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FALL  2016

In This Issue of DFQ  
MeganHonoring Megan - by Shelley Christenson

T hink of the impact the birth of a child has on a family! It's no wonder a too-soon departure from this earth tears at the fabric of so many lives.

Megan Christenson pictured with her sister, Kaitlin.
Our dear daughter, Megan - loving daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend - packed a lot into her nearly 20 years. Friendly and outgoing, she epitomized the expression never met a stranger.
Megan was a Dean's List sophomore at Virginia Tech, majoring in French, English, and Communications. She died in a DUI crash near the campus. The drivers of both cars walked away uninjured. Just five days before, Megan had renewed her driver's license. She came home and proudly showed me the heart on her new license.
She said it was her wish to be a donor. We could never have anticipated that happening so soon.
Megan became a tissue donor, and her gifts helped 49 individuals from California to New Jersey have an improved quality of life. It has been helpful for us to know her wishes were carried out, and she is now a part of so many others' lives.
Mailings from the good people at LifeNet Health seemed to come at just the right time to lend support when we needed it. Invitations to events such as the In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony, holiday tree lighting, tribute album retreats and creative workshops have allowed us to meet other families and share our stories.
Creating a quilt square for a memorial quilt and working on a tribute album of my daughter have helped me to remember and celebrate her. This is an expression of my love.
The LifeNet Health Grief Companion program pairs newer donor family members with a trained donor family member to talk about their loved one. In an effort to support others as we have received support, Megan's Dad and I have become volunteers at LifeNet Health. We have met grateful recipients, donor families, and LifeNet Health personnel, and feel honored by their presence in our lives.
By Shelley Christenson, 15 years, 8+ months out 

HealingTears Healing Tears by Dr. Lani Leary

Dear Dr. Leary:
I find myself not talking about my loved one much because I don't want to burden anyone...and I think some people are tired of listening to me.  How can I handle this? I don't want to go to a counselor. I just want to talk about my loved one! - Anne
Dear Anne:
Grief is natural and universal, and needs to be supported, shared and expressed. As unique as grief is to each of us, so is how we share and express it. The support you are asking for is to be heard, without others' impatience of getting on with it or judgment that you are a burden.
The greatest comfort to our grief is validation and another person's genuine presence. Unfortunately, we often must educate and guide others who have not experienced a loss, and provide a roadmap of what we need. It takes energy that you may feel you don't have right now, but when you do gather your resources, then identify a friend or family member who you trust. Ask directly for what you need, and ask for a mutually convenient time when you might be able to talk about your loved one.
I've had conversations with a well-meaning friend who did not know how to support me by saying something like, "I trust that you care about me, and I don't expect you to know what I need. Right now I am feeling alone without my father, and I feel worse when no one will talk with me about him. Would you be willing to listen to my stories of him, and share your own remembrances? Can we do that soon?"
I will also tell my inner circle of supporters that I have learned that every loss deserves a hundred tellings. So again, I ask directly that they allow me to tell the same story, or reminisce and repeat memories as often as I feel the need. "Please don't tell me that I've already told you that story." 
Friends don't have to know what to say. Others do not have to understand our situation or have been through a death in order to accept, validate, or honor our grief. Ask them to be present silently, companioning you with a walk, or listening to music, or sharing a kindness. Just being there for you is validating, and honors what you are going through. Just by acknowledging your loss, your friend enters into your world. Their genuine questions and curiosity about your loved one allows you to share your feelings and the long road of grief.
As you share your grief and talk about your loved one, you come to accept the reality of the death, and understand your wide range of feelings. In the process, you will navigate your grief, and come to understand what you need, what will help, and what won't. You are the expert on your grief. Others who have not yet had to experience loss do not know that it is a never-ending story, and there is no such thing as closure. Others can support you so that grief softens, and you find meaning in a new world without your loved one. What you are asking for is reasonable; you want to give your sorrow words, and you want others to face the grief with you rather than stay mute or turn away.
My Sincere Condolences

Dr. Leary is a psychologist and certified grief therapist who consults with LifeNet Health. Her responses reflect her professional opinion to general questions. Individuals struggling with complicated grief are encouraged to seek the care of a professional. Please submit your questions to Debbie Hutt, LifeNet Health, 1864 Concert Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23453, or visit Healing Tears at www.healingthespirit.org 

treeVirginia Tree of Remembrance Ceremonies: Save-the-dates
Please join us for the annual LifeNet Health Tree of Remembrance Ceremonies:
  • Richmond area: Thursday, December 1st at the UNOS building
  • Roanoke area: Sunday, December 4th at the Hotel Roanoke
  • Virginia Beach area: Wednesday, December 7th at the Concert Drive office
Bring your own ornament to hang on the tree in memory of your loved one.
Call Carolyn Wolford at 757-609-4671 or email Carolyn.wolford@lifenethealth.org  to RSVP or for more information on any of these events. We look forward to seeing you!

holidaysRemembering loved ones during the holidays
There's no way around it. After someone important to you dies, the holidays are never the same again. Family traditions, seasonal recipes, holiday events, parties, songs, movies - the grief triggers are everywhere. Avoidance and denial are popular coping tactics, but we suggest a different approach. Instead, try keeping your loved one's memory alive by continuing to make them a part of your holiday season.

