LifeNet Health and Healing the Spirit are registered trademarks of LifeNet Health, Inc.

FALL  2014

storyThe Never Ending Story

The history of the Tournament of Roses parade dates back over a hundred years. Since that first rose parade in Pasadena, the event has flourished in popularity and is viewed by tens of millions of people.

It seems fitting this venue be used to inspire others to save and restore lives through organ, tissue and eye donation. Since 2004, the Donate Life float has become a beautiful centerpiece of the annual rose parade on New Year's Day.  

This year's Donate Life float theme is The Never Ending Story. Every donation of organs, tissue and eyes begins an inspiring story that lives on forever. In their passing, donors open up a world of health, sight and mobility to people in need. Grateful transplant recipients can continue to contribute to their families and communities. Through its endless power to save, restore and transform lives, organ, tissue and eye donation is truly a never-ending story.

This year will mark the third time LifeNet Health has participated in the rose parade.We are proud to team up with our colleagues at Bridge to Life, a biotechnology company, to sponsor one of the 72 floragraphs on the 2015 Donate Life rose parade float.

Ethan Troy Williams will be memorialized on the 2015 Donate Life float.

Ethan Troy Williams, who became an eye, tissue, and organ donor in 2011, will be memorialized on the 2015 Donate Life float.


With his decision to be a donor, Ethan helped over eighty people, including three who received transplantations of his liver and kidneys. Two people gained sight with his donation.


Ethan was a student at Old Dominion University and worked in the electronic security industry. He loved sailing and had a wonderful sense of humor.


Ethan's wife Julia nominated his parents, Judi Jones and Troy Williams, to travel to Pasadena for the rose parade. Julia explained that Ethan's mom always loved the rose parade. Now it has become even more special to her, knowing that some of those roses are dedicated to Ethan's life.

HealingTearsHealing Tears by Dr. Lani Leary



Dear Dr. Lani,

 I am uncomfortable with public displays of emotion and don't understand the value of public remembrances. Can you help me understand others' need for sharing their grief in this way? -- Puzzled


Dear Puzzled,


Public remembrances serve many purposes, in ways that are spiritually significant, practical, and emotionally healing. Remembrances, ceremonies, and rituals help the bereaved address one of their greatest needs, that is, to not feel alone or emotionally abandoned after the death of a loved one.


Public remembrances symbolize ideas, beliefs, and values about life, death, and relationships. Rituals and ceremonies help to validate the reality of loss and the feelings connected to that significant loss and change in the survivors' lives. Public sharing about one's loss and the grief that is felt helps to connect the bereaved to their extended family, community, and to others who have gone before them in grief. In the remembrance we share memories of the person who has died, but also our traditions, values, and the meaning and place that person held is our lives.


Rituals are actions done in purposeful ways that symbolize something much more than the acts themselves. After such a life-changing event as the death of a loved one, most people need repeated rituals in order to accept the reality of the death, and to adjust to their new life. Rituals are made up of activities and arrangements that represent ideas, thoughts, myths, or beliefs about a particular thing.


Rituals give purpose and meaning; they serve to connect us to something else, generally something greater than our own solitary selves. We may engage in ritual in order to seek peace, clarity of mind, answer questions, or to become more grounded. We may seek connectedness to family, a particular person, our culture, society, traditions, ancestors, or even to our own selves.


Rituals and ceremony make the intangible more real. They give substance and a sense of meaning to our internal, sometimes-invisible grief. Ceremonies give us a place to be, people to be with, permission, joining, and grounding. An example of making grief visible and sharing it with others will be at the 2015 Tournament of Roses parade when Julia Williams, wife of donor Ethan Williams, will be sharing Ethan's image on the Donate Life float. This ceremony is a means to share with others the family's loved one, validate their grief, and transform the tragedy of death by sharing the legacy of organ donation.


We actually participate in many varied rituals every day without realizing they are important and meaningful parts of our routine. Common rituals that connect us to our family, parents, or generations past include birthday and anniversary celebrations; seasonal remembrances and feasts; using a phrase passed down from our elders; family traditions such as when and how we acknowledge milestones and transitions.


Our routines and ceremonies tell a story of who we are, our families, culture, and spiritual traditions. All rituals tell us that we are not alone, and that we are interconnected.


We can create our own rituals in order to access, express, and share our feelings. Ceremonies and rituals might be public or private, elaborate or simple. Examples of setting aside time, space, and intention to honor a deceased loved one include:

  • Lighting a candle or keeping a candle lit for a period of time

  • Creating an altar of meaningful pictures of your loved one

  • Keeping a journal and writing letters to your loved one

  • Creating a scrapbook of pictures and memorabilia to highlight your life together

  • Planting a tree or building a bench for their favorite resting place

  • Carrying a "linking object" that reminds you of your loved one

  • Making a donation to their favorite cause or charity

  • Reciting a poem or singing a favorite song connected to your loved one

Rituals validate our reality and our feelings. They connect us with the larger family of humanity; and ceremonies remind us that we are not alone. There is profound meaning and purpose in making grief visible. 

