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Rural Health Information Hub

May 13, 2015

Coming Full Circle

by Kate Menzies

Learn more about HopeWest Hospice in RHIhub's Rural Health Models & Innovations.

Paula Lynch (left) and fellow volunteer, Jeanne Berryman, look over a collage made by members of a grief support group.

The loss of a loved one is never easy, but Paula Lynch found some relief by attending HopeWest Hospice's Mending Hearts program, an adult grief support group. After losing her son in 2012, her doctor recommended that Lynch take part in the Mending Hearts program as a way to connect with other people in her area who were experiencing the death of a loved one.

The nonprofit HopeWest Hospice is the only hospice program operating in Colorado's Western Slope counties. In addition to its hospice and palliative care programs, HopeWest fosters social support by providing outlets related to grief and caregiving, as well as mission-oriented shopping and dining options that are able to be found at

At the heart of these programs are more than 1,500 volunteers, who donate their time to help patients and families who are facing life-threating illnesses or death.

"I found that the more I talked about my son's death, the better I felt," said Lynch. "I learned a lot about life through this group."

Her positive experience with Mending Hearts led Lynch to want to give back to the program that made such a difference in her life. She is now a co-facilitator for Mending Hearts and started another bereavement support group with the help of a HopeWest chaplain in the nearby town of Fruita, Colorado.

It's very rewarding to know that I can help someone the way I was helped.

"It's very rewarding to know that I can help someone the way I was helped," said Lynch. "I look back and see how I was in the beginning."

Perhaps the most cathartic part of her experience with HopeWest was knowing that others were going through similar experiences and feeling the same way. The grief support group helped Lynch bond and connect with others who attended, some of whom she has remained close with to this day. Through it all, HopeWest gave her the tools to properly process her grief. Now she wants to do the same for others.

"If I can help even one person, that makes me feel better," said Lynch.

As co-facilitator, Lynch meets weekly with groups of people experiencing a loss and works with them to sort out their feelings and help them adjust to the new realities that will take place in their lives. This is a cause Lynch is passionate about, as she knows that this group is one that has helped her through her most difficult time. HopeWest has been a resource that has allowed her to heal and find happiness after tragedy.

"If I ever need help again, HopeWest is the first place I would go," said Lynch.