Here are 17 ways to remember loved ones during the holidays:
  1. Photos: Display old photo albums in a location accessible to holiday visitors. People can't resist a well-placed photo album. Before you know it, you'll be reminiscing and telling stories with family and friends. Are all of your photos digital? Make an album featuring your loved one. Shutterfly and Snapfish have great deals on photo products this time of year. After you receive your album you might want to share it with others who would appreciate the photos.
  2. Videos: Get out the old home videos. Yes, you may get emotional. But it might be comforting to see your loved one up on the TV screen. Again, it's a great opportunity for storytelling and reminiscing. If you're anything like me, you may also end up in stitches over the ridiculous outfit you wore to Thanksgiving in '01. 
  3. Gift: After a loss it can be hard to part with your loved one's belongings. The holidays present the perfect opportunity to give away some of those things, especially if you want to make sure old treasures go to good homes. Wrap up a few of your loved one's old things and give them to family and friends who will appreciate them. Write a card letting the recipient know why you chose to give them this particular item. I guarantee you they will adore the gift and the sentiment. 
  4. Share: Create a special place for people to write down memories. Put out a marker and paper or plain wooden ornaments. Friends and family can hang the ornaments or leave the memories in an old stocking or empty gift box. When everyone is gathered together, read the memories aloud.
  5. Donate: Give to a cause in your loved one's name. Choose a charity your loved one would have supported. During the holidays, churches, synagogues, food pantries, shelters, nursing homes, Salvation Army and Toys for Tots are all very active. When you see a gift your loved one would have liked, go ahead and buy it. Donate it to a charity or give it to someone as gift.
  6. Write: It may be too difficult to send out the annual family holiday cards. Don't feel guilty. Instead, take an hour to write a few cards to thank the military and send them through the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes project.
  7. Volunteer: Give your time to others in need. You might choose a cause your loved one worked with or supported. Or, if you're feeling lonely, volunteer at a retirement home where you can sit and talk to those you are helping.
  8. Honor: Light a candle in honor of your loved one. Leave it burning during days when you think you'll miss them the most. Warm up: Donate your loved one's old coats to www.onewarmcoat.org.
  9. Remember: Set a place for your loved one at the dinner table. Would it be too hard to see the seat left empty? Invite someone from your loved one's past to dinner.
  10. Gather: Invite your family and friends to a holiday potluck. Ask guests to make a dish that your loved one liked.
  11. Craft: Buy or make a memorial ornament.
  12. Cook: Use your loved one's old recipe(s) to make holiday cookies or a holiday dinner.
  13. Reconnect: Send a holiday card to someone from your loved one's past with whom they may have lost touch. 
  14. Visit: Spend time in a place where you feel close to your loved one. You could also spend time watching their favorite holiday movies or listening to their favorite holiday songs.
  15. Travel: Take the trip you have been planning or dreaming about.
  16. Give: Wrap a framed photo of your loved one and give it to someone who also misses them.
  17. Take care of yourself: Attend a workshop or support group for people dealing with a loss during the holidays. Remember, your loved one would have wanted you to have the support you need.

Submitted by Eleanor, blogging on the What's Your Grief website. 

LNHNWGreetings from LifeNet Health Northwest
It was a busy summer at LifeNet Health Northwest!
In August, we hosted a grief workshop for families in central Washington. We had a great turnout, and everyone stayed busy working on their memory boxes while sharing close memories of their loved ones.

The 2016 In Celebration & Remembrance ceremonies kicked off with local eye bank, SightLife, at the Federal Way Community Center in Federal Way, Washington. We were honored to have two tissue recipients and one cornea recipient speak. This event was a very inspirational one because of the love and compassion that filled the room.
"In the beginning there were a few hesitant family members not really knowing what to expect, but after our sand ceremony, you could see the peacefulness and smiles that overcame everyone in that room," said Debbie Hutt, Director of Donor Family Services.
The guest list consisted of 50 donor family members, recipients and their families as well as LifeNet Health and SightLife staff and family. Many thanks to Donna Bishop, Debbie Hutt and Chandler Brownlee for flying out west for the event!

