Grief is a universal experience, when losing a loved one, ending a relationship, leaving a job or many other bumps in the road of life. Local resources are available so those grieving can get the support they need.
The Monarch Grief Center in Perrysburg focuses on grief counseling, destigmatizing the trauma of going through a loss and understanding that, though grief and mental health go hand in hand, they are not always mutually exclusive.
Filling A Need
Cofounders Amy Rowe, outreach director, and Tim Polakowski, executive director, are licensed grief counselors working diligently to help Northwest Ohioans on their journeys of grief.
Rowe began thinking about creating a center about 10 years ago and in April 2022 she mentioned her ideas to Polakowski, who was working in a hospice center at the time.
“The bereavement program at hospice provides a nice service, but it can be so much more,” Polakowski said. “There are so many more unmet needs out there in the community, and a grief center is the perfect way to help.”
The co-founders saw that most existing services provide generalized grief groups, where people of all ages and experiences work through the grief counseling process as a collective, peer to peer way. Though this experience can be beneficial, it does not always entail a comfortable and educated space for grieving individuals to process their grief.
Polakowski and Rowe have created a space where young people who lost their parents, people struggling with the death of a friend, an elderly person who has lost a spouse after decades of marriage or others grieving could receive specialized attention.
The Center is not only helpful for those needing individual attention, but it also comes with an agnostic approach to grief, rather than a strictly religious approach like other grief groups. Monarch Grief Center helps those from any religious affiliation and is not associated with any religion, instead welcoming people from all backgrounds.
“Spiritual counseling and grief counseling can go hand in hand – not necessarily by the same provider,” Rowe said. “We are not specifically faith based, so that is somewhat unique. The key is that the human being is able to problem solve and find solutions – sometimes you need someone’s help. A good counselor can help uncover those [emotions] and reframe them so they make sense.”
Three Services Approach
Monarch Grief Center currently provides three specific services. The first is individualized counseling to focus on each individual’s specific needs. The second service is creating specialized support groups that connect people dealing with similar circumstances surrounding grief. This way, there is a sense of community created through shared experiences.
Most of the outreach comes into play through the third service: community education and outreach. Rowe and Polakowski believe in the importance of getting the word out regarding coping with grief and working through it in a healthy way, so the cofounders developed programming to achieve that objective.
Through conversations at a church, helping an office staff deal with the death of an employee or even professional continuing education courses for nurses, social workers and counselors, Monarch Grief Center is committed to creating new programming to help educate Northwest Ohio on grief.
Monarch Grief Center is constantly making community connections and networking to sink deep roots in the area. The goal is for the Center to be funded by the community, for the community, so organizations or individuals are encouraged to donate and support the mission.
“The response so far has been very positive,” Rowe said. “People say, ‘This is great, this is what we need, and how can I help?’ No amount is too small. We have people who give a few dollars, people who give four or five digits. There are lots of ways to be a part of it.”
Monarch Grief Center’s website and its physical space both boast an overwhelming presence of Monarch butterflies. The Center got its decor and name from the beautiful bug as a great metaphor for grief and a symbol of hope. The caterpillar entering this dark chrysalis and eventually turning into a beautiful butterfly represents people entering into a dark time of grieving, but working through it and growing with the help of the Center.
The meaning is simple: Helping people realize that working through grief or grieving in general isn’t linear. People face grief and heal from grief at different paces and timelines.
Another part of grief education comes from understanding the difference between mental health struggles and grief. Polakowski and Rowe work to destigmatize mental health journeys while also making it clear that grieving does not mean that you are mentally ill. However, processing grief can take a toll on an individual’s emotional wellbeing.
“There’s a stigma around seeking help, especially for mental health,” Polakowski said. “And grief is in this weird space where it’s not really considered mental health, but in some ways it is taking care of your emotions and your mental processes.”
The two cofounders see the Center as normalizing grief by being there for those who are suffering, by sharing a memory about their lost loved one, leaving them care packages, asking them questions or just letting them be sad. They emphasize that you don’t have to be perfect in every situation, you just have to be present.
Monarch Grief Center has rates that operate on a sliding fee scale to help people across all income levels.
Connect with the Monarch Grief Center through its website or by searching Monarch Grief Center on Facebook. Rowe and Polakowski are proud to create a space where they can spend each day helping people work through their grief by encouraging those grieving to seek the necessary help and reach out.
“Nothing has to be wrong with you,” Polakowski said. “You’re not broken. Reaching out doesn’t mean that you’re weak. We’re here for the worst of the worst, but it doesn’t have to be for people to reach out.”
Monarch Grief Center, www.monarchgriefcenter.org, 567-331-8601, 314 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg.