February 1, 2022
Meet EveryStep Grief & Loss Services Volunteer Deborah Thompson
Deborah Thompson’s journey with grief began in 2015, when her mother passed away. The following year, she lost her husband, too. As she worked through her own personal journey, she began to search for opportunities to help others on a similar path.
“I had reached a point where my losses were not in the forefront of my mind all day and every day. I wanted more experience with facilitation and so it felt like a good fit and at the right time. I was also attracted to the opportunity to find a place where my son could understand his grief as he grows. This is incredibly important to me because my son lost his father and his grandmother – my mother - before he could really get to know them.”
Deborah contacted EveryStep in October of 2019, after seeing a volunteer opportunity posted on the United Way of Central Iowa website. “I was drawn to the Amanda the Panda posting about facilitating a grief and loss workgroup. It started as an interest in gaining more professional development experience as a facilitator but became far more fulfilling personally.”
Amanda the Panda, a program of EveryStep Grief & Loss Services, offers a myriad of specialized grief support groups.
Deborah’s first experience as an EveryStep Grief & Loss Services volunteer was with a Living with Loss Dinner during the holidays that same year. She now is a co-facilitator for EveryStep’s grief and loss support groups.
Deborah says the most important responsibility of a co-facilitator is to create a safe environment for participants to share deeply personal experiences. “This means they should feel safe, understood, heard and confident that what they share will not be repeated outside of the group. Vulnerability is a critical part of healing. That means processing thoughts out loud, messy crying and sometimes just listening to others processing their thoughts and hearing their messy crying,” says Deborah. “But the best thing about group is that you have other voices saying, ‘I totally get that.’ My favorite moments are at the end of group when we go around and say a word to describe how we’re feeling. I feel a great deal of personal satisfaction when participants say, ‘I feel heard’ or ‘I feel understood.’”
Outside of her work with EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda program, Deborah owns a consulting and training company that specializes in advocacy and public policy support for non-profits and businesses in the public health and healthcare sectors. She also teaches a health policy class for Mount Mercy University.
“Public health is another passion of mine and I spend a lot of time volunteering in support of preventing injury, illness and premature death,” says Deborah. “My son Lincoln is thriving in elementary school and I’m in a healthy relationship with a lovely man with two teenagers of his own.”
Deborah continues to volunteer with EveryStep because she feels her time is valued and appreciated, and her time with EveryStep Grief & Loss Services has been one of the better volunteer experiences she’s had. “The staff are extremely special people. Each are incredibly skilled at their positions, patient and flexible, and purpose-driven,” says Deborah.
An unexpected benefit for Deborah is how co-facilitating the group has helped her own grieving.
“I’m doing very well these days, but it’s a longer path than people realize, and it’s filled with more phases, too,” says Deborah. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at. Whether volunteering for or participating in an EveryStep Grief & Loss group, you’ll get something out of the experience.”
EveryStep's Grief and Loss Services offers many support groups and events. If you are interested in learning more, or would like to sign up for a group, please call 515-223-4847 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in volunteering with EveryStep, visit https://www.everystep.org/volunteer.
If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or, complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.