Sytsema’s grief support and community education specialist, Keri Verwolf, has helped develop the programs and said they wanted to serve a wider variety of people.
“We’ve kind of expanded it to offer more of a variety of things because people grieve so differently,” Verwolf said. “There are people who would rather just talk one on one, so we offer that. There are people who need fresh air and companionship, so we do a walking group, which is kind of a cool alternative for people who are too intimidated to come talk one on one — but as we’re walking, they talk.”
The services offered are free and begin in September, including a four-week grief educational series called Walking on Waves, book studies and one-on-one support. Sytsema also has connections to support groups for all ages.
“I love this work because our goal isn’t money or recognition or anything," Verwolf said. "Our goal is truly to help these people heal."
Verwolf said most people do not think of them as a place to find grief support, and she wants to change that stigma.
“Because we’re a funeral home, we understand grief and we want to become experts in that, and the care we have for our families goes way beyond the end of the funeral service,” she said.
Having gone through the grieving process herself, Verwolf said the work is meaningful to her by helping others through their journey.
“I’m so honored that people would choose to share their stories with me and their journeys when they come in to chat one on one or come walking on the waves,” she said. “It’s just a huge privilege that they would open up and share, because sharing is what brings healing. Keeping it inside doesn’t let you heal. So, to be the one walking alongside them is overwhelming, in a good way.”
Walking on the Waves does not require signing up, but the funeral business asks community members to RSVP to Verwolf by email or call for the grief educational series. To sign-up or learn more about the programs, she can be reached at 231-855-6688 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sytsema Compass Services:
Four-week Grief Educational Series
Wednesdays in September (4, 11, 18, 25) at Sytsema Lee Chapel, 2-4 p.m. or 5:15-7:15 p.m.
Walking on Waves:
Six-week walking group begins Sept. 17 and continues every Tuesday from 4-5 p.m. along Shoreline Trail
One-on-one support by appointment