No matter the circumstances, the loss of a beloved partner is a life-shaking event that comes with a host of aftershocks, from navigating healthcare to settling estates to the process of grieving itself.
And according to SAGE, a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of older LGBTQ+ people, nine out of 10 individuals surveyed are worried about discrimination in care settings if providers found out about their sexual orientation or gender identity, including after the death of a partner.
Tidewell's Family Grief Support Center in Ellenton is looking to change that.
This Pride Month, Tidewell has re-launched its "Journeying Through LGBTQ+ Grief and Loss" program, a six-week support group that meets every Thursday at 10 a.m. The group is free of charge to participants and members, no matter how long ago their loved ones passed.
Tidewell's CEO Jonathan Fleece says that, as the country celebrates Pride Month this June, the center is "honored" to offer this kind of support.
Tidewell grief specialist Callie Weber adds that the demand has been high.
"We are happy to provide this safe and welcoming space, which we believe will be effective for participants," she says.
Groups will be run by certified grief support counselors and art therapists. The art-based program will offer a variety of therapeutic modalities for individuals to process their grief. Each session will begin with "getting to know you" time, in which participants can share the story of their loved one who died.
Individuals will also learn about the grief process, including recognizing the difference between normal grieving and larger mental health concerns, how to create a support system and self-care techniques.
"At the end of the session, we look to the future," says Weber. "We ask who each person wants to be in this next chapter of life, and how we can healthily incorporate memories of the person who passed away."
Tidewell offered a similar ongoing group a few years ago, and Weber says past participants found it life-changing. It provides a safe and confidential space to openly discuss identity, especially for older folks who've had a difficult history coming out.
Plus, grief is often seen as something we just move on from after a period of time.
"Anyone who's lost someone understands that grieving is an ongoing process," Weber says.
She adds that it's a good idea to explain to those around you that you are seeking additional support to process grief and that you'll need outside support from them, too. She says friends and family are typically very encouraging.
If you feel like you need more help, Tidewell can connect you with higher levels of care, community partners and LGBTQ+ groups. Tidewell also offers free one-on-one sessions with their grief counselors.
"It doesn't matter how long ago a loved one passed," Weber says. "You are still welcome here."
Tidewell Family Grief Center's Journeying through LGBTQ+ Grief and Loss will begin Thursday, June 9 and end Thursday, July 14. Another group is expected to take place in the fall. The center is located at 4151 37th St. E., Palmetto. To register for the group, click here or call (941) 845-3061.