Depending upon where you are in your grief journey, at some point you may feel the need to channel your pain, as well as the time and energy once devoted to your relationship with your loved one, into something productive and meaningful ~ through the gift of volunteering. As one who truly understands the grieving process, you may feel ready to reach out to others who are suffering the pain of loss. Now that you’ve found your own way through the many challenges of grief, you have a great deal to share with others who are suffering: you can identify with their struggles, empathize with their sorrows and doubts, and offer valuable information and support.
Giving of yourself as a volunteer enables you to pursue personal interests, polish old skills and learn new ones, and make a positive difference in your community.
You can learn more about volunteering, find your local volunteer center and choose the interest area you want to explore at the Points of Light Foundation's Volunteer Center National Network .
See also the links to local volunteer opportunities on the AARP Community Service: Home Page. To help you balance service and your busy schedule, AARP’s Office of Volunteer and Civic Engagement can help you find creative options for getting involved. Enter your Zip code at createthegood.org/atm to learn about local opportunities. The site also has detailed “how-to” guides you can download, as well as other “do-it-yourself” ideas for doing good.
Other useful information on volunteering can be found on these Web sites:
Project Linus: Providing Security through Blankets
Feeding America: Find a Volunteer Opportunity
Healthcare Volunteer: Global Portal for Healthcare Volunteers
Network for Good
Kindness Ideas, from Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
Online Volunteering Service
September 11 National Day of Service
Ten Tips on Volunteering Wisely
Volunteer Match: Where Volunteering Begins
If you’re interested in becoming a hospice volunteer, contact your local hospice organization – or consider some of the agencies that offer in-depth training applicable to all hospice settings:
Hospice Volunteer Association
Volunteer Hospice Network
Hospice Volunteer Training Institute
Hospice Volunteer Training Series
Hospice Volunteer Training Online
You can learn more in Angela Morrow’s informative article, What Is a Hospice Volunteer? Also highly recommended is Stan Goldberg's inspiring book, Lessons for the Living: Stories of Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Courage at the End of Life, in which the author shares the wisdom he gains from being a hospice volunteer.
Giving back to the courageous folks who serve your community is yet another alternative. Consider how Scott Mastley (whose brother died in an auto crash) honors the men in his local fire department every year, as a way of thanking the individual fireman who comforted his brother as he lay dying. He writes,
"I gathered the courage to call the man who sat in the car with my brother while they waited for the ambulance to arrive. The man was a fireman, and he was off duty, painting a house to earn extra money, when he saw the accident." Read on here: Turkey Talks: Thanking the Man Who Comforted My Brother.
Giving to Others Helped Mom Make It through Loss of Daughter, bereaved mother Jenny Hander describes how she brought hope and healing back into her life following the death of her newborn. Because her baby was a twin, she realized she had a double supply of stuffed animals, toys and books for her surviving daughter – far more than she needed. Beginning at home and branching out into her community, she began collecting and distributing new and gently loved stuffed animals to children in her city, on behalf of the national organization SAFE (Stuffed Animals For Emergencies). “Donating stuffed animals to children in need allowed me to share the love I had for my daughter who had passed,” Jenny writes. “In two years, I distributed over 2,000 stuffed animals to local children’s shelters and hospitals.” According to their Web site, SAFE chapter members “collect new and gently used stuffed animals, toys, books and blankets to be redistributed to emergency organizations, children’s services, hospitals, homeless shelters and many other places that help children during times of crisis. These emergency organizations use the stuffed animals to ease the children’s nerves and calm their fears. Your donations let the children know you care and help them feel a little more SAFE when they need it most.” For further information, see How to Donate.
For her part, Personal Property Services expert Julie E. Hall encourages readers to Use Your Stuff to Bless Others . Find more compassionate advice “for dealing with a lifetime accumulation of stuff” on Julie’s helpful and informative blog, The Estate Lady Speaks.
Especially at this time of year, when so much of the focus is on gift-giving, you might consider asking yourself these questions: Is there something you've always wanted to learn how to do? What causes or issues are important to you? What skills do you have that you could offer to others? Are you ready to offer the gift of volunteering?