Sit & Share

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by Terri Layne, Business Development Manager

Twenty benches in our community have been transformed from a “standard ordered bench” to a piece of art with a story. This is the story of how the Sit & Share project came to be.

Who would have imagined one year ago, we would all be experiencing isolation on such a global scale?  Or that so many different demographics would be feeling like they are stuck sitting alone – challenged to find a new way to cope, adapt, or get through the day?  Yet, for so many who experience the loss of someone they love, this feeling is very real.  Every day in our work at Centra Hospice, we meet people who are experiencing the deep grip of isolation due to grief and loss. 

Our work ethic in this country is deep-rooted. We find the grit we need to do what needs to get done or what one friend calls the “do-er mentality.” There’ is truth to that simple statement–if we can keep our hands and minds busy doing, we can get through the day. 

The physical work of caring for someone you love who is dying is enormous, so we go all in and give it our very best. There are medications to get, papers to prepare, schedules to coordinate, meals to make, the list goes on and on.  We tell ourselves that if we can stay busy and focused, we will get through this. Then, one day the bed is empty, and the days are very different.  The quiet isn’t welcome, yet here we are in silence, not even hearing the birds singing. Or perhaps the birds’ song reminds you quickly of your loss. 

Grief is very individual, and for lack of a better word, tricky. You never know precisely when or where it is going to hit you. You are fine one minute, then a puddle of tears the next.  Or you may feel mad, which somehow seems wrong to admit because your loved one didn’t ask for things to be like this.  The range of emotion and quickness with which they come are vast, as vast as the feeling of isolation. 

The Centra Hospice Sit and Share Project was born out of the reality that grief is individual, and yet, you don’t have to sit in your grief alone!  I was driving last spring from Lynchburg to Farmville, reflecting on the beauty of the day. Spring was my dad’s favorite time of the year.  I drove past a broken chair that had been thrown out waiting on the trash truck to pick it up when I was overcome with emotion.  I recalled how I felt 15 years ago when after all of the preparation to say goodbye, the work of caregiving didn’t seem sufficient. There I was sitting, broken and alone.  A new place. Grief. 

Below is a map with the locations of the 19 benches.

As I continued the last 25 miles of my trip, I suddenly thought of benches as a symbolic and actual way to NOT be alone.  Decorating a bench in a loved one’s memory would also be a tangible way to process grief and honor a loved one’s life. I found that you can find new meaning, a bigger purpose, a piece of you that you didn’t know existed when you do the work to transform the grief.

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