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

WINTER  2015

In This Issue of DFQ

Donor moms meet organ recipients


Donor mom Tammy Parkinson (left) recently met Margaret Brown, her son's heart recipient.
Donor family members often ask if they will ever get to meet the recipient(s) of their loved one's gifts. If both parties want to meet, the answer is yes!


LifeNet Health will facilitate a meeting after the donor family and the recipient exchange anonymous letters expressing their mutual wish to meet. Either party can initiate contact if the donor was an organ donor. In the case of tissue donation, the recipient must initiate contact due to different record keeping.


In November 2014, LifeNet Health facilitated two such meetings.


The first meeting was between donor mom Tammy Parkinson and heart recipient Margaret Brown. Tammy's son Michael was 19 when he died as the result of a motor vehicle accident. Before his death, Michael had talked with his mom about wanting to be an organ, tissue and eye donor if anything ever happened to him. Remembering those conversations, Tammy honored his final wishes. Michael saved the lives of five people through organ donation and over 50 people through his gifts of corneas and tissue.   

Donor mom Vicky Hawkes met her son's double lung recipient

Chris Nalley.



The second meeting was between donor mom Vicky Hawkes and double lung recipient Chris Nalley. Vicky's son Hans was 20 when he died of a cyst in his brain. Before his death, Hans made known to his family his wish to be an organ, tissue and eye donor. His parents supported his wish. Hans saved the lives of five people through organ donation and helped over 50 people through cornea and tissue donation.


 These courageous donor moms and grateful recipients exchanged letters and agreed to share their stories with LifeNet Health. Holding back tears while sharing hugs, stories and pictures, the four reunited at the LifeNet Health Foundation gala on November 8, 2014 when their stories were shared in a moving, heartfelt video presentation.


If you would like to meet your loved one's recipient(s), we can help you explore the possibility! You can find information on our website, www.healingthespirit.org or call us at 1-800-847-7831 ext. 4671.  

HealingTearsHealing Tears by Dr. Lani Leary



Dear Dr. Lani,

It seems that, unfortunately, our country is experiencing regular school shootings and other similar public tragedies. My children are still trying to understand and accept their father's death. Do you have any ideas for me how I can address questions and fears they might have when they hear about these tragic situations?


- A Concerned Mom





Dear Concerned Mom,


Our children find themselves facing an uncertain, and often-dangerous world. Your children, no matter their age, will look to you for the safety and security they need in order to thrive. There is much that you can offer to mitigate their fears, reduce anxiety, and teach them life skills.


You can use this time of crisis as an opportunity to teach, model and reinforce resiliency. Resilience is a process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma or significant life stressors. Developing skills and strategies comes from observing healthy role models, receiving information, and having the opportunity to process information and feelings in a supportive environment.


Common questions and concerns that may surface might include:

  • "Will this happen in my school?"
  • "How will I know I'm safe?"
  • "What do I do if that happens to me?"

While none of us are guaranteed a future without conflict and challenges, we can prepare our children with information, emotional intelligence, and the ability to develop coping skills. You can provide the information, loving attention, healthy role modeling, and opportunities to practice healthy self-care.


The first, and foremost, way to help is to be available and present to whatever questions, feelings, and reactions they share. Remain calm, consistent, and reassuring. Talk with your child about their concerns, fears, and worries in order to let them know that they can trust you with their needs.

Do not assume that children who are not talking about the incident are not having feelings, questions, and concerns. Start conversations to let them know you are interested in how they are; provide factual responses and avoid gossip or speculation; create opportunities to listen and talk; listen to their perspectives and understanding of the situation; let them express their own opinions without judgment; encourage different points of view and all questions; remind them repeatedly that you and home are their safe place; comfort through your presence, words, and touch.


Remember that children who ask the same question repeatedly are trying to make sense of information and learn complex concepts about death, loss, and grief. Be observant and watch for any changes in behavior, especially changes in sleep, appetite, ability to concentrate, and emotional stability.

Respond to all questions factually and with age-appropriate simple language. Check their understanding and the meaning you intended. Review and check in often. Take "news breaks" by limiting the amount and kind of information they are exposed to. Replace media overload with physical activities or family-centered enjoyment.

Encourage and make connections with healthy family members, friends and community groups. Resiliency is strengthened when one can accept help from those who care. Use community resources and experts; school counselors, teachers, and mental health professionals may offer the tools and support that your child can respond to. Grief groups, expressive arts such as art and journaling, team sports, and church activities may also provide the reassurance and outlets that strengthen resiliency.

Model positive self-care, practice optimism and a positive view of yourself so that you reduce stress and can be available to your children. Identify personal needs and articulate action plans to meet those needs. Acting on adverse situations rather than detaching from problems helps people manage stress and will demonstrate to children that you can manage adversity and discover opportunities for growth, even in the midst of tragedy.


You can make a difference in your child's ability to navigate an uncertain world and in their confidence to move forward. Trust your instincts, continue to learn and share information, and provide a nurturing home so they can become their best self.



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 www.healingthespirit.org 

Comforting the Soul


By Sarah L. Decker, MA, CIC-CSp.





The object of a new year is not that we have a new year,

but rather that we should have a new soul.


- G.K. Chesterton  


Renewal is often associated with the New Year, especially with the renewal of gym memberships as folks strive to work on themselves in a very physical way. Renewal of the soul, however, takes emotional work as those who are grieving struggle to move into the light.


After a loss, it may feel easy and safe to keep to ourselves. Building relationships can appear to be a harder feat than ever before, particularly when it may seem that no one could understand what a bereaved heart is feeling.


