The uncertainty of a pandemic-ravaged world has touched every city, and Rochester is no exception. One of the additional challenges this uncertainty brings is an inability to properly grieve for the loss of loved ones.

“What we’ve discovered is that there are many layers of grief going on right now,” said Ann Siverling, Mayo Clinic Hospice’s bereavement coordinator. “Families are grieving because they weren’t able to be in the hospital with their loved one, or they can’t have a celebration of life like they normally would. And on top of all that, they’re grieving the loss of their loved one.”

Ann Siverling, Mayo Clinic Hospice’s bereavement coordinator. (Contributed photo)
Ann Siverling, Mayo Clinic Hospice’s bereavement coordinator. (Contributed photo)

For those having difficulty coping with the loss of a loved one, plus the added weight of not being able to properly say goodbye, Mayo Clinic Hospice is offering virtual adult grief support groups beginning March 1.

“We hope that people will feel validated and be able to normalize their grief with others who are going through the same thing,” said Amy Stelpflug, Mayo Clinic Hospice’s volunteer coordinator. “We want people who are grieving to feel safe in a supported environment. Sometimes co-workers and even fellow family members aren’t on the same page. We just hope these groups can help people connect and feel better.”

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Amy Stelpflug, Mayo Clinic Hospice’s volunteer coordinator. (Contributed photo)
Amy Stelpflug, Mayo Clinic Hospice’s volunteer coordinator. (Contributed photo)

The grief groups will be held every Monday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 1 through April 19, via Zoom, allowing participants access from the comfort of their homes. These sessions are typically held in person, but Mayo Clinic Hospice is adjusting to virtual programming along with the rest of the world.

For those who are unsure about joining this kind of support group, Siverling and Stelpflug shared some thoughts on how people can open up, share their burden, and learn to live with their grief.

“People don’t usually want to talk about grief, or death,” Stelpflug said. “It’s why we really enjoy providing these groups to the community. They’re afraid of being shamed and don’t want to talk about it — the ideal scenario would be if our Rochester community would lean in to the concept of being there for each other. If you hear about someone who is going through something, give them a few minutes of your time to talk it out, and let them know that you’re here for them.”

“Grief is an overwhelming emotion,” Siverling said. “It can affect us physically and emotionally. Your sleeping habits, eating habits, can change. You can become restless, hyperactive, mentally forgetful. When my father died, I remember my mother telling me one day that she couldn’t read anymore — she couldn’t focus to even read one page of a book.”

They both stressed that situations like these can make anyone feel a little off, but it’s important to remember that anyone experiencing grief is not alone.

“My mom thought she was going crazy. We help people transition from thinking, "What’s wrong with me?" to helping them normalize these feelings,” Siverling said of the grief groups. “There’s always going to be good days and bad days.”

“Grief will always be part of a person’s life,” Stelpflug said. “We have to find out for ourselves how we can cope with the grief and continue on that journey, and remember that person you lost. Creating a ‘new normal’ is part of that journey, and the group can really help each other work through that.”

How to participate

What: Mayo Clinic Hospice Zoom Adult Grief Support Groups — which provide a safe way to connect with others who are grieving; to be understood; and to share needs, concerns and feelings. Recommended for anyone who has experienced a significant loss within the past three years.

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Mondays March 1-April 19

Requirements: Must have access to a computer with internet access, a microphone and a camera. Participants need to be able to meet in a private place without others present because the conversations are to be kept confidential. Must also provide an email address for receiving materials.

To register: Call 507-284-4002 or 1-800-679-9084 or email RSTHOSPICEBEREAVEMENT@mayo.edu. Registration deadline is Monday, Feb. 8.