Victim Services Unit offers comfort to those grieving from loss

For the last two years Margie Henry has opened her heart and extended her hand to comfort families grieving from the loss of a loved one.

No matter the day or time, Henry and 14 other trained volunteers are on call to deliver the news to the victim’s family.

The volunteers are part of the Victim Services Unit implemented by Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski.

Henry said she has been on more than 15 calls over the past two years.

Mioduszewski started the program to provide resources to people that are often shocked, confused, angry and heartbroken. In the past, he said deputies would notify the victim’s family that there had been a tragedy or death, and the families would be left to grieve alone. He felt change was needed after delivering the news to the wife of a man who died in a car crash. He said he did not feel comfortable leaving her to grieve alone, which prompted him to make a change.

“That really bothered me,” Mioduszewski said. “There needed to be someone there for the emotionally distressed to answer any questions or provide comfort. That’s why I started the program.”

Two volunteers will go to the home, along with a deputy, and stay with the family for usually about 30 minutes until the family has their support present.

On one occasion when an elderly couple’s son tried to commit suicide they stayed much longer, Henry said.

Jennifer Swanson, coordinator for the program, said people need direction in times of emotional distress.

“They have no idea what to do. We will not leave them alone,” she said. “We help them with funeral arrangements and tell them where they can say bye to their loved one.”

Henry said everyone handles the news differently, and it’s hard to know how people will react.

“You have to be prepared for anything,” she said.

Swanson said she has also made calls to other family members when people aren’t capable.

At times, people already have the support present they need and the volunteers do not need to provide their services, she said.

“Most of the time people need us and they are so grateful,” Swanson said.

She said being part of the program is very rewarding, but difficult.

“What do you say to someone who has just lost their loved one? You quickly realize it’s just your presence that matters,” Swanson said. “It’s having someone’s hand to hold or having someone to hand you a tissue.”

She and Henry agree that after they leave a family, they feel blessed and fortunate for their loved ones that are still with them.

“When I come home, I count my blessings,” Henry said. “I really feel for that person. It affects me on a personal level.”

Henry said the volunteers are not supposed to contact the family after they leave.

“It’s hard to do,” she said. “In some cases, I have broken the rules.”

Out of all the programs Mioduszewski has started, he said the Victim Services Unit means the most to him.

“We have had glowing remarks,” Mioduszewski said. “It really means a lot to the families.”


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