Kayla WaldschmidtSlinger, Wisconsin, United States
Horizon Grief Resource Center
I'm most proud of the lasting impact I have on people's lives. I get to see people heal and get better. It is rewarding to see someone grow within a support group--to go from only being able to say their name before they cry, to talking throughout a group session; or have a past client return to just say “hello”, or when they are experiencing a new loss and know I can help.
Since 2007, I have been the lead bereavement coordinator for Horizon Home Care & Hospice, Grief Resource Center Program, a non-profit healthcare organization, which employs 450-500 people. We serve all of southeastern Wisconsin. In addition to our main location which houses our administrative offices and Grief Resource Center program, we have one satellite office located in a rural county and an inpatient hospice inside a local hospital.
The Grief Resource Center program is six years old. All of our services are provided free of charge to anyone in the community experiencing grief and loss which makes my job special. The Center currently has one full-time therapist, one part-time therapist and an army of volunteers with the goal of expanding paid staff as we grow.
The most exciting part of my job is the variety. Whether it's counseling, facilitating support groups, public speaking, running a workshop, giving a television interview, providing phone support, writing or providing a referral, each day is different and challenging and offers me the autonomy to continue to expand and create new avenues for grief support.
Here’s a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• How to empathize versus sympathize.
• How to guard against compassion fatigue/burnout while doing this work.
• How to build a grief program.
• How to meet the needs of the bereaved in order to facilitate healing.
• How to build community.
After graduate school, I worked for Lutheran Social Services as a crisis counselor doing in-home counseling with families referred by Social Services. Several of the families I worked with were experiencing grief and loss--having children die or murdered, being placed in foster care, etc. I found I had a passion for working with grief and began pursuing additional education in this area.
At the end of my first year of employment at Lutheran Social Services, one of my 16-year-old clients died by suicide. For the next year, I provided grief counseling for his mother. This solidified for me that this was the career direction I was meant to pursue. I wanted to connect with those experiencing deep pain from loss and help them heal and again find meaning in their lives. I found the only grieve center in the state and went to work for them.
I am a licensed professional counselor in Wisconsin with a masters in community counseling. In addition to being the bereavement coordinator for our hospice department, I am a counselor for our Grief Resource Center which serves clients of all demographics experiencing grief and loss.
Although we offer free services that doesn’t mean people are knocking down the door to get in. Because we are a non-profit, we have no advertising budget so we have to get creative and get out in the community to connect with people. We want to be able to reach anyone who needs our help either in a group setting or individual basis. Through my experience I have learned when my clients start to feel better they are not always able to handle listening to a newly bereaved person share their intense pain. So, we need to provide on-going, separate support to continue the healing process.