said] why don’t you start one?” Frost remembers. 

What began as a personal request for support became a passion for Frost, which led her to facilitate various grief support groups for over eight years. 

That personal path merged with her professional one when she was offered the opportunity to transition to Dementia and Caregiver Outreach Coordinator at CareWell. Now in that position, Frost facilitates a grief support group, as well as several other groups and workshops. 

“The grief group is for anyone that experienced a loss. Right now, we’re seeing mainly those who have had spouses that have passed away. The group is open to anyone who needs support,” said Frost.

Frost recently completed a 12-week program to become a certified grief educator. The program, offered through grief expert David Kessler, equips those who have experienced grief with more tools and techniques to help others navigate their own grief. 

“My daughter has been gone now 16 years, and I thought I was pretty much through the grief process, and it’s amazing how [the training] puts you in touch of your own losses, but also helps you learn to listen and to be there in the moment with those in grief. We’re not here to fix them,” Frost said.

Since the grief support group has started, the response has been very positive. The group is offered drop-in style, so participants can come and go as they need.

“It is open for when they feel that they need extra support and they don’t have to walk that journey alone, that is the main thing,” said Frost. “That’s what I took away from [my first group]. They always say ‘don’t walk it alone.’ And it is so true.”

Frost also facilitates a Caregiver Support Circle, for those caring for a loved one with dementia. That group meets every other week and is drop-in style as well. Topics of conversations range from specific problem-solving around hygiene issues, to dealing with mood and behavior changes, to self-care.

“It’s really hard to get away and have someone come in that can watch that person stay with [their loved one]. Once you get them there, they can just breathe,” said Frost. “Let me tell you, these caregivers, they are really holding their breath and trying to dog paddle through it.”

One way that CareWell helps make attending this group easier is by providing respite care. This service is available to residents in Barry and Calhoun counties to help them get the support they need as they care for their loved one.

In addition to the support groups, Frost facilitates dementia education classes at Willard Library and leads Powerful Tools for Caregivers, a six-week workshop series that helps caregivers take better care of themselves while they care for a loved one.

Information about the various groups and programs can be found on CareWell Services’ website www.carewellservices.org/events-calendar or by calling (269) 966-2450. Frost welcomes anyone grieving the loss of a loved one or those providing care to a loved one to come try a group.

“Being involved in support groups has definitely helped me through the grief process, especially at the very beginning. I can’t sit here and say it was easy,” said Frost. “It’s possible. It is. I survived. And if I survived, they can survive too.”

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