Taking on New Challenges: From Social Worker to Bereavement Counselor

As a social worker with more than 20 years of experience on her resume, Denise Nahnsen was looking for a new challenge when she accepted a position as a bereavement counselor with EveryStep Grief & Loss Services. 

Since she’s been on the job, Nahnsen has been able to help countless community members through the difficult grieving process.

One client stands out. After losing his wife of 72 years, the man wasn’t sure how to deal with his loss and grief that followed. Nahnsen began meeting with the man every few weeks. Although feeling alone and distressed at first, the man continued to improve and quickly formed an understanding of the grieving process and how he could navigate it.

Nahnsen explained his new attitude as, “if you need to cry, cry; and if you need to rest, rest.” This change toward grief was possible because of the man’s openness and Nahnsen’s caring and passionate approach when lending a helping hand during a very challenging time.

Since grief comes in so many shapes and sizes, it can be hard to define, and the grieving process can be a rocky journey without the support of others. Education on what grief is and how everyone can heal, learn, and keep moving forward are vital aspects of Nahnsen’s job.

Nahnsen explained the sense of pride she gets from hearing people say they feel better after working with her. When people say they feel better, she tells them, “that’s because you have worked so hard.”

This is not only a testament to Nahnsen’s humble character, but also an example of how she is simply a guide for those traversing the individual journey of grief.

“I like walking beside people in their grief and providing support and education. Seeing them walk through it, heal and find their way,” she said.

EveryStep Grief & Loss Services programs services are open to anyone. Support groups, educational sessions, monthly mailings, and a listening ear are just a few services that the organization provides to community members at no cost. 

This story is an edited excerpt of a piece written by Drake University student Kyle Cass.