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Support is available after loss of a loved one

Oftentimes, men and women who lose loved ones – whether a spouse or even a sibling – need more than family and friends to overcome grief. They may feel alone or overwhelmed and don’t know how to cope or heal the hole in their heart.

East Jefferson General Hospital has established a Grief Support program in partnership with the American Cancer Society called “Life after Loss” to help in this process. It’s part of the hospital’s supportive care department that works with families experiencing end-of-life issues and after a death.

Led by registered nurse Brenda Lege and co-facilitated by nurse Eunice Benson, the grief support class offers six-week sessions more than four times a year. On average, 10 to 12 adults attend each session, with a maximum group size of 20. Topics addressed during meetings include: “What to Expect”; “The Process of Grief”; “Living with Memories”; “Needs When You Are Grieving”; “Honoring Special Occasions” and “What Now?”

Sharing is therapeutic

“I am convinced that people heal the most as they share their story,” Lege said. “They need to tell their story over and over and over again. They come here to the grief group, and there are others who feel the same as them. They minister to each other.”

Lege uses a variety of techniques she has garnered over her career. She incorporates relaxation exercises to deal with stress and uses guided imagery. She said participants have had success in re-imaging their loved ones in a younger, healthier state rather than what they looked like in the last moments they were with them.

“We help them deal with reclaiming their life, often as a single person or after they have lost a loved one,” she said.

Lege’s interesting life experiences have included being a nurse since 1972,  and a Carmelite nun for 36 years, where she learned to “have a contemplative spirit” through prayer. As a nun, she was director of health services for Catholic Charities overseeing the resettlement of the Vietnamese community in New Orleans from 1975-81. That experience exposed her to non-drug, healing techniques as practiced by these newcomers.

Seeking to blend the best of east and west, she earned a master’s degree in holistic medicine at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, Calif. She returned to New Orleans and, with the blessing of her order, opened a private practice in massage therapy Uptown, where she worked for 18 years. She also taught holistic spirituality at Loyola University and has given workshops and talks on stress management.

After she left the Carmelites in 1999, she was recruited by East Jefferson General Hospital’s Wellness Center and started a massage program shortly after that. About seven years ago, she joined the supportive care department at the hospital. She feels she has come full circle in helping individuals deal with end-of-life issues and helping the sick, as well as their families, find the inner peace they need.

“I feel it’s a privilege to do this work,” Lege said.

Women express feelings

She said often the grief support class is composed mostly of women since women tend to want to talk and share on an emotional level more than men, but the men who have attended have found it just as beneficial.

She said the sessions also help individuals realize that it is OK to ask for help.

“Learning to ask for help is a growth experience for them,” Lege said.

Lege challenges participants to get out of their comfort zone and encourages them to volunteer, join a book club or attend the People Program sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph – “to find a way to reinvest in the community. You will find meaning in life by engaging in the community.”

At the end of every session, Lege asks participants to evaluate themselves as they journey toward healing. She distributes a list of additional resources detailing other local groups such as Catholic parish groups, counselors and books in case additional support is needed.

“I want them to be more comfortable in their grieving process,” she said, “to know that they are not alone.”

Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Oftentimes, men and women who lose loved ones – whether a spouse or even a sibling – need more than family and friends to overcome grief. They may feel alone or overwhelmed and don’t know how to cope or heal the hole in their heart.

East Jefferson General Hospital has established a Grief Support program in partnership with the American Cancer Society called “Life after Loss” to help in this process. It’s part of the hospital’s supportive care department that works with families experiencing end-of-life issues and after a death.

Led by registered nurse Brenda Lege and co-facilitated by nurse Eunice Benson, the grief support class offers six-week sessions more than four times a year. On average, 10 to 12 adults attend each session, with a maximum group size of 20. Topics addressed during meetings include: “What to Expect”; “The Process of Grief”; “Living with Memories”; “Needs When You Are Grieving”; “Honoring Special Occasions” and “What Now?”

Sharing is therapeutic

“I am convinced that people heal the most as they share their story,” Lege said. “They need to tell their story over and over and over again. They come here to the grief group, and there are others who feel the same as them. They minister to each other.”

Lege uses a variety of techniques she has garnered over her career. She incorporates relaxation exercises to deal with stress and uses guided imagery. She said participants have had success in re-imaging their loved ones in a younger, healthier state rather than what they looked like in the last moments they were with them.

“We help them deal with reclaiming their life, often as a single person or after they have lost a loved one,” she said.

Lege’s interesting life experiences have included being a nurse since 1972,  and a Carmelite nun for 36 years, where she learned to “have a contemplative spirit” through prayer. As a nun, she was director of health services for Catholic Charities overseeing the resettlement of the Vietnamese community in New Orleans from 1975-81. That experience exposed her to non-drug, healing techniques as practiced by these newcomers.

Seeking to blend the best of east and west, she earned a master’s degree in holistic medicine at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, Calif. She returned to New Orleans and, with the blessing of her order, opened a private practice in massage therapy Uptown, where she worked for 18 years. She also taught holistic spirituality at Loyola University and has given workshops and talks on stress management.

After she left the Carmelites in 1999, she was recruited by East Jefferson General Hospital’s Wellness Center and started a massage program shortly after that. About seven years ago, she joined the supportive care department at the hospital. She feels she has come full circle in helping individuals deal with end-of-life issues and helping the sick, as well as their families, find the inner peace they need.

“I feel it’s a privilege to do this work,” Lege said.

Women express feelings

She said often the grief support class is composed mostly of women since women tend to want to talk and share on an emotional level more than men, but the men who have attended have found it just as beneficial.

She said the sessions also help individuals realize that it is OK to ask for help.

“Learning to ask for help is a growth experience for them,” Lege said.

Lege challenges participants to get out of their comfort zone and encourages them to volunteer, join a book club or attend the People Program sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph – “to find a way to reinvest in the community. You will find meaning in life by engaging in the community.”

At the end of every session, Lege asks participants to evaluate themselves as they journey toward healing. She distributes a list of additional resources detailing other local groups such as Catholic parish groups, counselors and books in case additional support is needed.

“I want them to be more comfortable in their grieving process,” she said, “to know that they are not alone.”

Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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