Dr. Leary is a psychologist and certified grief therapist who consults with LifeNet Health. Her responses reflect her professional opinion to general questions. Individuals struggling with complicated grief are encouraged to seek the care of a professional. Please submit your questions to Robin Cowherd, LifeNet Health, 1864 Concert Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23453, or visit Healing Tears at our website.

walkOut of the Darkness Walk


LifeNet Health participated in the Out of the Darkness walk on Sept. 6th, joining a crowd of over 5,500 participants at Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach. Our team raised over $1,400 to support awareness of depression and suicide prevention.


At the Out of the Darkness walk representing LifeNet Health: Alan Bortnick, Mark Saunders, Debbie Hutt, Michael Masters, Robin Cowherd, and Nancy Hurst.


healingspiritHealing the Spirit Highlight - Help for the Holidays

    by Michael Reilly, MA



"I dread the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas."


 "The world is happy and singing carols. All I do is cry."

"There's nothing to give thanks about."


We hear these kinds of sentiments so often from those who are grieving the death of a loved one. These feelings can occur during any birthday, holiday, vacation or anniversary.


Yet the winter holiday season seems particularly difficult. Holidays mean family togetherness. During these times we become acutely aware of the void in our lives.


We hear carols and cheerful holiday greetings. We see the perfect gift for our loved one who has died and suddenly realize that he or she will not be here to enjoy it. It seems like everybody is celebrating but us, which can make the feeling of isolation from the world even more than profound.


There are strategies that we can employ to assist us during these times, to make the season more manageable for ourselves and for any relatives or friends who want to help us get through these days as best we can.


We have posted a number of articles we call Help for the Holidays on our website in the Healing Activities blog section. They include Helpful Hints for the Holidays, A Holiday of Remembering Candle Ritual and more.


Other people in mourning have also posted their inspirational stories and experiences on how to survive the holidays.


You are invited to post your own stories, rituals, things that work for you, and even questions you may have.


It is our hope that Help for the Holidays will be of assistance to you and provide a way to tell your story of missing your loved one during this very difficult time of the year.  

HuttMeet our new Manager of Donor Family Services, Debbie Hutt!


It is a privilege to be working at LifeNet Health Donor Family Services. Some of you may be thinking, wait - wasn't she with me at the hospital? I may have been - I have been with LifeNet Health since 2011 as a Family Support Coordinator. In that role, I worked with families across Virginia. I cherish the time you allowed me to spend with your family. It was hard to say goodbye to you as you left the hospital, but I knew that our Donor Family Services team would provide you the best grief support.


This summer I started my new role and it's been amazing! I love talking with our donor families - how you travel on your grief journey and your precious stories about your loved ones.


How did I get here? Prior to coming to LifeNet Health, I had over 20 years' experience in counseling, leadership, and crisis management. I earned my undergraduate degree at Radford University and my Master's from Old Dominion University. I started being with the newly bereaved early, growing up as the daughter of a Navy fighter pilot. Some of my friends lost family members in the line of duty.


I look forward to working with you - through conversations and seeing you at our events. It is wonderful to reconnect with those I have already met and I look forward to connecting with those of you I have not yet met.


Tell me how I can best support you in your grief journey - please call or email me with your thoughts and ideas! I can be reached at 757-609-4685 or email me at deborah_hutt@lifenethealth.org. 


ICRIn Celebration & Remembrance events in the Northwest 


LifeNet Health Northwest, along with our tissue partner SightLife will host three upcoming In Celebration and Remembrance ceremonies. This is a time for celebrating the precious gift of donation by honoring donors and their families.


Please save the date for celebrations in western Washington, eastern Washington, and Billings, Montana.

October 26th - Federal Way, WA

November 2nd - Billings, Montana

November 8th - Spokane, WA



Call Sarah Buchanan at 1-800-847-7831, extension 8918 or email sarah_buchanan@lifenethealth.org.

In Celebration and Remembrance ceremonies in Florida


Each year, organ, tissue and eye donors and their families help others live a better life. LifeNet Health of Florida and Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research invite you to join us as we celebrate this precious gift, and honor those who were so compassionate in giving it. For your convenience, two ceremonies will be held.


Refreshments will be served at each program.


Northwest Florida ceremony - Pensacola

Sunday, November 2nd at 4:00 pm at the Corinne-Jones Community Center in Pensacola. RSVP by October 19th


Northeast Florida Ceremony - St. Augustine

Sunday, November 16th at 1:30 at the St. Francis Barracks Officer's Club in St. Augustine. RSVP by November 2nd

To RSVP: Call 1-800-847-7831, Press 9, enter ext. 3430 or email


holidaySave-the-date for holiday tree ceremonies


Please save the date for our upcoming Holiday Tree of Remembrance ceremonies across Virginia.


Holiday Tree of Remembrance will be held at Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke on November 30th.


LifeNet Health Tree of Remembrance will be held at Concert Drive in Virginia Beach on December 2nd.


Donate Life Virginia will host their annual Tree of Life ceremony at UNOS building in Richmond on December 4th.


Visit LifeNet Health's website for more grief and loss support