Our first guest speaker was David Hartley, a tissue recipient. David has been an inspiration to us all, spreading the word about donation. David is a loving father who spoke about his recovery after a motorcycle accident. David couldn't be more thankful to his donor family. To celebrate his birthday, he hiked Mt. Rainier in honor of his donor and their family.
Our second guest speaker was a bubbly, energetic 26-year-old named Anna Eggink. Anna is a tissue recipient...twice! She suffered bilateral patella substitution with both of her knees for all of her life. Anna would always have to have her phone by her in case she fell, she would always wonder if she could get up from the couch and walk to the kitchen without dislocating both knees and falling to the ground. After seeing different surgeons, finally one suggested they try using tissue donation as an option. Anna is now six months post-op from her second successful knee surgery.
"Thanks to the gift of donated tissue, I now am recovering and soon will be able to walk without fear of my knees dislocating, said Anna. "For the first time in my life, I will be able to walk my dog and not have to have a constant clutch on my phone. Thanks to your gift, I will be able to dance at my upcoming wedding without fear."
In September, LifeNet Health held a small but significant In Celebration & Remembrance event at the Spokane Convention Center.  
Another In Celebration & Remembrance event was held in Billings, Montana. This event was very intimate and special with Penny Clifton from St. Vincent Hospital and Chandler Brownlee, National Tissue Development Manager, in attendance. Three brave donor families shared their stories. It was truly a wonderful and heartwarming event in beautiful Montana.
Creating Lasting Memories: Families with their memory boxes




David Hartley, tissue recipient

Anna Eggink, tissue recipient

At the In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony in WA, from left to right, back row, William Miller, Chandler Brownlee, Patrick Avery, Levi Anderson, Rebecca Grossman, Belinda Jensen, Deitra Crawford, and Michael Rapien. From left to right, front row: Sabrina Cleveland, Sarah Edison, Deborah Hutt, Donna Bishop, Meigan Fey, Allison Paul, Catherine Kouchakji, Noreen Sutton, Brenda Wolsey and Sherry Anderson.  


Chandler Brownlee visits with family members at the In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony

Charlie and Danny remembering their dad, Tyler, at the IC&R ceremony.  

Families at the In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony
Noreen Sutton, Donor Family Advocate

mullinMeet Maureen Mullin, Donor Family Advocate
Maureen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Iowa and a Master of Science in Community Health Education from Old Dominion University. She has worked with nursing home residents and their families, developed health education and stress management programs, and provided health coaching for government employees.
"My interest in working for LifeNet Health came from an experience I had walking alongside my friend during her grief over losing her 18-year-old son, Bradley to a head trauma accident," said Maureen. "Bradley was an organ donor and I saw the profound impact this had on my friend and her family. The fact that people's lives were saved and others' lives were improved by Bradley's gifts gave my friend and her family a sense that something good could come from their tragic loss. I feel honored to be a part of LifeNet Health and to work with donor families."
MichealMichael Reilly, Donor Family Advocate, Retires After 15 Years of Service
From left to right, Robin Cowherd, Debbie Hutt,  Michael Reilly and Tim Jankiewicz
On August 26th, after 15 years of dedicated service to LifeNet Health, Michael Reilly retired from Donor Family Services.
From left to right: Bill Nuckolls,  Maryann Nuckolls, Michael Reilly
Many thanks to everyone who attended Michael's retirement party, especially the donor families who were able to attend and those sending well wishes. It was a very special event
scrapSign up for Scrapbooking Saturdays
Scrapbooking Saturdays will be January 21st & July 15th in the Virginia Beach office on Concert Drive.
Please call 757-609-4671 for more information or to RSVP.

Northwest Florida Celebrates and Remembers Donors and their Families
LifeNet Health Florida, LifeQuest OPO and Lions Eye Institute held an evening to remember with the 9th annual In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony. The gathering was held on Sunday, October 16th at Sanders Beach Community Center in Pensacola, Florida. "This was the first year LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services collaborated with LifeNet Health enabling us to reach more families and provide more outreach services," according to Louanne White, Operations Manager and Donor Family Advocate. "It was our largest ceremony to date," added White.

The evening was filled with memories, tears and laughter as families came together for this very special event. The evening was hosted by Debbie Hutt, Director of LifeNet Health Donor Family Services. Speakers included Cory Hebert, Regional Services Manager for Lions Eye Institute, Donna Cottle, Donor Family Services Coordinator for LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services and Angela Bottesini, Executive Director of Major Gifts for Covenant Hospice.

Donor family members, Randy and Eva Joiner shared their story of their daughter Jordan's gift of eye donation and what it meant for their daughter to be able to donate for research as well, which in turn will help countless others have the gift of sight in the future. Donor parents, Joe and Jody Hair shared how their daughter Madison was able to save four lives through organ donation when her life was cut short by an automobile accident. Singer Jamal "JB" Brown gave a beautiful tribute to donor families by performing "I'll See You Again" by Westlake. Families were invited to light a candle in honor of their loved one and share a few words about them, if they felt led to do so.

Rebecca Winkler, wife of donor Richard Winkler, stated, "I thought the ceremony was amazing. The honor you bestowed on our loved ones was beautiful. To acknowledge the gift they gave in their leaving was of the highest honor. The food, pins, memory table, lighting of the candle and building of the sand was all just perfect."

Donor family members Randy and Eva Joiner

Singer Jamal "JB" Brown gave a beautiful tribute to donor families by performing "I'll See You Again" by Westlake.

LifeNet Health Florida, LifeQuest OPO and Lions Eye Institute held an evening to remember with the 9th annual In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony
Visit our website for more grief and loss support.