For 25 years Hospice & Community Care has grown from serving hundreds of grieving people at one location, to now serving more than 9,000 bereaved adults, teens and children each year and operating out of three locations – The Essa Flory Center in Lancaster, the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss in Mount Joy and The Ann B. Barshinger Hospice Center in York. And through all of the growth and transition, two things have remained a constant – we continue to serve anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one and the Director of the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss, Patti Anewalt.
Hospice & Community Care’s Pathways Center for Grief & Loss is located at The E. E. Manny Murry Center in Mount Joy, and is a free resource to the entire community, regardless of whether a loved one was a hospice patient. Its mission is to support and encourage peoples’ inherent ability to heal and discern new paths on one’s journey through grief. Everyone experiences grief when they lose something they care about. Grief is comprised of all the thoughts and feelings one experiences related to a loss. The Pathways Center for Grief & Loss specializes in helping people cope with serious illness or loss after death.
For Patti, her journey to Hospice & Community Care and grief support started when she was in college. For most students, your senior year of college is memorable, but for Patti it was unforgettable for all of the wrong reasons. “During my junior and senior years of college, I was suddenly unable to walk,” commented Patti. “It turns out I was born with a shallow hip socket which had to be surgically deepened and there were a lot of complications postoperatively. I was on crutches for nine months and hospitalized in a body cast for three months. At the time, I was undecided on what field of work I wanted to study in graduate school, but that experience shaped me and eventually I pursued a Master’s degree in rehabilitation.”
After graduation, Patti took her skills to a major medical center in New England where she worked as a rehabilitation counselor with patients who became disabled due to traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or stroke. She also worked in the Intensive Care Unit and the Emergency Room. “During my time at the medical center, I helped people adjust to becoming physically disabled and cope with the grief associated with those life changes,” shared Patti. “That experience gave me a broader perspective about situations of crisis and loss. It also introduced me to hospice care, as I often arranged for hospice when patients were discharged from the hospital. It was great preparation for the next chapter in my life with Hospice & Community Care.”
Patti joined Hospice & Community Care in May 1994 and was the organization’s first full-time bereavement counselor. Now under Patti’s supervision, the Pathways Center has grown to nine Master’s level counselors who serve children, and adults in southcentral Pennsylvania. Patti’s leadership continues to be instrumental in the formation of new support groups and programming to meet the changing needs of the community and oversee the operations of the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss. When unexpected tragedies occur in schools or the workplace it is not uncommon to hear that Patti has been contacted to provide support and resources. Patti has been an active member of the Lancaster County Critical Incident Stress Management Team and Millersville University’s Emergency Counseling Team for many years, providing support after local tragedies. She served for two weeks in Shanksville, PA after September 11, 2001, working at the morgue, crash site and with the families to provide support. Patti also helped for weeks following the Nickel Mines shooting, coordinating plans to support first responders in Bart Township the day of the shooting, helping with debriefings over the next few days, and leading community counseling sessions over the next few weeks. Patti is also often contacted to offer support and guidance in local workplace or school tragedies. For both Intermediate Unit 13 and Intermediate Unit 14 she has provided the necessary training to develop “flight teams” of school counselors who are deployed to support a school’s crisis response team after an unexpected death.
So after 25 years at Hospice & Community Care, what has been Patti’s greatest accomplishments? “Hearing from hospice and grief support providers in other parts of the country seeking guidance with their own bereavement programs,” commented Patti. “Hospice & Community Care has developed an excellent reputation with the Pathways Center and others want to know how to do the same.” Patti has helped grow the organization’s reputation by serving two, three-year terms representing bereavement for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. From there she went on to serve on the Board of Directors for the Association for Death Education and Counseling, an international, professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence and recognizing diversity in death education, care of the dying, grief counseling and research in thanatology, the scientific study of death and the practices associated with it, including the study of the needs of the terminally ill and their families. She has also been accepted as a member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement. Comprised of only 140 members worldwide, the International Work Group supports leaders in the field of death, dying and bereavement in their efforts to stimulate and enhance innovative ideas, research and practice, meeting every 18-24 months in different parts of the world.
Patti shared how meaningful it is for her to see her work come full circle. “One of the volunteer buddies who supports a child during the Pathways Center’s overnight bereavement camp I developed for children, was actually a camper after his father died back in the 90s,” commented Patti. “Another example is a grandmother who brought her grandchild to the Pathways Center for support. Her own children attended our Coping Kids program when her husband died suddenly many years ago.”
With no sign of retirement in sight, the future of the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss is continued support of those who are grieving a loss through death in the communities in which we serve according to Patti. “We would not be able to support those who are grieving in our community without the generosity of individuals, businesses and foundations that financially support Hospice & Community Care and the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss,” says Patti. The Pathways Center is entirely funded through the generosity of the community as bereavement services are not reimbursable through Medicare or insurance.
“We do a great deal more in the community than we did when I first started,” commented Patti. “The needs of the community are more complex than they used to be. The Pathways Center for Grief & Loss sees so many more children, teens and adults whose loved one died from drug overdose, suicide or some other sudden, unexpected loss.”
“We do a great deal more in the community than we did when I first started,” commented Patti. “What a privilege it is to see people transform their loss into growth and want to help others as they were helped. It doesn’t get more rewarding than that!”
With all of the changes, what keeps Patti going? “I am passionate about my work,” shared Patti. “I get to do a little bit of everything – writing, teaching, filling in for the counselors to help
with support groups and piloting new ideas. Many of our best volunteers at the Pathways Center are people who came to us for support and later returned to take the hospice training. What a privilege it is to see people transform their loss into growth and want to help others as they were helped. It doesn’t get more rewarding than that!”