We always hear feedback from our members and graduates of our programs about how positively Hope Connection has affected their lives. I offer, at this time, my own personal perspective of how Hope Connection has affected mine from a facilitator’s point of view.

Dr. Jo Christner profile
Dr. Jo Christner, Executive Director – HOPE Connection

I have worked over two decades as a mental health clinician with people struggling with grief, traumatized and shattered by the experiences of death.

Little did I know when I came to Hope Connection that I would learn so much more than I could ever imagine. I had to unlearn much of what I had already learned. First and foremost, I learned more about what not to do, what not to say and how not to be. Then I learned how to honor our members’ feelings, validate their experiences and their processes.

Working at Hope Connection as a group facilitator not only taught me excellent skills as a therapist trained in grief, but more importantly, how to be a more empathetic human being. I learned the invaluable power of listening on a “bare-your-soul” deeper level. I learned how to be in the presence of someone’s indescribable grief and naked pain; how not to give platitudes, but to be comfortable in the long silences; being confident speaking about death and dying and all the issues surrounding the process; being very focused on not “fixing” them, but just being with them, meeting them right where they are as they move through their grief a moment at a time.

As a licensed professional, on the other end of the spectrum of our groups, I see people when they are devastated, shocked and traumatized by the death of their loved one. As they have come into our orientations and then enter our initial groups, I see them extremely fragile, detached, angry, feeling alone, haunted, bone-weary exhausted, bewildered, utterly lost and afraid. As they transition through our group processes, I see them blossom slowly but surely. I see their first smile as they begin to adjust to their New Normal. I see their radiance as they begin to connect with others, and ultimately, I see them bloom with renewed passion and a zest for living fully again.

From that I gained their sacred trust, their respect and inclusion into the inner circle of vulnerability. This process creates tangible hope. Hope Connection opens doors to hearts, minds and inspiration. So many people have said to me, “I don’t feel so alone anymore.” “I now feel I’m a part of a larger community of people who are going through the same thing as me.” “For so long I’ve been part of a couple. Now I’m getting to know myself again as an individual.”

This is hands-on work that requires dedication, stamina, courage and the commitment to be there for the members as well as the therapists. The members invest in us, and we cannot give any less to them. Each one of us therapists jumps in with our hearts, education, experiences and our commitment to be a source of support and healing. What does not get articulated enough is how much we, as licensed therapists who facilitate these groups, gain from being such an integral part of Hope Connection. The work we do profoundly touches our hearts, gives us an ever-growing opportunity to learn more about grief and human nature and expand our knowledge about cultural diversity. It strengthens our inner core, teaches us the virtue of being patient, and renews our passion for life through this meaningful work. We know a difference is being made in the lives of the people we serve. We see the lasting evidence for decades beyond the groups’ end. This is priceless!

I thank every member whose group I have facilitated. I thank all the therapists, my exceptional fellow colleagues with whom I’ve had the privilege to collaborate. I thank our steadfast Board of Directors who serve so willingly, giving generously and tirelessly.

Most especially, I thank Dr. Jo Christner for her ardent dedication and intense passion for all things Hope Connection. As our Executive Director, she is a fierce, effective and powerful leader who gets the job done, time and time again without fail. Through her leadership we all get to witness and experience the Power of Hope.