Local Counseling Services Supporting Iowans Dealing with Grief During the Holidays

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Grief can be tougher than usual around the holidays but especially during a pandemic.

Nearly 260,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, with 2,000 Iowans losing their life to the virus. Local therapy, Life Works, said they’ve seen an increase in the need for counseling services as people are not just mourning loved ones, but a sense of normalcy as well. 

“There have been mental health concerns with both children, adolescents, adults where you know they have had pretty healthy coping styles kind of all along,” Executive Director of Life Works, Jaime McClure said. “But then they’ve really struggled with a lot of the challenges that COVID has presented, whether it’s not being able to attend school regularly or see their friends.” 

Every Step, a care and support services group conducts an initiative, Amanda The Panda, that is centered around helping Iowans experiencing grief.

They currently have virtual weekly programs, support groups and camps to help those who’ve lost loved ones this year. 

The local nonprofit is also delivering cheer boxes, which include 12 different gifts that are intentional to help people during the grieving process.

For Thanksgiving, Every Step is encouraging people to still celebrate the holiday on a smaller scale and to remember loved ones through traditions and food. 

“What’s another meal that reminds you of your loved one, did they make the best spaghetti and meatballs or did they love fried fish and french fries?” Program Coordinator for Every Step, Clair Mraz said. “Whatever it may be. Find that meal that is representative of them I hold some memories for you.” 

The Bereavement Counselor for Every Step, Denise Nahnsen, advises those who’ve lost someone this year to be very clear and direct with friends and family members about their needs. 

“People that are grieving need to tell their loved ones, “This is what I need from you this year, I need you to call me on Thanksgiving Day because I can’t take the whole day alone. It’s too hard or can we talk, can I call you and you just listen as I talk about my loved one,” Nahnsen said. “Things that are good to do at any time, but especially this year when we’re not able to maybe be together face to face.” 

Every Step has already delivered around 550 cheer boxes to Iowans this year and these gifts are completely free. If you wish to nominate someone for a cheer box you can visit their website

Hamiltons Funeral Home in Des Moines is also offering a holiday support guide for those coping with grief.

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