Each group facilitator is specially trained to provide education, guidance and a safe place for people to share their experiences and emotions without judgment or expectation.
I’m 28 years old and have been a part of New Hope since September 2008 after I lost my fiance Chuck at 25 years old to a rare blood disorder. The month after his death, I found myself crying, feeling like I couldn’t go on, like I just wanted to give up. Then through multiple phone calls my mom found New Hope! I was signed up and in a group within 2 days of my phone call. New Hope saved me, and allowed me to express what I had been feeling in a group where everyone was feeling the same way as me. It gave me the tools I needed to find my new normal life.
Once I finished my group I was asked if I wanted to become a facilitator and help other grieving people. I of course knew this was something I wanted to do. Being a facilitator to young adults and teens has not only been healing for me but has also allowed me to feel like Chuck is living through me. It is because of him that I found New Hope and have been able to be a part of such an amazing organization. I am forever grateful for the time I had with Chuck and the memories I have.
I was a sophomore in college still figuring out life, when I encountered death. My Dad died. It was a sudden, unexpected death. He had an aneurysm in his aorta. From what I understood he just needed to change his lifestyle- eat healthier, exercise more, take his medication- and all would be well. He spent 11 days in the ICU. On the eleventh night my mom, sister, and I visited him. He was doing so well. However, by the time we got home, we received a call telling us that he had taken a turn for the worse. His heart stopped and they could not revive him.
I won’t forget that time of heavy grief and the experience of such deep loss. My life changed. It was that grief, loss and change that attracted me to New Hope. I personally knew how much people needed support while grieving and how lacking that support often is. New Hope was the best answer to the question, “What do I do with this loss?” Sue graciously and lovingly welcomed me into the community of New Hope. I watched as volunteers who were further down their journey of grief poured love over and supported grieving children at a Kids Camp. With one look at the work of New Hope I was immediately drawn in. It was just so evident that the people here at New Hope truly cared. I had such a longing to be around other people who understood what I was going through. I needed to know I was not going crazy and that it was normal to feel everything I felt. New Hope has helped me through my grief and given me the opportunity to use my experience of loss to help others who are grieving.
My husband, Tom, died of a brain tumor in 2003 after only a three month illness at the age of 57. It rocked my world! We met as a family with Sue, shortly after his death, and I joined a grief group a month later. I found it so helpful to hear others share about their feelings and their personal walk through their grief maze!
When my husband became ill I could not care for my aging mother, who lived across the street from us. She was beginning to have dementia and was alone after losing my father a few years before to a sudden heart attack. My sister came and moved her to Northern California where she lived for two years, before she passed away. Needless to say, I have experienced much loss and can relate to those in my groups who have lost their loved ones.
I joined New Hope as a Grief Group facilitator in 2004. It has been an honor to share in each person’s experience, to be able to guide them as they begin to heal from their grief and lead them to their New Normal.
My husband, Fred, was diagnosed with stage IV malignant melanoma cancer in May of 2008 and died on Sunday, May 2, 2010. For a while after he died I was doing pretty well, I even went to a marriage/family counselor to talk through some of the unresolved problems in our marriage. I was taking care of all the things that need to be done after a person dies and spending most of my time with friends and my kids – they were a huge help to me. But as time went on I seemed to be doing worse, not better. I was crying more, avoiding being at home, feeling pretty lost and alone, maybe even hopeless. I knew Sue Beeney and New Hope Grief Support Community, but I really didn’t think it was for me. I mean, how could anyone relate to Fred’s terrible suffering, his battle with cancer that eventually took his life? How could anyone understand my loneliness and desire to have what I could no longer have – my life with my husband? And why would I want to sit around with a group of people with one thing in common – the person they love died?
In March of 2011 a few friends suggested I go to grief counseling. I am thankful I listened to their wise advice and I am also thankful I knew who to call – New Hope. I joined a grief support group a few weeks later and found what I never imagined – people just like me – grieving, sad, lost, looking for answers, wanting and needing to talk about the person they loved. I felt like I found home and with the help of Jerry, our facilitator, we talked about the four tasks of mourning, these feelings and more. Towards the end of our sessions Jerry suggested we might want to volunteer at New Hope, giving back to this community that helped us, explaining this would help us continue on our journey of grief, working towards a “new normal”.
I took Jerry’s advice, called New Hope and asked where I could help. Well, anyone that knows Sue and New Hope knows they never turn down a volunteer and this is the best part – they do an outstanding job of helping people transition from feeling useless to knowing they are useful. I have recently finished training to be a grief facilitator – a training I know will help me come along beside new “grievers” when I return to Family Grief Camp this spring as a volunteer.
Dennis & Karen Punches
My wife, Karen, and I have facilitated New Hope support groups since 2009. We have worked overseas in both Africa and Central America, but since 2003 I have worked in long term care facilities and have been deeply touched by the grieving process among my friends. I was especially touched by a young mother battling Multiple Sclerosis. She took note that I paid close personal attention to the residents and asked me, “Is this for real or is this just a job for you?” It is a challenge I have kept close to my heart; to keep it real. New Hope has given me the opportunity to share with others who are wrestling with their grief.
