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Offering hope: Grief counseling center opens; special program caters to children

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, September 15, 2018
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Ready to Serve

READY TO SERVE – Founder and Executive Director Beverly Ross (front), along with communications director Brittany Sanders and coordinator Devon McCain, opened Jenny’s Hope this week. It’s the first grief counseling center in Wise County. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The sign for Jenny’s Hope was hung Aug. 3.

It was quietly put in place while founder Beverly Ross was out of town, but she was in awe of the timing. Unbeknownst to the contractor, he had hung the sign on what would have been the 40th birthday of Jenny Ross Bizaillion, Ross’ daughter who died suddenly in February 2010 and for whom the grief counseling center is named.

“I just feel like it’s God winks,” Ross said. “It’s His favor and Him saying, ‘Keep going. I love that you’re doing this.’ It was really cool.”

Jenny’s Hope – the first grief center in Wise County – opened this week at Wise County Christian Counseling in Decatur. They held their first group sessions Monday night, and next week Ross and her staff are having an open house and ribbon cutting.

From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., there will be tours of the building, which is in Prada Shops, 1650 S. FM 51, Suite 400, in Decatur. Staff will be on hand to talk about and answer questions about Jenny’s Hope, and there will be a ribbon cutting for the new facility.

Ross said her daughter was “obsessed with children” and sought a degree in children’s ministry.

“ACU didn’t have that at the time, so she majored in elementary education with a minor in Bible to do children’s ministry,” Ross said. “I think she would get a really big kick out of what we’re doing.”

Jenny’s Hope offers professional grief counseling to all ages, but Monday nights are for children. The building renovation was designed with this in mind with specific rooms set up and decorated for different age groups.

She explained that the word “hope” was at the root of her daughter’s favorite verse – Romans 15:13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“Every scripture and piece of art in this building has been carefully chosen,” Ross said.

The tree stump in the Jenny’s Hope logo comes from Ross’ favorite book about grief, “A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss” by Jerry Sittser.

Sittser lost his mother, wife and 4-year-old daughter in one car wreck, while he and three of his children survived the crash. His book explores the depths of grief and what to do in the circumstances of loss to live a life marked by greater spiritual depth, joy and compassion.

“It had a lot of analogy and language that resonated with us,” Ross said.

Sittser compared his tragic loss to looking at a dead stump in the backyard where a favorite tree once stood.

“You don’t know what to do with it, but you know you don’t want to move the stump,” Ross said. “One day he felt in his spirit he had a surge of strength to landscape around the stump, so I wanted to put beautiful flowers around it.

“We picked daffodils to go around this stump because they bloom in February, which is our death month.”

Ross said grief is part of the human experience, and “we’ve got to figure out language to use and how to hold space for people who are broken-hearted.” Grief is often rushed, and that’s not healthy, Ross said.

“We’ve got to help people not have sympathy, but empathy. Sympathy is ‘I feel so sad for you,’ and empathy is ‘I want to walk beside you.’ My pain may not be your pain, but we’re shoulder to shoulder figuring it out. The experience doesn’t have to be the same; the common emotion is what’s the same,” she said.

While Ross is the executive director for Jenny’s Hope, counselor Devon McCain is the coordinator and Brittany Sanders is communications director. They, along with Anna Coker and Lori Sherwood, make up the leadership team for the center, and more than 50 volunteers perform tasks ranging from facilitating groups to greeting families.

Tuesday’s come-and-go event includes snacks and a coffee bar, and Ross said it will not only be a time to introduce people to the counseling center, but also thank those who have made it possible.

“My friends in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, they ask ‘how do you do this?’ It’s our community,” she said. “We live amongst giving people.”

Wise County Christian Counseling is participating in North Texas Giving Day on Sept. 20, and 100 percent of the WCCC donations will go toward Jenny’s Hope. If you’d like to contribute, go to northtexasgivingday.org.

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