By JACKIE HORLICK | Special to the Palisadian-Post
“I reached that point in life where I was content with what I had created: a good marriage, a ‘best-friend’ relationship with my only child, Erika, a career I loved, incredible friends and a comfortable home in the Palisades,” Susan Whitmore said about her life.
Then the devastating news hit: Erika had a rare and potentially lethal sinus cancer. Contentment was replaced with shock and terror. Susan’s life became one dedicated to caring for Erika.
Tragically, despite unwavering effort, Erika died a year later at the age of 32.
“As the pain came flooding in, I was shocked at how relentless, scary and life-altering it was,” Susan recalled. “I knew I was in trouble and needed help.”
She began searching for specific types of grief support, quickly learning that the options were few. So, she conducted her own research, discovering different approaches to grief and techniques that helped her find a way forward while living in the abyss of unbearable anguish.
That is when Susan knew she had to create a place where she could bring those same practices to others … and griefHaven was born.
“Thank you griefHaven for all of the goodness, kindness and support you give to so many on this path.”
Susan founded griefHaven in 2003, one year after Erika’s death. griefHaven, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a true haven for those in grief.
Here is a safe place for those grieving to express their feelings of loss and hopelessness, to ask questions, to learn grief techniques, and to share with others who have experienced life-altering loss.
Shortly thereafter, Pam Solomon and Beth Abrams started Friends of griefHaven, a team of dedicated volunteers who lovingly give their time to fundraise so that griefHaven can continue its important work.
Susan and the griefHaven therapists and counselors—all grief specialists and with their own personal losses—offer unique and effective grief support, grief education, and specific grief tools that are partially driven by the latest findings in science of the grieving brain.
Their grief work also includes supporting those who cannot afford grief counseling. Through ongoing grief support groups, private grief counseling, community outreach, crisis response and so much more, griefHaven strives to help all in need on their grief journey.
“Because you understand our grief, you make it possible for us to understand it, which in my view is an important part of the bereavement process.”
griefHaven’s highly trained specialists help people understand that life will not always be filled with gut-wrenching pain and hopelessness after their loss—and they give people the tools and guidance to begin rebuilding their lives.
“You give me hope. You know my pain … you are a Godsend.”
Every day, griefHaven assists those who experience the devastating loss of someone they love: a child, a sibling, a spouse or another family member. And with each loss, many others are often impacted.
The pain and heartache often radiate through an entire neighborhood, school, business or faith community. These organizations call on griefHaven during such traumatic times to provide counseling and educational support utilizing counselors, workshops and speakers.
For those who cannot receive counseling in person or over the phone, griefHaven’s website is an ongoing source of comfort and grief resources. The website, griefHaven.org, receives over 100,000 unique visits every month from people all over the world seeking help and hope on their grief journey.
The website, for thousands worldwide, has been a saving grace.
“The first thing I do every morning is go to your website. When I can’t sleep at night, your website gives me hope. Thank you for creating this safe haven for us.”
Susan and the work of griefHaven has been seen on television, heard on the radio and written about in numerous articles, such as “Good Morning America,” CBS News and NPR, to name a few.
Susan is an acclaimed keynote speaker (Illinois 19th Circuit Court of Judges, Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, CURE Childhood Cancer and many others). griefHaven’s resources and website are referenced throughout the internet, at conferences around the world, and by countless individuals and organizations dealing with the deaths of loved ones.
“As a first responder, when someone has died, we leave a brochure with the family, so they know where to turn for support.”
Many generous people contribute to various organizations for medical research, children’s hospitals, prevention of drunk driving, help with addiction and other good causes.
Yet where do people turn when, unfortunately, these benevolent causes do not save their loved one? They turn to griefHaven, an organization unlike any other.
“This gift you gave us has pulled us through many difficult times. We cannot thank you enough.”
Hopefully, after reading this, you will either join the griefHaven October 29 “Live Your Best Life” Luncheon at the Luxe Hotel, or if you cannot attend, you will make a difference by giving to this important organization, which changes lives every day.
You may contribute on the website at griefHaven.org or privately by calling 310-459-1789.
“Attending a griefHaven event is inspirational and left me with a feeling of warmth, remembering what matters in life, and knowing that by being there I made a difference.”
Please join Susan Whitmore and the Friends of griefHaven for the upcoming “Live Your Best Life” Luncheon with guest speaker Catherine Gray, a trailblazing producer, author and talk show host.
At griefHaven you matter, any loss you have experienced matters and your support matters.
The Live Your Best Life Luncheon will take place on October 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Luxe Hotel, located at 11461 Sunset Blvd. For more information, visit griefHaven.org or call 310-459-1789.
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