Not many people would make their life’s mission tackling grief, but then again, not many people are as devoted to mental health as Eunie Alsaker, MSSW, LICSW, CT.

The Winona State University mental health counselor often counsels and assists those who are moving through the grieving process, particularly focusing on teens and young adults.

Alsaker has been at WSU since 2003 and was certified in 2011 with a Certificate of Thanatology through the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

As part of her commitment to helping others, she and Jamie Sanders, MSW, APSW, hosted a Healing Grief Retreat on Saturday, Nov. 5 and will host one again Monday, Feb. 6 for young students in the Winona area as a way to provide a holistic approach to conquering grief.

The event featured yoga, journaling, music, art, breathing techniques and self-reflection, with participants supporting each other through the process of handling grief.

“Our lives are busy and too seldom do we set time aside to reflect on our losses and consider how to heal and find meaning in life,” Alsaker said. “This day provided an opportunity to share grief with others in a confidential, caring environment.”

The idea for the event really came after an assessment of bereavement needs for teens and young adults in the Winona area. Outside of hospice, churches and individual therapy, there are currently no bereavement services in Winona, and there is not a program that specifically focuses on teens and young adults.

“I believe the retreat offers an important and creative way to address bereavement needs,” Alsaker said. “Jamie Sanders and I plan to explore additional ways to reach a greater number of people. We want to continue to offer healing retreats in our community and may offer shorter versions of the retreat.”

Alsaker added that she hoped the retreat provided more care for the “forgotten grievers,” the younger generations she often helps through the grief process.

“They are in a unique developmental stage in life. They do not always identify with older adults,” Alsaker said. “Losing a loved one is hard anytime, but there are unique challenges for this population.”

Alsaker and Sanders will be hosting a one-day grief counseling events for high school students who have lost a loved one form 9:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6 at the Holzinger Lodge, 925 W. Lake Blvd., Winona. Students will have the opportunity to share their grief with others in a confidential and caring environment, with time for self-reflection. Attendees should bring a notebook.

There is no cost to attend, but space is limited. Registration will be on a first-come basis.

This retreat is sponsored by the Winona Health Foundation, Winona Hospice Foundation and Live Well Winona.

For more information, contact Alsaker at ealsaker@winona.edu.

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Samantha Stetzer

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