June 7, 2022
Kimmie Shelledy's Grief Journey: "You don't understand grief until you have to walk it and we were walking together."
Kimmie and Mike Shelledy met as college students at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. “He had this hair - it would hang in his face, kind of a mix between Elvis and Superman, and all the girls called him ‘the hair,’” says Kimmie. “He was charming and funny. He was sweet and kind.”
Kimmie and Mike married in between college and graduate school. They had children, Jack and Ash, and made plans for the future. “There were few things Mike loved as much as being a dad,” remembers Kimmie. “He was a fool for those kids.”
Mike was 43 and had just found a career that he loved when he took Kimmie on their first real vacation. “He took me to Cancun for our 20th anniversary. He seemed to have a headache on Sunday after our return and he didn’t come to bed.” When Kimmie awoke and went to find Mike, she discovered he had died. The doctors said it was a cerebral aneurysm.
Mike’s sudden death in February 2020 left Kimmie struggling with her own grief, but also trying to find resources for her children. “Someone suggested EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda Grief & Loss Services. I talked to the kids about it and at first, they weren’t thrilled with the idea of having to talk at a support meeting, but they were willing to go,” says Kimmie.
Before Kimmie and her children could attend their first support group meeting, COVID-19 precautions forced the cancellation of in-person gatherings. “I was so grateful when EveryStep decided to do the online virtual meetings. The instructors gave age and developmentally appropriate things to work through and there were other kids who had experienced what we had. It just gave them a space to feel sad or angry and all of it was okay. Whatever they were feeling was allowed.”
While Kimmie’s children participated in age-appropriate grief support groups, Kimmie found one of her own. “There were young widows, there was an older age widow, there was somebody who lost a child suddenly - you don’t understand grief until you have to walk it and we were walking together. It felt safe to be able to walk with people who knew what it was like.” Kimmie continues to stay in touch with the members of her group.
Participating in EveryStep Grief & Loss Services support groups provided Kimmie with more than the tools to journey through her grief. It also provided her with a vision for her future.
“I would listen to our leaders and how kind they were and I felt called. Watching the care and love that they were able to provide lit something in me that made me realize I’m supposed to be doing something different in my life. My hope is to get my master’s degree as a mental health counselor and give back the love and care that I’ve been given.”
EveryStep Grief & Loss Services offers a variety of grief support opportunities provided at no cost for anyone in communities around Iowa, including:
- EveryStep Hospice’s Support Groups are provided at no cost to anyone struggling with a loss, regardless of whether their loved one received hospice care from EveryStep. Anyone who needs help may participate. Bereavement counselors conduct support groups throughout southern and central Iowa, and serve people in 44 counties. Participants receive educational materials, peer-support and expert guidance as they learn to find ways to manage grief and live healthy lives. These groups are open to adults only.
- EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda program offers grief support for children and families as well as individual adults. Activities include an overnight camp held twice each year, peer support groups offered in-person and online, social gatherings, school support, community events and delivery of “Cheer Boxes” during the holidays.
Tuesday, June 14, EveryStep’s Good Grief Golf Outing will be held at Legacy Golf Course in Norwalk. Participants will enjoy a day of four-person best ball and will compete for the top men’s and women’s teams. Lunch will also be provided. There are also opportunities to win silent auction packages and other prizes. The event is intended to raise awareness and support to ensure all people grieving the loss of a loved one get the help they need. For more information and to register, visit https://www.everystep.org/about/fundraising-events/good-grief-golf-open.