Comforting the soul requires risk. Moving away from the safe shores of our private emotions can give adventure to our grief journey. Relationships are the building blocks for the evolution of our spirit. In what ways can we start this growth and renewal? With small, yet brave steps.


LifeNet Health offers many ways to build relationships and to expand upon the grief journey. Some donor families may find they are ready for one-on-one time with another person who has walked a similar path. Our Grief Companion“ program offers exactly that. Grief Companions are donor family members who have walked their own grief journey and are paired with newer donor family members who are seeking emotional support and encouragement.


For those who are not ready for in-person meetings, we have online support services such as a private Facebook group, an email group, and different supportive activities found on our website www.healingthespirit.org. One topic families are discussing in our Facebook group this month is how they celebrate the holidays with memorial holiday trees.


Since LifeNet Health sees the value in building relationships, we strive to organize fun, family-oriented gatherings. In 2015, we plan to host a picnic which may include tours of the new Institute for Regenerative Medicine and our donor memorial park in Virginia Beach.


Look for more information about this event and others in the spring issue of Donor Family Quarterly. If you have any questions, please contact Carolyn Wolford at 757-609-4671.


You may read more about Grief Companion program and contact us by clicking here.


Healing the Spirit Highlight - The Course in grief and mourning
by Michael Reilly, MA


The death of a loved one throws us into trauma and chaos. Some may have never experienced anything like it before. You may find yourself adrift in a strange and sometimes frightening world with no recognizable landmarks. You may feel as though you are "going crazy" or "losing your mind" or that something is "wrong" with you. You are not and you are not alone.

LifeNet Health is offering a new online course for donor family members to gather information about the grief and mourning process.

Called The Course, this educational forum will be offered on the LifeNet Health bereavement support website www.healingthespirit.org beginning in January.


It is normal and natural to feel overwhelmed when a beloved dies. There is a way to get though grief (not get over it).There is work you can do to return some control to your life and gradually create a new normal-a life without the physical presence of your loved one.

For those with a family member or friend who is grieving, this course may help you gain some insight into the grieving process so you can be a compassionate presence for them.

Course is defined, in part, as ... a path, route, or channel along which anything moves: the course of a stream. We offer this online course with the hope and belief that it can be helpful to you in finding your unique path to the reconciliation (balance or harmony) of your new life.

A blog format is an effective way to do this. It can be an interactive environment, akin to an online classroom. We provide the information and tools to assist you in your grief journey. We can respond to your questions, and support you in your efforts, as well as provide the opportunity for you to speak your story and to hear others'.

Each lesson will be posted as a separate blog, and will contain a reflection exercise at the end to encourage you to reflect on the contents of the lesson as it applies to your grief experience. We invite you to post your reflections in a comment section of the blog, so that a conversation and learning opportunity can be established for you and other participants.

LifeNet Health Donor Family Services staff members moderate this course. Inappropriate or hurtful comments will not be posted.

treeoflifeFamilies attend Tree of Life Ceremony in Panama City, Florida



LifeNet Health Florida had the honor of hosting our annual Tree of Life ceremony in December at the Bay County Library in Panama City. This event was a little different from those held in previous years, with the addition of an opportunity for families to make ornaments to either take home or hang on the tree.


The room was filled with laughter, tears and stories as donor families created their own personalized ornaments to honor their loved one. Both glass and ceramic ornaments were available, along with lots of glitter, paint and stickers. The finished ornaments were beautiful. Family members placed ornaments on the tree and, if comfortable, shared a few words about their loved one. Each unique ornament celebrates the life and legacy of a donor or recipient.


After all ornaments were placed, the beautiful 12-foot tree was lit. The tree remained at the library throughout the holiday season as a tribute to those who gave the ultimate gift.

LNHNWLifeNet Health hosts In Celebration & Remembrance ceremonies in the Pacific Northwest

In late October and early November 2014, LifeNet Health Northwest hosted three In Celebration and Remembrance ceremonies. Celebrations were held in western Washington, Spokane, and Billings, Montana.
It was a time for donor families to come together to remember and honor their loved ones for their generous gift of donation. We had recipient speakers as well as letters from recipients showing their never ending gratitude to the donors and their families. We are so grateful to those who attended and shared stories, memories, laughter, and tears. We look forward to next year's celebrations when we can once again come together and remember those who have passed on, but live on through their gift of life.
ICRVAIn Celebration & Remembrance ceremonies: Save the date  


Save the date for In Celebration & Remembrance programs in Virginia. Look for your invitation in the mail during the month of March.

  • Sunday April 12, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.:  Hotel Roanoke
  • Sunday April 19, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.:  Norfolk Botanical Gardens
  • Sunday April 26, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.:  Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond

In Celebration & Remembrance events in Florida and the Northwest will be held at different times throughout 2015. Invitations will be sent approximately one month prior to the events.

workshopSign up for Creative Expressions of Grief workshop 


LifeNet Health is hosting a Creative Expressions of Grief workshop for donor families on Saturday, February 21st from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at our campus on Concert Drive in Virginia Beach.


Donor family members are invited to bring photos of their loved one to the workshop. Supplies and tools will be on site, as well as crafty, experienced donor family volunteers to help you create your own photo collage or tribute album. We will also help you make a large photo button of your loved one to take home with you.

Lunch will be provided. RSVP is required.


For more information or to RSVP please contact Tina Pierce, Donor Family Advocate, at 1-800-847-7831 ext. 4903 or christina_pierce@lifenethealth.org



Visit our website for more grief and loss support.


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