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The Christi Center: Helping Austin Heal

After the loss of their daughter Christi in 1985 to a drunk driver, Susan and Don Cox decided to devote their lives to educating and assisting those mourning the loss of a loved one. They formed the Christi Center, an organization that provides networks and community partnerships for those who need support in an attempt to heal from their loss. The Christi Center aims to do the following: • Provide free grief support at no charge to grieving families for as long as they need it • Educate and increase community awareness on issues facing the bereaved • Build community partnerships to better support grieving people • Build a diverse and sustainable base of volunteer and financial support to ensure that their services will always be there for those in need These goals are not only admirable, but successful. Since the founding of the Christi Center, 73,000 Central Texans have been aided during their time of hardship, and given shoulders to lean on. They continue to aid the community of Austin through loss and devastation.

Understanding Grief and Loss

The Christi Center aims to help people understand their loss and how to cope with the heartache. Something the Christi Center urges everyone to understand, is that grief is different for everyone. There are emotional, physical, and behavioral responses to grief, and all depend on the type of person. Each of these responses come in a wide variety of forms, and some may experience numerous kinds. The Christi Center lists the following as common forms of grief:

Emotional

  • Shock and disbelief
  • Sadness and yearning
  • Numbness
  • Feeling disorganized and confused
  • Wanting to be alone and yet feeling lonely
  • Resentments towards those who have no experienced loss
  • Anxiety, worry and fear
  • Feeling of guilt or sense of failure
  • Helplessness/hopelessness
  • Irritability and anger at:
    • The situation
    • Others
    • Your loved ones
    • God/your higher power
    • Medical personnel

Physical

  • Change in sleep that may include bad dreams/nightmares
  • Change in eating habits
  • Pain with unknown causes - headaches, stomach problems, muscle pain, etc.
  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Sexual difficulties

Behavioral

  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or remembering things
  • Crying often
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Isolating self or avoiding others
  • Abusing substances including alcohol, prescription medication, or street drugs as a way to cope
  • Unnecessary risk taking

How to Cope with Grief

Grief is an incredibly hard thing to cope with. Sometimes the grief can be so overwhelming, that you don't know how to handle it or react. There are a couple things that the Christi Center recommending doing in order to cope with grief:

  1. Accept Support: Don't take the burden of pain upon yourself. You may at first feel like you don't want to deal with it, but it helps to accept support wherever you can; whether that be from family, friends, support groups, or professionals. Everyone requires support, however the support you need may be different from others. Do you prefer support in the form of listening, talking, socializing, or just being there? When you find the person or group that makes you feel the most at ease, don't let go, and continue to reach out during your period of grieving.
  2. Be Active: It really helps to find something that either makes you happy or takes your focus away from the pain, at least for a moment. It is important to have something to look forward to, so that the grief does not fully consume you. Consider activities that you have enjoyed in the past, or things that you have been wanting to try. Common calming choices include yoga and gardening, while many choose to put their energy into activities that keep them involved, such as volunteering or socializing.
  3. Self-Care: Don't left grief keep you from taking care of yourself. Continue to eat properly, sleep well, and get a sufficient amount of exercise. Also, do things to help your mental health. Talk to loved ones, read, and perhaps consider starting a journal. Journals are great ways to keep tabs on your progress and be able to reflect on thoughts and feelings.
  4. Commemorate: Moving on does not mean forgetting. It is important for yourself to try and get past your grief at your own pace, but many people find it helpful to commemorate their loved one that has passed in some way. Some suggestions? Consider the following:
    • Pass on an heirloom of your loved one
    • Plant a tree or other living monument
    • Try a creative memorial activity such as a quilt or painting
    • Create a memory box filled with your loved one's possessions
    • Collect stories of your loved one and create a book
    • Write a blog or develop a memorial page or website
    • Make a playlist of their favorite songs
    • Eat their favorite foods
    • Write a letter to your loved one
    • Light a candle in their memory

Support Groups in Austin

The Christi Center connects people grieving from many different situations. They offer adult support groups that include:

  • Loss of a child
  • Loss of a spouse
  • Adult mixed loss (siblings, parents, friends, etc)
  • Loss to suicide
  • Loss to violent crime
  • Men's groups
  • Women's groups
  • Loss of spouse second stage ("moving on")
  • Substance abuse recovery

There are also groups designed for children, with Kids Who Kare. They offer the following services:

  • Bi-monthly groups at the Center and in Georgetown for kids (5-12), and teens (13-19)
  • 8-12 week grief support groups onsite at schools
  • Quarterly equine-assisted grief support outings
  • Retreats

No matter the situation that causes you grief, there are groups out there that can help. Don't be afraid to ask for it.

Rhett Hoestenbach and the Christi Center

Rhett Hoestenbach is a proud advocate of the Christi Center, promoting the use of their valuable services. Grief is hard to fathom, no matter how many times you experience it in your life. The Christi Center has a heartwarming mission, and helps people process events that you couldn't imagine bouncing back from. Most of what we have discussed comes from the Christi Center's booklet, entitled "Coping with Grief". For a copy of "Coping with Grief" fill out your name and email here. If your loved one was lost in an event caused by an accident or personal injury, please contact Rhett Hoestenbach for representation at (512) 472-8865 for email [email protected]

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