Navigating Grief group provides safe space for students

Faith Jarrell

Elm Staff Writer

Washington College’s Counseling Services and Compass Regional Hospice, located in Centreville, Md. have teamed up to offer a support group for students on campus titled “Navigating Grief.” Currently, the workshop meets on Wednesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Alumni House.

Since the spring semester of 2020, workshops have been offered in the form of a support group for any WC students who have experienced the death of someone close to them. The workshop is meant to aid in the mental health and healing of those involved.

According to a poster released by the Office of Student Affairs, the community helps those who are grieving to see themselves “in the world again” and know they are not “the only ones who feel this way.”

Senior Maggie Blake has been an attendee of the Navigating Grief workshops since her freshman year when the program started.

“I heard about it in freshman year, so I’ve been going ever since,” Blake said. “I thought it was really great that they were doing that because at the time I didn’t have a therapist here at the school and I felt like we could sort of connect with the rest of our WC community on campus.”

This semester, the workshop is offered for eight weeks from March 8 to May 3 and is run by Penny Greeley, who is the coordinator of the workshop and an employee at Compass Regional Hospice. Once a workshop starts, they usually do not accept new members.

“The structure of the group is a balance between allowing students to share and the facilitating counselors providing psychoeducation about the physical, mental, emotional, and existential experiences that death and the grief process can bring into our lives.  The goal of these groups is to help normalize the disorienting, and at times very lonely, experiences that grief can bring,” Greeley said.

The focus of the workshop is not only to help those who are grieving but also to create a community on campus where those grieving students can discuss their thoughts and feelings.

“More than anything, this workshop has served as a community-building effort on our campus,” attendee sophomore Stephen Hook said. “It has been extremely healing to know I have peer support and people who understand the challenges of grieving while in college.”

While not everyone may feel comfortable going to such a group to share their feelings, several attendees vouch for the workshop itself, including junior Natalie Wisnoski.

“It’s truly changed my life. I’ve had breakthroughs there that I haven’t had in regular therapy. It’s a really comfortable environment,” Wisnoski said. “I’ve only been going for a year. I started last spring and so it’s been a full year now. It’s truly one of the best things that’s happened to me at WC.”

If you have lost someone close to you and are looking for a way to express the grief you feel, you can contact Penny Greeley at In addition to grief workshops every spring, she also offers individual sessions.

Photo by John Desoto

Photo Caption: Grief group gathers in an intentionally safe, open space in the nearby Alumni House.

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