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New program at Genesis centers on grandparents

Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center main sign

Sister Madeleine Joy is one of four area professionals facilitating Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center’s new program for grandparents raising grandchildren. She specializes in grief, loss, and mental health support groups, addiction care, and recovery spirituality.

The new offering is called the “Healing Hearts Program” and its brochure states: The role of grandparents to enjoy grandchildren when they visit, to help with baby-sitting, and to send them home at the end of the day has changed for all too many grandparents. Due to addiction, death in the family, incarceration or children gone missing, grandparents have become primary parents for their grandchildren.


Sister Madeleine

According to the U.S. Census Bureau “…of the 65 million grandparents in 2012, seven million, or 10 percent, lived with at least one grandchild. As our planning team learned the number of grandparents caring for children—in large part the result of the country’s opioid crisis and the lack of services available to them—we saw the real need for this program,” said Sister Madeleine.

The four-session program was launched last April. The number of grandparents attending varied from session to session with 14 as the largest number at any one.

Assisting participants
Genesis’ Executive Director Liz Walz, ASP welcomed participants and provided them with journals to assist them in sharing their stories. Topics for the remaining sessions were “Understanding Addiction” led by Brian Gwozda; “Communicating with Grandchildren Regarding Their Parents,” led by Ann Williams; and “Grief and Loss” with Sister Madeleine.

Walz is a spiritual director and bio-spiritual Focusing facilitator. Gwozda serves as an addiction counselor, consults on addiction issues, and facilitates group meditation. Williams is an experienced program developer, grant writer, and RN certified in mental health, and specialized in addictions.

“In cases where the son or daughter died from an overdose, shame and stigma can complicate the grandparents’ grief,” said Sister Madeleine. “They may feel others think their loved one’s death was avoidable so less worthy of mourning. Some may tell them they needed a more ‘tough love’ approach, but they need to remember no one has power over another’s addictions. It isn’t helpful for them to torture themselves with ‘I should have said this,’ or ‘I should have said that.’”

She continued, “Then there are those whose children have not died, but because of their addiction seem like strangers. So the grandparents suffer the loss of the relationship they previously enjoyed with their child.”

The Healing Hearts Program seeks to bring solace, self-compassion, comfort, and spirituality to grandparents’ task of child rearing.

Understanding addiction
“The program has a strong educational component on understanding addiction as a disease” noted Sister Madeleine. “And it offers grandparents coping skills and the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and share with one another.”

Genesis’ next Healing Hearts Program will be held this fall. Interested persons should call Liz Walz at (413) 562-3627.


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