By Vickie Elliott Assistant Vice President of Administration and Human Resources Director at Farmers & Mechanics Insurance Companies in Martinsburg

On April 5, 2015, my entire world was turned upside and my faith was shaken beyond belief.

My husband woke me on Easter Sunday morning at 1:30 a.m. and said he did not feel well and had a severe headache. I called 911 and by the time the paramedics got there, my husband was unconscious and was barely breathing.

To make a long story short, my husband had a brain aneurysm and there was nothing they could do for him, the damage had already been done. At 3:15 that Easter afternoon we had him taken off the ventilator. It only took about 10 minutes and my husband was gone. I felt like my entire world came crumbling down around me and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

A dear friend reached out to me and suggested that Hospice of the Panhandle had Grief Counseling for women who had lost their spouses. About a month after my husband died, I started going to grief counseling at Hospice. I was to the point that I could not stop crying and I felt like I was in this black hole and could not get out of it.

The first time I went to the grief counseling session, the counselor asked me if I wanted to share anything. I was very reluctant to say anything because I was on the verge of tears. I just broke down crying and could barely talk. After I shared my husband’s passing, the counselor very compassionately told me that my life would never be the same again and my husband was never coming back. That was a reality check for me!

I continued to go to grief counseling because I felt like I was in this constant fog and could not think clearly. I came to realize that the other grieving women and I all had two common denominators, grief and loss. We were all there to support each other and share our weekly ups and downs. We also had wonderful counselors to guide us through this process of grief. To this day, I still keep in touch with those amazing women in our group sessions that helped me through the most difficult time of my life.

Our counselor advised each of us not to make any rash or major decisions for the first year of our husband’s passing, like selling your home, buying a new car, etc. You could very well regret doing rash things while you are still in this fog and cannot think clearly. It took me three years to clean out my husband’s closet, while others did it right away.

I cannot imagine where I would be if I had not gone to grief counseling at Hospice. Hospice was my lifeline that brought me through the process of grief, instead of avoiding it or skirting around it. I am so thankful for the Hospice counselors and the women in our group that were there to support me and each other!

If I can offer one bit of advice to those experiencing such a profound loss: Please do not let anyone tell you to get over your loved one’s death and move on, because until they walk in your shoes, they have no idea what you are going through.

There is no time frame on grief, but there are people out there who can help. One last thought: A dear friend gave me the following saying in a picture frame after my husband passed away:

Grief never ends...but it changes

It’s a passage, not a place to stay.

Grief is not a sign of weakness,

Nor a lack of faith.

It is the price of love.

Hospice of the Panhandle’s Center for Grief Support will offer a support group for those who have lost a spouse or life partner. The program, called “A Common Bond,” is a six-week support group for those grieving the loss of their spouse or life partner. This group will help participants understand the process of grief, learn new ways of coping and provide practical information and resources. The goal is to reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety and distress and increase feelings hope and empowerment.

A Common Bond will be held on Mondays, Feb. 1 to March 8 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Hospice of the Panhandle Education Center located at 330 Hospice Lane, Kearneysville.

For more information or to register, please call (304) 264-0406 or email Information about future grief support programs can be found at or on the Hospice of the Panhandle Facebook page.

During this pandemic, the Center for Grief Support is working to create a safe, healthy space for all, so participants will be required to wear a mask during each session and social distancing will be in place. Participants also will be asked to answer screening questions before each session and have their temperature taken. Because of the nature of the pandemic, these practices can change at any time with no notice.

Vickie Elliott is the Assistant Vice President of Administration and Human Resources Director at Farmers & Mechanics Insurance Companies in Martinsburg. She is active in the Rotary Club of Martinsburg, Bedington United Methodist Church, Professional Business Women’s Association and the Berkeley County Youth Fair.

She is a loving mom to her three children and 11 grandchildren. She has spent many years helping hospice patients and their families through the United Way’s annual Day of Caring and by working on the Building the Dream project that helped build Hospice of the Panhandle’s inpatient facility.