I was born and raised in Long Beach, and then studied sociology at Westmont college in Santa Barbara where I met my husband Dennis. Together we have lived in many places including Quebec, Cameroon, Honduras and Texas, raised three children, and finally returned to Long Beach in 2008 to care for several elderly family members. I have a Masters in social work and I am interested in helping people heal and grow. I learned about New Hope from a mutual friend and have been leading adult grief groups individually or in tandem with my husband since 2009.
On April 29, 2007, my husband of 21 years died from brain cancer. Several months later I was referred to New Hope Grief Support Community by my pastor. The grief group was a great support and comfort to me. I learned that I was not going crazy and that all I was feeling was normal. I talked to others who understood grief. I later became a facilitator to pass forward the knowledge, support and encouragement others gave to me. The most important lesson I learned was that we don’t have to grieve alone.
I am a California native, currently living in Long Beach, just down the street from New Hope with the Beeneys. I hold a B.S. in Human Services from CSUF and I am currently in graduate school studying to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I came to New Hope in the summer of 2010 and have facilitated both Young Adult and Children’s grief groups. I initially came simply to gain experience and learn from Sue and the New Hope staff and facilitators. I deeply enjoy working with children in a small group environment. I have enjoyed creating a space where children can bond with one another and begin to cope with their loss at a pace that is comfortably suited to their unique situation and needs. It is truly a gift to be able to serve my community in a very personal and meaningful way.
When I was eighteen I met a young woman with fiery eyes, a beautiful smile and a spark of life that bubbled up out of her soul. Just two years later we were married and for twenty-eight years we worked shoulder to shoulder. We worked with youth, refurbished a house, reared four wonderful children and most important laid the foundation for growing old together. At the age of forty-five Christine had an accident which ultimately took her life.
New Hope was instrumental in giving me the tools that I needed to find peace and happiness in my torn life. I now work with New Hope to give back some bit of the support and comfort that was given to me. What a wonder this community is in so many lives!
I have a wonderful family who has allowed me wonderful opportunities to explore life’s riches in a varying number of ways — all of which took far too much time. But, looking over the years, the benefits outweighed the negatives and enabled our family to learn from each other the idea of committing fully to those who have entrusted in you that which they cherish beyond measure. My life has led me along the path where opportunities flourished and my willingness to serve developed associations and relationships that have been life-fulfilling. I had the opportunity to gain multiple graduate degrees and teach in various colleges and universities for almost 35 years. I have also served as departmental chair, coordinator and producer in two of those colleges, and produced, directed and acted in over 200 theatre, television and video productions. I have even been blessed to co-write a book on acting, function in top administrative positions dealing with career training, educational advancement and theatre festivals and associations, both in California and throughout the country, all while attending and serving on a regular basis at our family’s church, whenever and wherever needed.
Like all, my life’s journey has had its ups and downs. However through it all, I believe that the “Theatre of Life” requires each of us to serve on multiple levels, putting aside the belief that “It’s really about me”, because it’s not. At this moment in my own journey, being ready to serve, being present when needed, being able to listen and then to share and comfort are “paybacks” for that which has been provided to me from above. Helping to find significance in my own life and in the lives of others has always been one of my core values.
At this point in my life, it is important for me to help others “get back on track” with life’s opportunities. I wish for them to not be left alone, along the “side of the road,” struggling to find purpose and clarity through the confusion that comes from an enormous loss. It is for this reason that I saw the value of New Hope Grief Support. When I first heard Sue Beeney speak with passion regarding her own calling in this area, I knew I had to become a part of something very important and meaningful to those searching for answers. May this desire to assist others prosper in the lives of all with whom we will cross paths in the future.
In my life I had many loved ones pass away, and with those losses I have experienced the pain of grief that comes with them. Before the age of 21 I had already lost my father, my father-in-law, and my wife’s step father–they all were so special to me. Later in life my wife’s mother re-married to a wonderful man and after 35 years of marriage he passed away–he was the only grandpa my children knew. All these deaths were extremely hard to cope with, but through my own grieving process I became stronger, wiser, and compassionate towards others who are grieving. My wife, Susan Beeney, founded New Hope over 12 years ago. Since it’s inception I have always taken more of a behind the scenes support role. However, I recently retired and I have been moved to play more of a hands-on role at New Hope and in the lives of those who are grieving. I recently was trained by the best, my wife, and facilitated my first adult grief group this past year. My first grief group was confirmation that I am exactly where I am supposed to be–serving others. New Hope is all about people helping people, and I now get to pay it forward. I love being able to help others find hope and healing after the loss of their loved one.
Fourteen months after the death of my wife from breast cancer I read an article in the Long Beach Press Telegram about New Hope which sparked my interest in helping others who have experienced a loss. The article was the impetus not only for my involvement with New Hope but it also began my journey toward becoming a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in grief and loss. In 2010 I became Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement through the Association of Death Education and Counseling. I have been an Adult Grief Group Facilitator with New Hope since 2009.