Fenway Health’s LGBTQIA+ Bereavement Program Awarded DPH Grant

A $35,000 grant from the state’s Department of Public Health for next year  will allow Fenway Health to continue offering its bereavement groups for LGBTQIA+ people who’ve recently lost a partner, or someone else close or related to them.

​“We offer LGBTQIA+ a safe place to talk about the losses they experience,” said Lisa Krinsky,  program director of Fenway Health’s LGBTQIA+ Aging Project.

​Fenway Health’s LGBTQIA+ Aging Project offers four eight-week sessions each year, which are free to attend and take place virtually via Zoom. The group is also open to LGBTQIA+ people of all ages, not just older adults, added Krinsky.

The program has received funding for the past 10 years, said Krinsky, but prior to the pandemic, its sessions took place only in-person and therefore weren’t easily accessible to someone from Worcester, for instance.

​With sessions going virtual during the pandemic, the program became easily accessible to people throughout the state, said Krinsky, regardless of their geography.

​Closing these gaps can now help the program reach more grieving individuals most in need of compassion.

​“Disenfranchised grief can really increase people’s sense of isolation, desperation, and risk for suicide,” said Krinsky.

​When someone in a same-sex relationship loses a partner, people around them, like their family or coworkers, don’t always acknowledge these relationships. “It can make [the bereaved] much more isolated in their grief,” said Krinsky.

​People can also be uncomfortable expressing themselves in more-traditional bereavement groups, said Krinsky, especially if they’re the only members of these group in same-sex relationships.

​Besides losing their spouses, many participants have also lost a parent or a sibling, said Krinsky, and sometimes, those lost weren’t supportive or affirming of them.

​“It’s a place where people can talk about the complexities of their relationships,” she said.

With this in mind, Krinsky refrains from using the term ‘loved one’ when referring to a parent who might’ve rejected their child years earlier because of their sexuality. “That’s a complicated loss to talk about,” added Krinsky.

Others come to the LGBTQIA+ Aging Project because they’ve lost a best friend – a loss not always acknowledged by traditional bereavement groups.

Meanwhile, many lasting friendships have been forged via this Fenway Health program, including a couple who married after meeting in the group.

“It’s an opportunity for people to make connections they can sustain after the group,” said Krinsky, who added that Fenway Health is able to continue offering the program free of charge to participants, thanks to grants like the recent one from DPH.

Fenway Health was among 19 community organizations that provide suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention services statewide which will receive $1.9 million in annual state funding over the next 11 years awarded via grants from DPH’s Suicide Prevention Program.

To learn more about, or to get involved in Fenway Health’s LGBTQIA+ Aging Project, email [email protected].

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