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Asking Permission

Heartlinks Grief Center’s Director, Diana Cuddeback, another volunteer, Mary Woesthaus and I met this week to discuss launching Heartlinks new Speakers Bureau. The purpose of the Speakers Bureau is grounded in Heartlinks’ Strategic Plan Initiative that is aimed at educating the Southwestern Illinois community about grief. The hope is that by opening a dialogue about grief we can get people thinking about how to proactively and productively help those that are grieving. And, maybe in our little part of the world here in Southwestern Illinois, we can develop a kinder, gentler attitude toward those grieving.

Our plan is to offer to speak at community groups: church groups, business groups, retirement communities, teachers, nurses, – just about anyone because grief affects everyone. Our presentation is on “Never Say These Six Things.” We are working hard on making it interactive, informative and hopefully, even fun. Heartlinks Grief Center has lots of excellent materials on their website. The link below will take you to them:

Our Heartlinks Speakers Bureau will help get that information into the general public’s hand, we hope.

As we were talking through our presentation materials, something Diana said just stopped me cold. She said, “As you speak about helpful things to say and do, be sure to mention asking permission.”

Permission?? I’d typically assumed my good intentions would be welcome. Diana, who has seen everything imaginable in her 20 plus years as a grief counselor, countered that they aren’t always. The grieving family may not be ready for the plans you have. Sometimes they just can’t talk to you yet or go to dinner yet. They may not be able to go to that fundraiser you have planned or be happy about the attention aimed towards them from the Facebook posts you make.

Oftentimes, they are ready for these acts. And when ready, they are appreciated and can go a long way to helping move a person grieving to growth on their journey. But, when they are not ready, your plans may make it even harder.

Diana’s direction was simple – ASK! Ask the grieving person and family for permission to help them. Learn to ask what will be best for them. As simple as: “May I take you to dinner?” versus “I’ve got dinner all planned.” A subtle difference that can make a difference.

Grief is as different as each of us. Each of us grieves in different ways and on different timeframes. Typically, it takes three to five years to journey through a major loss and feel “ok” again.

Diana often says, “Grief is a problem in living, not a mental health issue. It can become a mental health issue – Heartlinks is here to help that not happen.” If you are grieving or helping others grieve, dear reader, please think about where the grieving person is right now and ASK. Ask before you assume they are ready for your wonderfully well-meaning plans.

Be Blessed,


“We Grow Stronger Together”

Ellen Krohne, author of We Lost Her, available on

Heartlinks Grief Center volunteer and Family Hospice board member

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